Irish Cream 101: Everything You Need to Know

Irish cream liqueur is a staple of after-dinner drinks that’s enjoyed year-round — from St. Patricks Day to the winter holidays. Baileys Irish Cream is the most famous, but there’s a lot more to this creamy spirit than meets the eye. Here’s everything you need to know about Irish Cream.

A bottle of Baileys and a grey and white kitchen towel on a white countertop in front of a white subway tile backsplash.

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After-dinner drink recipes often contain an ingredient called Baileys, a creamy liqueur that’s a type of Irish cream.

This unique spirit is certainly worth trying — both on its own and mixed into drinks. It’s a staple of any festive season, from St. Patrick’s Day to Christmas.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is Baileys?,” then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about Irish cream!

What is Irish cream?

Irish cream is a creamy alcoholic liqueur that is used in cocktails and baking. It is also sometimes referred to as simply “Baileys,” which is the name of the best-selling brand of Irish cream on the market.

With a base of heavy cream and aged Irish whiskey, Irish cream is thick, smooth and full of the flavors of chocolate, vanilla and coffee. Its appearance is opaque and creamy with a subtle brown color.

Irish cream can be sipped on its own (neat or over ice), mixed into coffee and cocktails, poured over ice cream or mixed into desserts.

More spirit guides: Chambord 101Peanut Butter Whiskey 101Crème de Cacao 101Crème de Menthe 101

Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur makes an amazing gift, and tastes just like the real thing! Perfect for celebrating St. Patrick's Day or enjoying a nightcap anytime. (via

Now you know the answer to, “What is Baileys?” but there’s a lot more to know! Let’s start with the history of this sweet spirit.

History of Irish cream

Invented by Gibley’s of Ireland, Baileys Irish Cream was invented in 1974.

In this 2017 article from The Irish Times, David Gluckman — one of the inventors of Baileys — detailed the process of inventing the creamy beverage with a team who was tasked with designing a product to be the next big international export.

Focused on Ireland’s reputation for dairy, they dreamt up a liqueur combining Irish whiskey with cream. Within a few years, Gluckman wrote, “it began to look like a winner.”

Now owned by Diageo, the liqueur is manufactured in Dublin, Ireland and Mallusk, Northern Ireland.

According to Baileys, approximately 200 million liters of Irish milk from family-owned farms are required for its production. (That’s apparently enough to make about 3.3 billion Baileys milkshakes!)

By the way, it’s not “Bailey’s Irish Cream” — there’s no apostrophe in Baileys!

a gold spoon, a gold jigger and two Irish coffees

Best Irish cream liqueurs

Though Baileys was the first of its kind (and is perhaps the most ubiquitous), it has lots of competitors vying to be the best Irish creams.

There are plenty of options when it comes to Irish cream liqueur brands, such as:

  • Carolans Irish Cream
  • Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur
  • Saint Brendan’s Irish Cream Liqueur
  • Ryan’s Irish Cream
  • Emmets Irish Cream
  • O’Darby Irish Cream
  • Five Farms Irish Cream
  • Kirkland Signature Irish Cream

You can also experiment with making your own homemade Irish cream with your favorite premium Irish whiskey.

Made with sweetened condensed milk, cream, coffee, cocoa, vanilla and Irish whiskey, it makes a wonderful sipper or you can give it as a gift.

The Peppermint White Chocolate Martini is a lovely after-dinner sipper for the holidays. Garnished with a free printable Candy Cane Drink Flag by @colleenpastoor, this festive drink features white chocolate liqueur, flavored vodkas and Irish cream. (via

Flavored Irish cream

In addition to regular Irish cream, the Baileys brand has delved into the world of flavored liqueurs and has several variations on the market.

You might find some of these types of Baileys with additional flavors on the shelves of your local liquor store:

  • Almond
  • Salted Caramel
  • Espresso Crème
  • Strawberries & Cream
  • Red Velvet
  • Apple Pie
  • Vanilla Cinnamon
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Pineapple
  • S’mores
  • Vanilla Mint Shake

There is also a light version, called “Deliciously Light,” that has 40% less calories and 40% less sugar than the original.

