Irish cream’s chocolate-kissed decadence tastes timeless, but its history is brief. It has only been around since 1973, when Baileys Irish Cream was created in roughly 45 minutes at the behest of a distillery’s parent company. Despite its relative youthfulness, the European Union treats the silky smooth, whiskey-based liqueur like a centuries-old concoction. Irish cream is officially a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), meaning that it can’t be professionally produced and labeled as Irish cream outside Ireland.
Thankfully, these rules don’t apply when you make your own Irish cream at home. In fact, no rules really apply when it comes to crafting this spirit. Since it’s a relatively simple liqueur to make, it’s spawned a near-cottage industry of DIY online recipes with enough variance to make a blizzard’s worth of snowflakes jealous. One goal binds this eclectic range of ideas together: to create a liqueur that can add decadence to a cup of coffee, build a killer cocktail like a Mudslide, or be a sinful sipper on its own.
Irish whiskey is the backbone of Irish cream. It provides the boozy pop you’re looking for, and its traditional 80 proof is low enough to play nicely with the liqueur’s other ingredients. You don’t have to splurge on a high-end bottle like Redbreast here. Jameson, Tullamore D.E.W., Slane, or other cost-effective brands will work well — just make sure the spirit is tasty on its own before mixing it into your liqueur.
Condensed milk and chocolate syrup provide the rest of the liqueur’s foundation. The recipes splinter into different directions from here. Most call for any combination of heavy cream, instant coffee, and almond extract, but these ingredients aren’t necessarily needed to deliver a killer version. Dropping heavy cream from the equation may seem particularly scandalous to purists, but your Irish cream will still be deliciously decadent without it if you’re using the right substitutes. Specifically, blending pasteurized eggs, a touch of brandy, and a smidgen of orgeat into a base of Irish whiskey, condensed milk, and chocolate syrup will deliver that dense, creamy richness you want. It will also cut the whiskey’s bite to a toasty warmth, making this an ideal sipper for the cold winter months. (For the record, the recipe that follows is a family recipe that’s been passed around since the 1980s. It wouldn’t have lasted this long if it didn’t work).
Of course, this doesn’t mean Irish cream is strictly a seasonal delight. Irish cream is a bona fide dessert in a glass, and dessert should never be restricted to a specific spot on the calendar. It also makes one hell of an impressive gift for any occasion, and it’s wise to approach its creation with this in mind. It’s easy to whip up 24 ounces of decadence, which is roughly enough to fill an empty 750-milliliter bottle of booze. If you want to keep it all to yourself, you can wash and clean your empty vessel — like you would if you were making an infinity whiskey — and pour your creation inside. However, homemade Irish cream can only last in the refrigerator for about one month. If you don’t think you’ll go through a full 24 ounces in 30 days or so, just pour the concoction in two 12-ounce bottles or four 6-ounce bottles and figure out who among your circle of family or friends could use a thoughtful, tasty present.
Once you get the hang of making Irish cream at home, you can experiment by adding other ingredients into the mix, like a pinch of nutmeg or a dash of peppermint extract. Be fearless in your experimentation. Remember, your kitchen isn’t beholden to any PGI regulations.
Homemade Irish Cream
- 3 eggs (pasteurized)
- 10 ounces Irish whiskey
- 1 14-ounce can condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon orgeat
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
- Crack 3 eggs in a blender
- Blend until smooth, about 5 seconds
- Add rest of the ingredients
- Blend until smooth, about 8–10 seconds
Yields 24 ounces
A bit of Irish cream transforms homemade coffee from a caffeine conduit into an indulgent morning treat. When the time calls for cocktails, you can add coffee to your Irish cream without disrupting the liqueur’s integrity. You can do this by creating the O’Vechkin, an Irish cream-based riff on a White Russian whose name doubles as a playful nod to arguably the greatest goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League. (Yes, the apostrophe is intended to be a bad Irish pun).
The cocktail’s simple base calls for your homemade Irish cream and vodka. Its complexity comes from the big coffee ice cube that accompanies the beverage. The brew’s earthy flavors will slowly seep into the beverage as the cube melts, increasing the drink’s depth and complexity with each sip without disrupting its creamy texture. It’s a terrific way to enjoy your homemade Irish cream as the weather warms.
1 ½ ounces vodka
1 ounce Irish cream
Big coffee ice cube (recipe follows)
The Ice Cube
- Brew a pot of coffee
- Pour coffee into big ice cube tray
- Place tray in fridge and allow to freeze
- Pour vodka and Irish cream into shaker with ice and shake
- Pour over coffee ice cube