What You Should Know Before Taking Another Sip Of Baileys Irish Cream

There are few liqueurs as versatile as Baileys Irish Cream. This creamy drink with notes of chocolate, caramel, and vanilla can be utilized for an evening cocktail, the most dreamy, indulgent milkshake, or even in your morning coffee – if you're feeling a little bold that day. It's the liqueur brand without any rules, other than, of course, waiting to enjoy it until you're 21.

With Baileys serving as the inspiration for everything from coffee creamer flavors to ice cream and even Baileys fudge, this sipper has certainly only continued to gain popularity over the years. And while it may just seem like a simple cocktail ingredient or nightcap, there might be more to Baileys than meets the eye.

What actually goes into Baileys? And how was it developed? What's the best way to use this sweet and creamy liqueur? We decided to dive in and take a deeper look. After all, this liqueur is stocked behind pretty well every bar for a reason. This is everything you should know before taking another sip of Baileys Irish Cream

Baileys Irish Cream started with a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey

Baileys first got its start in 1973 thanks to the product development work of David Gluckman after he had played a role in developing Kerrygold butter. The International Distillers & Vintners company had given Gluckman and his business partner Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies a brief to develop a new drink option for exporting from Ireland.

The two decided they wanted to explore the idea of celebrating Ireland's dairy industry. And what better way to celebrate Ireland than by mixing dairy from Ireland with another inherently Irish brand? They decided to try mixing cream with Irish whiskey.

The first experimental batch utilized a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a tub of cream. Deciding that wasn't right, the creators improved the recipe to include sugar, along with the flavor of chocolate from Cadbury's powdered drinking mix, which added the perfect element to balance it out.

Baileys Irish Cream is a liqueur, not a liquor

When it comes to drinks like Baileys, and other liqueurs such as Grand Marnier or Frangelico for that matter, liquors and liqueurs are not the same thing.

Right off the bat, the spelling differs for these two words, and they should be pronounced differently. Liquors, also known as spirits, hard alcohol, or distilled beverages, typically don't have any sugar added to the final product. And often, with many liquors such as bourbon, Irish whiskey, and scotch, there are very specific rules regarding additives to the final product. Last but not least, liquor has a way higher alcohol content. It ranges depending on the spirit, from gin and vodka to tequila and whiskey, but liquors typically hover at 40% to 50% alcohol by volume.

Liqueurs on the other hand, which is what Baileys is, are characterized by the addition of sweetness. A liquor is used as the base, which has already been distilled, and then additional flavors and sugars are added, usually topping a liqueur out at a lower alcohol by volume. Liqueurs are often mixed into a cocktail or enjoyed neat or on the rocks. 

How much alcohol is in Baileys Irish Cream?

It's easy to get caught up in the history, nostalgia, and, of course, delicious taste of Baileys. But at the end of the day, it is an alcoholic drink, which begs a very important question: Exactly how much alcohol is in Baileys?

According to its makers, Baileys Original Irish Cream contains 17% alcohol. In fact, almost every variety of Baileys has the same amount. The two outliers are Baileys Almande with 13% alcohol content and Baileys Deliciously Light, which has 16.1% alcohol content.

To get a better understanding of what 17% alcohol means in practical terms, let's compare the amount of booze found in Baileys to other types of alcoholic drinks based on their standard size. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, regular beer has roughly 5% alcohol content (light beer has 4.2%), wine usually comes in at about 12%, and spirits boast an average of 40%. In other words, a Baileys drink has more booze than a glass of wine but less than half of a shot of whiskey. Just make sure to remember that the next time you indulge in an Irish cream cocktail.

Baileys Irish Cream is made from milk from Irish cows

Baileys stemmed from the idea of combining Irish cream with Irish whiskey. Gluckman and his partners had wanted to celebrate the Irish dairy industry, and combining another major export of Ireland, whiskey, was a great way to do it. After all, Jameson had been producing Irish whiskey since 1780, and it was certainly responsible for a huge chunk of export sales. 

