A recent VinePair article examines the growing popularity of RumChata, a rum-based cream liqueur. The Midwest company is the No. 1 liqueur brand on social media and continues to spread across the country. And for good reason: It’s delicious.
In this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe chat about the current demand for cream-based liqueurs. They look at RumChata’s dominance in the U.S. market, why it’s an ideal seasonal beverage, and what differentiates the brand from its counterpart, Baileys.
To cap off the episode, our hosts taste a glass of RumChata for themselves and share their first impressions about the popular beverage.
Tune in to learn more about cream-based liqueurs.
Check Out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the VinePair Friday podcast.
Z: Yes, sir.
A: All right. Let’s talk about cream-based spirits. That sweet, sweet cream. Actually, a lot of them are made with sweet cream, just so you know. We published a really interesting article last week on the rise and extreme popularity of RumChata, that incredible rum-based liqueur. I thought we could talk about cream-based liqueur generally because it’s on fire, right?
J: It’s very, very popular, yes. That was something that in reading and editing this piece really stood out to me because I had no idea. And I know that Baileys is exceptionally popular as well. RumChata is cream-based, even though Horchata, which it’s based on, is not. It’s usually made with rice milk or other seeds. But the creator of RumChata decided that he’d make it dairy-based for richness and because they’re so popular. So here we are talking about RumChata and cream-based liqueurs.
A: So are you guys big cream-based liqueur drinkers?
J: Yeah, I don’t know. I think they’re so delicious.
A: Which ones are your favorite?
J: I don’t know. When I was growing up like my parents would let me have some Baileys, that was really delicious. I really like bourbon cream. Whenever I have it and come across it, I think it’s so delicious. I don’t really seek them out, though.
A: How about you, Zach? Are you a cream liqueur drinker?
Z: I gotta give it up to the absolute undisputed champion of the cream liqueur category, which is eggnog.
A: That’s a cocktail…
Z: You tell me how those things are different, exactly. But when we were discussing this topic and whether we were going to chat about it I was like, man, I definitely had a phase in my life where I really did like Baileys and drank it in coffee in particular. Not so much as a standalone. I had some absolutely lovely regulars at one of the restaurants I worked at who came in for dinner every week, and both of them would have a double Baileys on the rocks as dessert. Every time I was like, “I don’t think I’d want to drink that every week, but that’s delicious. I’m not going to argue with those folks. They know what they’re doing.”
A: Do you think they were alive during the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
Z: It’s possible. In any case, what I was struck by when we decided to do this topic and when I was at a grocery store near me just looking at the selection, I was surprised. There are probably a dozen different cream liqueurs out there. Some of them are Baileys, which now has a lot of different flavors. I know you want to talk about Disaronno cream.
A: We just got that sent to the office and I was like, “Interesting, everyone’s moving into it, man.”
J: Why do we think it’s so popular?
A: I think people think it’s delicious. Like Zach was just saying, there’s so much. Most people may not realize this, but Baileys released Baileys Colada this summer, and it’s their version of a Piña Colada. I do wonder now reading Aaron’s piece if it was also probably to compete against RumChata because it’s using whiskey. But it tastes like a Piña Colada, and they literally sold out of it within a month. Then they had no more left because they said it was like a limited release. And of course, now it’s not going to be limited. I think they’ll probably do it forever. But yeah, people just love this stuff. It’s just really tasty. Why do you think, Zach? Same reason?
Z: I think that’s it. We see this in drinks and beverage alcohol in different categories. These drinks cut against one existing trend that I think some people get really frustrated with. These are sweet; they’re rich; they’re indulgent. We’re in this time of year, but also just like a cyclical period for a variety of reasons where people want to f*ckin indulge. They want to just have something that’s delicious and indulgent, and they don’t really want to have to apologize for it, and that might not be in vogue forever. We tend to kind of oscillate between austerity and indulgence in a variety of ways. But I do think we are in this sort of indulgent period, at least for a lot of people. That is by itself, probably enough of an explanation. But I do think it’s worth noting that with RumChata in particular, it’s a reflection of a couple of different things coming together. A broader audience probably has some idea of what Horchata is supposed to taste like. So you kind of know the flavor profile you’re going to get going in. We’ve talked about this on the podcast at times in the past: rum’s growth as a category in America. It feels a little bit exotic to people, but it also feels comfortable in the way that I think about Baileys. I’m looking forward to trying RumChata; I’ve never had it before. But I imagine it provides much of the same comforting element, just with a slightly different flavor.