A jar of brown syrup with a gold spoon resting inside.

Baileys substitutes

No Baileys? No problem. You have a few options:

Try another brand: Give another Irish cream brand a try, such as Carolans or Kerrygold.

Use another cream liqueur: Other cream liqueurs — such as Amarula, RumChata, white chocolate liqueur or Cape Velvet Cream — will work as a substitute.

Be creative: Another idea is to use a splash of coffee liqueur and cream to imitate a similar flavor.

Try dairy-free Baileys: If you need a dairy-free Irish cream, you’ll be glad to know that there is an option for you! Baileys Almande is the dairy-free version made with almond milk. You can also check out this vegan Irish cream you want to try making it yourself.

Use a non-alcoholic Baileys substitute: Make your own Irish cream syrup, which has all of the flavor of Irish cream without any cream or alcohol. It’s perfect for drinkers of black coffee, too.

Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur makes an amazing gift, and tastes just like the real thing! Perfect for celebrating St. Patrick's Day or enjoying a nightcap anytime. (via

What to mix with Baileys

Irish cream liqueur goes incredibly well with all kinds of flavors. Try mixing it with any of these flavors to come up with your own concoctions:

  • coffee
  • chocolate
  • vanilla
  • mint
  • almond
  • caramel

Try adding it to hot chocolate, coffee and cocktails. And, you can even bake with it!

Chocolate Guinness Cake on a gold cake stand

Baking with Irish cream

Irish cream is also really fun and delicious to bake with. Here are some tasty Irish cream desserts:

And you can top them all with a dollop of Baileys Whipped Cream and a drizzle of Baileys Hot Fudge Sauce.

Baileys is also really good drizzled over vanilla ice cream.


What is Baileys?

Baileys is a type of liqueur called “Irish cream.” With a base of Irish whiskey and cream, Baileys also offers hints of vanilla, chocolate and coffee.

What type of alcohol is Baileys?

Baileys Original Irish Cream is a sweet, cream liqueur with a base of Irish whiskey and cream.

What does Irish cream taste like?

Irish cream is a cream-based liqueur made with Irish cream and the flavors of vanilla, chocolate and coffee.

How long does Baileys last?

According to the Baileys website, both opened and unopened bottles of Baileys Original last two years from the date of bottling when stored between 32°F to 77°F (0°C to 25°C). However, the shelf life of the flavored styles of Baileys vary.
Homemade Irish cream should not be stored at room temperature, however, as it usually contains fresh, real cream.

Does Irish cream need to be refrigerated?

Store-bought Irish cream will keep for about 2 years unrefrigerated if stored out of direct sunlight and in temperatures between 32°F and 77°F.

Is Baileys dairy-free?

The regular Baileys Original Irish Cream liqueur is not dairy-free. However, the brand does sell a dairy-free option called Baileys Almande, which is made with almond milk.

a jigger pouring Irish cream liqueur onto a bar spoon over a shot glass

Irish cream cocktails

If you have a sweet tooth, a delicious drink is a great way to enjoy dessert! And Irish cream is a staple of dessert cocktails.

It adds a creamy taste and texture as well as brings the subtle flavors of coffee, chocolate and vanilla into the mix.

Dessert martinis often call for Irish cream, such as a birthday cake martini or the peppermint white chocolate martini.

You can even mix up classics like the espresso martini or the creamy White Russian by adding a splash of Irish cream.

Another great way to enjoy this unique spirit is to turn hot coffee and hot chocolate into dessert drinks by stirring in some Irish cream.

Foam is spooned on top of a glass of Irish Cream cold brew.

Our favorite Irish cream cocktails

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is Baileys,” what will you make with it next?

The Golden Ratio Guide:

Mix the perfect cocktail, every time

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