But if you're going to center a product around Irish cream, it's pretty important to have a good source for that cream. And luckily, there are 18,000 dairy farmers in Ireland, cumulatively producing more than 8 billion liters of milk each year, to choose from. 

Baileys is made from milk that comes from cows across Ireland. Each year, close to 200 million liters of milk are required to make the cream that is turned into Baileys. And to get the best cream, Baileys hand-selects family-run farms across the country to work with. 

Baileys Irish Cream has been the top-selling liqueur brand for years

There are countless liqueur brands out there. And with all of the possibilities of adding fruit flavor, cream, sugar, and playing with infusions, the options are truly endless. Over time, liqueurs such as Grand Marnier, Frangelico, Amaretto, and Kahlúa came on the market, offering bartenders a whole world of flavor at their fingertips. But despite all of the many options on the shelf, Baileys Irish Cream continues to win the title as the best-selling liqueur year after year.

In 2017, The Spirits Business reported Baileys as the No. 1 best-selling liqueur for 2016. From 2015 to 2016, the brand showed a 1.59% increase in case sales, but that number rose even higher with a 2.6% increase from 2017 to 2018. Coming in with 7.1 million case sales in 2018, Baileys continued to hold the ranking for the best-selling liqueur brand. With the 2022 release of The Spirits Business ranking, the brand was still holding strong at the No. 1 spot, with 8.8 million cases sold in 2021.

Ireland exports a ton of Baileys Irish Cream

When Baileys was developed, the whole point was to come up with a spirit that would become Ireland's newest popular export. And given the fact that Baileys Irish Cream consistently tops the charts as the most popular liqueur in the world, it's safe to say that the product's developers certainly accomplished that.

Ironically enough, it was pretty difficult to find a distributor in the United States to take Baileys on in their portfolio. Once a distributor was finally found, they were skeptical about the sales, but the product ended up taking off. Just five years after the launch of Baileys, over one million cases were being sold each year. And as you can imagine, that might require a whole lot of milk and whiskey to be made.

Of course, a fair share of Baileys is consumed in Ireland, but as of 2015, 82 million bottles of Baileys were being exported to more than 180 countries annually.

Baileys Irish Cream has nothing to do with the Irish coffee cocktail

It's not uncommon to hear about Irish coffee and Irish cream and think that they're one and the same. After all, both are quite similar. And it's not uncommon for the two to be used interchangeably, as many think that Baileys is just an Irish coffee cocktail bottled for easy pouring.

The truth is, they are very different. It's rumored that Irish coffee was invented in a San Francisco bar in 1952. Another tale says it made its debut in 1943. Either way, the base of the drink remains the same. In both tales, freshly brewed hot coffee was mixed with Irish whiskey, sugar, and cream, and everybody that tried it seemed to love it immediately.

Irish coffee is still traditionally served that way today, although sometimes the heavy cream on top is slightly whipped for a bit of a foamy texture. But whatever way it's served up, Irish coffee certainly doesn't have a drop of Baileys in it.

It was thought to be 'a girly drink' at first

Early on in the development of Baileys, the drink's creators wanted to know what the public thought of it. To do so, they set up two focus groups, one consisting of all men, the other of all women (via The Irish Times).

Baileys co-inventor David Gluckman recalled the event in an article he wrote for The Irish Times. "'It's a girl's drink,' Gluckman remembered one participant proclaiming. "There was an outbreak of nods and echoes of agreement among the other men. After this what man was going to openly lay claim to liking 'a girl's drink?' It was an absolute no-no." But Gluckman saw a glimmer of hope. While the men claimed not to be fans of the liqueur, every single one of them finished their Baileys down to the last drop. Results from the female focus group weren't much better. The most memorable remark came from a woman who compared the drink to Kaolin & Morphine (For the unfamiliar, the medicine is used to treat diarrhea).