A: Yeah, totally.
J: I think this is also interesting to consider in the context of the rise of hard seltzer as well because it’s the opposite of that. These are really luxurious, super-caloric, really rich, creamy drinks that are very popular, and then there’s hard seltzer. It’s 100 calories, very lightly flavored, and people really love that as well. I think that’s kind of interesting that they’re gaining popularity at the same time or have been.
A: What I think is really interesting about hard seltzer is that one of the most interesting categories that’s growing very quickly in craft is the smoothie seltzers, which are basically RumChata. I think that people like really delicious drinks.
J: Maybe it’s like a conflict, right? You really want the Baileys, but you’re telling yourself to drink the White Claw.
A: We are in RumChata and Baileys season, though. I think that is why Baileys Colada is smart. For the last few years, the people at Baileys were trying to figure out how to crack summer, and they tried a few years ago with the almond milk-based Baileys. It was fine, but it just wasn’t the same kind of Baileys. I don’t know if I want to drink almond milk Baileys.
J: But what about the frozen Mudslide?
A: Exactly. So I think then they were like, “OK, let’s figure this out.” And they did. The only thing that I’ve never been a big drinker of — Josh was in college and I’m blowing up his spot — is White Russians. Are you a White Russian person?
Z: I was also a White Russian person in college, for sure. I have a funny story about this, actually. On my 21st birthday, I went back to New York and I went out with my friends to celebrate. My friends knew that one of my favorite drinks was a White Russian, and so my friend was like, “I’ll buy you one.” So he goes to the bar and they’re like, “We can’t make it, we don’t have any milk. We’re all out.” And this is in the middle of a snowstorm. My friend very kindly decided to go hike out a couple of blocks to a bodega or something to get some. He came back and he brought the milk into the bar. It was a very nice gesture, and I drank a lot of White Russians that night, and I drank them plenty in college. But I agree that it’s not a drink that I envision drinking all that often right now. Although, perhaps after having this RumChata, I will be primed to enjoy more of those kinds of creamy beverages.
A: Now I’m thinking, do I need to tell my parents to get a bottle of Baileys or RumChata for Thanksgiving?
Z: Well, you’ve already got your Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey lined up. What else would you need? Definitely not White Claw.
A: According to Aaron, RumChata has exploded in the Midwest right now. And it was started in 2006? 2007? Gallo just bought it in . They’re going to put their massive muscle behind it, and it will probably just grow and grow and grow and grow and grow from there. It’s a pretty bottle, actually. I never had it before until I encountered it at BCB with Aaron. That’s when he and I talked about the idea for this article because I was like, “I think this is really big in parts of the country and people don’t know and people don’t know it.” He was like, “I’d never heard of it.” And we tried it, and it’s really delicious. You both have never had it before, right?
J: I’ve never had it, no.
A: Joanna, how do you feel about cream-based drinks?
J: Yeah, I like them. I’m excited to see the category grow. I think they’re delicious. I’m excited to see if they tackle alternative milks.
A: I don’t think I would ever drink an alternative-milk liqueur.
J: Isn’t it kind of weird to have milk-based alcohol, though?
A: The thing that just weirded me out as I looked at the back of the bottle is it says to consume within six months of opening. It doesn’t say refrigerate. There’s no refrigeration necessary, so that kind of scares me.
J: Can I tell you guys one quick anecdote about one of the first cocktails I ever made when I was a kid? I thought it’d be fun to make a creamsicle cocktail, which was vanilla vodka, orange juice, and milk. It curdled. So that’s why I’m skeptical of a milk-based spirit here.