When Gluckman received the written report from the focus groups, including the "girly drink" consensus, he ignored it and stowed it away in his briefcase. A decade later, at Baileys 10th anniversary party, he pulled out the report and read it to the crowd, which responded with a raucous laugh. The company had sold 48 million bottles of this "girly drink" that year alone, per The Irish Times.

The address on the first Baileys Irish Cream bottle was a fake

There are a few key laws when it comes to making, bottling, and selling liquor. Obviously, it has to be sold to a consumer of age and it must be sold from a legal vendor. All alcohol, including beer, wine, and liquors, must also be sold with a label that distinguishes the class the product belongs to. And one of the other key components that's required is the address of the producer so that you know where the spirit is coming from.

The rule has been around a long time, but when Baileys was developed in 1973, Gluckman decided to simply disregard it for the first bottle and move forward. When the product was ready to launch, and Gluckman had found a bottle to utilize, an address was needed for the label. "The Dairy Distillery, County Monaghan" was added to the very first label, but Gluckman reported to The Irish Times that it was indeed a total fake.

Baileys Irish Cream was named after a restaurant

The story behind how products came to be can be incredibly fascinating, and so can the history behind the product's name. Sometimes, it may be named after the founders of the company, just like Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie did when they came up with M&M's. Or, it could be a literal translation of a tool being used, as the name for Cold Stone Creamery came about.

But that wasn't the case for Baileys Irish Cream. In fact, that name really had no relevance at all. Gluckman and Reade Seymour-Davies shared an office in London near a restaurant named Baileys Bistro. When they were trying to figure out a name for their new beverage, Gluckman kept seeing the sign for Baileys and referring back to it. The duo had talked about wanting to come up with an "Anglo-Irish" name so it sounded more approachable as a family name, but that was the only caveat at the time. 

Baileys was the first name that was pitched for the new creamy liqueur, and it was the only name that stuck. The final name, Baileys Irish Cream later debuted, with no actual ties to inspiration coming from Ireland whatsoever.

Some people thought Baileys Irish Cream would never gain traction

At the time Baileys Irish Cream was created, the recipe came somewhat by the seat of the producer's pants. David Gluckman and his business partner had whipped up the recipe in a matter of 45 minutes with just a few tweaks along the way, per The Irish Times. Is it possible developing a global spirits brand in under an hour could be that great?

The idea of mixing cream with alcohol certainly wasn't something brands were doing often, and it seemed to be a bit of a turnoff for some people. Gilbeys of Ireland, the brand looking for a new product, sampled the product after multiple recipe revisions to get it just right.

Once Baileys moved forward in the development and production process, it was time for the company to find someone to actually sell it. Gluckman told Inside the Cask that the CEO of the International Distillers & Vintners Company took a bottle of Baileys to New York to meet with a well-known and successful distributor. But with one sip, the distributor was certain Baileys would never sell. Of course, given the popularity of Baileys today, that was obviously wrong. But Gluckman certainly remembered that response, and even named his book after the situation, entitling it, "That S*it Will Never Sell."

Multiple Baileys Irish Cream flavors have been introduced over the years

The history of Baileys all started with that first recipe, pairing Irish whiskey with cream, sugar, and chocolate. And that coveted recipe has certainly lived a popular life. But along the way, so many other flavors of Baileys Irish Cream have been introduced throughout the years to diversify the flavor portfolio. 

For example, in 2019, Baileys unveiled a red velvet cupcake version of the liqueur. The drink was created in collaboration with Georgetown Cupcakes, offering a sip of a cupcake in beverage form. To dive even further into desserts, an apple pie flavored Baileys debuted in August 2020 as a kick-off to fall. The creamy liqueur brings flavors of apple pie, vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, and spice. And if the flavors couldn't get sweet enough, the liqueur also debuted Strawberries & Cream Baileys in their line-up in 2018. The fruity and creamy pink drink was tested in the U.S. in 2018 and became a more permanent flavor on the roster in 2019.

Other Baileys flavors over the years have included everything from chocolate cherry and salted caramel to espresso creme and pumpkin spice. 

Vegans can drink a flavor of Baileys Irish Cream too

It's safe to assume that most people who follow a vegan diet see a product like Baileys, with cream as the main ingredient, and think it's definitely not for them. But as it turns out, Baileys considered vegan customers when developing their almond milk flavor.

When it comes to a vegan diet, anything made from animal products, such as meat, eggs, dairy, and sometimes even honey, are avoided, whether for dietary or ethical reasons. 

But Baileys Almande is the perfect solution. Baileys introduced this version of creamy liqueur in 2017. And when it launched, Baileys boasted about it being gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. The first launch of the product mistakenly included beeswax in its ingredients list, which Baileys apologized for quickly and relaunched with a truly certified vegan product. The drink is now made from almond milk, allowing the flavors of almond and vanilla to shine through, while still offering a creamy liqueur for those following a vegan or dairy-free diet without any milk.

Baileys launched an alcopop in the 2000s. It didn't last long.

By the early 2000s, Baileys Original Irish Cream was the most popular liqueur brand on Earth (via Just Drinks). But that didn't stop the company from looking for more opportunities to expand its operation.

Such an opportunity presented itself when executives discovered that the vast majority of Baileys drinkers only consumed the drink occasionally. "There are about 3 million consumers who drink Baileys on a regular basis," Chris Stagg, innovation manager for Baileys' parent company Diageo, told Just Drinks at the time. "There are a much larger proportion — about 11 million consumers — who are just occasional drinker s— perhaps once or twice at Christmas, perhaps once at Easter. Those 11 million consumers have been firmly our focus for the innovation team."

In an attempt to de-traditionalize the liqueur and reach that larger consumer base, Baileys introduced a new ready-to-drink product: Baileys Glide. The low-alcohol, vanilla-flavored alcopop hit shelves in 2003. "Bringing Baileys Glide out, which is obviously a longer drink and lighter in texture due to the inclusion of vanilla in the mix, means that you have a product that is much more suited to occasions where you are catching up with mates having a natter and just relaxing," Stagg said.

It turns out, Baileys Glide was not what people wanted to drink while "catching up with mates." After a sharp drop in sales, the product was canned just two years after its debut (via Marketing Week).

Baileys Irish Cream is the cousin of Tanqueray Gin

The story behind Baileys Irish Cream is a bit different, in that the product was intended to be developed. International Distillers & Vintners (now Diageo), had specifically requested a new product that would be its shining star. It certainly didn't just occur by happenstance.

But with David Gluckman having product development experience under his belt, with Baileys easily being his biggest success, it's no wonder that he has other feathers in his cap. Gluckman was actually responsible for developing a number of other spirits brands, including Tanqueray Ten Gin and Smirnoff Black.

Now, Baileys lives under the Diageo Brands umbrella, which is one of the largest spirits and beer companies in the world. Baileys sits next to Tanqueray in the line-up, but that's not the only major spirits brand in the family. Diageo also owns top beer and spirit brands such as Johnnie Walker, Aviation Gin, Ketel One Vodka, Don Julio, and Guinness Beer, among others.

Baileys co-creator Tom Jago launched other alcohol brands like Johnnie Walker Blue

Once Baileys inventors David Gluckman and Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies had their whiskey, cream, sugar, and chocolate product, they were ready to hand it off to their client, the International Distillers & Vintners. Their point of contact there was a man named Tom Jago (via The Irish Times). You likely have never heard of Jago before, but you've certainly heard (and probably drank) many of the products he is responsible for bringing to market.

After spearheading the evolution of Baileys Original Irish Cream from homemade concoction to best-selling liqueur, Jago would go on to become an icon in the spirits business. In the late 1970s, he was tasked with creating a new image for Coco Rico, a coconut rum product (via VinePair). He did so, in part, by redesigning the label and giving it a new name. Today, you know this drink as Malibu Rum, the second highest-selling liqueur in the world (via The Spirits Business). In 1982, Jago took a job with Moët Hennessy, where he was instrumental in developing the Scotch whisky Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Some other alcohol brands he helped establish include Martell, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, and the Classic Malts (via Booze Business).

About a decade prior to his death in 2018, Jago co-founded The Last Drop Distillers. The company searches around Europe and the United States for leftover casks of rare spirits, repackages the alcohol, and sells it.

Baileys Irish Cream can be used in so many desserts

If you have a delicious liqueur, with flavors of cream, chocolate, and a hint of whiskey, it seems like the perfect drink for sipping with dessert, right? A glass on the rocks is certainly a treat, but the pairing of a dessert with Baileys in the recipe would make for an even better experience.

Because of its creamy texture, Baileys lends itself quite well to desserts — obviously, the flavor of chocolate tends to help. Baileys is the perfect addition for cheesecake and adds a unique flavor. Mixing cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, and Baileys can produce the most delicious cheesecake topping, without too much of the alcohol coming through.

But for those worried about cooking the alcohol from the liqueur all the way out, including Baileys in your French toast mixture is a delicious way to switch up a recipe, or even making a chocolate Baileys cupcake by swapping out the milk in the mixture for Baileys.

You can make your own Baileys Irish Cream

With all of the uses for this signature liqueur, it definitely seems like it would come in handy for so many great recipes. But if you like the idea of keeping things in your kitchen that are entirely made from scratch, you can make your own Baileys Irish Cream at home.

Since Baileys is basically a mixture of Irish whiskey, heavy cream, and chocolate, mixing those ingredients will result in a delicious, homemade version, with a few additional ingredients in the mix. Obviously, Baileys is made with Irish whiskey, but another whiskey will work if that's the only option you have on hand. 

To make your own Baileys, simply mix heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, your favorite Irish whiskey, chocolate syrup, strong coffee, and vanilla extract together. You can mix the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk, or throw it all in the blender. Once your Irish cream is well blended, put it in a sealed container and keep it in the fridge between uses.

Does Baileys go bad?

Considering the fact that Baileys is made from fresh milk at its base, it's important to keep an eye out for whether your bottle is expired or not. In short, yes, Baileys does have the potential to go bad, but it'll take a while for that to happen.

Because there's plenty of alcohol in the bottle, it helps to keep the milk from spoiling as quickly as milk typically would in your fridge. However, over about two years, you may notice a change in the contents of your bottle. (via Food Guys) Best not to wait that long to consume it! If you screw the top off of your bottle of Baileys and pour a glass, you may notice separation if it's old. It may also have a rotten smell, along with some flavor loss. At that point, it's best to avoid it altogether, especially as consuming spoiled milk can make you incredibly sick.

What drinks can you make with Baileys?

There's no doubt that sipping a glass of Baileys on its own, or perhaps on ice, is entirely satisfying. And really, you can't go wrong by enjoying it that way. But, if you want to switch things up, there are so many other things you can do with this tasty liqueur. Baileys can be combined with other simple ingredients to make the most delicious cocktails, and many classic cocktails including the Mudslide, White Russian, and Irish Coffee use it as a main ingredient. You can also really kick things up a notch by including Baileys in a milkshake to make it boozy. Because of the milk in the liqueur, it won't separate like liquor typically would. 

Whether you're hoping to enjoy a drink during brunch, throughout the afternoon, or for dessert, there are plenty of drinks that can be made with Baileys:

  • The Nutty Irishman
  • Mudslide
  • Baileys White Russian
  • Baileys Irish Coffee
  • Baileys Boozy Milkshake
  • Baileys Chocolate Martini
  • Baileys Espresso Martini
  • Baileys Hot Chocolate