A: So Zach, how are you having your RumChata?
Z: Just cold out of the fridge in a glass.
A: So we’re going to shake ours over ice because we’re pros here. I did a very good job of not touching the ice with my hands because I know people who watch cocktail videos don’t like that. I don’t know how much we need.
Z: I’m guessing you’re going to need a lot.
A: It looks like milk coming out. I mean, it’s just, wow, OK, let’s go.
Z: It’s got that Horchata color; that tan-ish note from like the cinnamon and whatnot.
A: What’s cool about shaking it is it gets frothy.
Z: Yes, same reason you would shake eggnog or something. It definitely lends a textural note.
A: I’m pouring one for our producer today, who is Katie Brown. We’re going to shout-out Katie. So we’ll try this all together. Cheers.
J: Cheers. It smells very good.
A: Well, I’m sorry, it’s f*cking delicious. It’s so f*cking good.
J: It’s got some almond-y notes in it.
A: It’s really good.
Z: Also an important thing to note: It’s only 13.5 percent alcohol. So it’s like a bottle of wine right there. You can drink that whole thing.
A: What’s Baileys?
Z: That’s a good question. Not high, for sure.
A: This is really good, right?
J: Baileys is 17 percent.
A: This is just rum, cream, and spices. It kind of reminds me of Horchata a little bit.
Z: For sure. But you definitely get some rum character too, which is cool.
J: Rum, cream, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and other flavorings.
A: I already finished mine. That was really good.
J: Adam just shot his.
Z: I had first heard about RumChata not at BCB, but from my wife, who is from Wisconsin, which is where RumChata was founded. She told me about going home to visit, and she was staying with her mother. And she said the only thing that got her through the visit was the bottle of RumChata. And I asked what that was. She’s like, “You don’t know what RumChata is?” And I was like, “No, I don’t know what RumChata is.” She said, “It’s delicious,” and I just filed that away. I discussed us doing this a while back, and she told me we have to do the RumChata episode.
A: Very good. Baileys obviously also has a really nice creaminess, but it has a little bit more whiskey backbone, whereas this doesn’t. It’s obviously rum-y, but it’s not as overtly rum-y as you would expect it to be.
Z: You get it on the finish for sure. I got it on the finish. The finish feels like you’re drinking rum. But up front, not so much. So I want to ask you guys a couple of questions about this, how you might enjoy it besides just over ice. For Baileys, you have Mudslides and other kinds of cocktails that incorporate it. What’s cool about this is, like Baileys, you can kind of see it being popular both as an ingredient in a cocktail, but also just in coffee or in hot drinks. Which is something that Baileys is also very, very prevalent in. Does that sound right to you guys?
J: Yeah, I think so. Part of Aaron’s piece here talks about it being kind of good in Hot Toddies.
A: Ooh, that sounds good.
Z: You’re kicking yourself, you didn’t take it to the cabin last week.
J: Next time. And then also, they sell these little mini RumChatas, which are creamers, which are meant to be added to coffee. That, I think, is so clever.
A: That’s really smart. You could see this being good in a lot of different kinds of cocktails. The more decadent ones I’m thinking, maybe some ice creams in there and some chocolate syrup and all that. It’s very delicious. I cannot lie, it is one of the more delicious things we tried on in the Friday episode so far.
Z: Can I ask you guys one more question about this? Do you think, in some small way, that something like this and maybe other cream liqueurs benefit from the loopholes of American labeling laws where they don’t have to put a calorie count on here?
A: Oh yeah. If people knew calorie counts in any of the cream-based spirits, they may not grab them. But then if you knew calorie counts of lots of different alcohol, you may not pick them up. It is what it is. At the end of the day, we’re already drinking alcohol, man. It’s a treat. You already know it’s doing something to your body that is not 100 percent OK. It’s fine with the calories, it’s all good.
J: Again, maybe you should drink some hard seltzer instead.
Z: It definitely wasn’t going to dissuade most people. But I was just thinking about this, you pick up the bottle and it’s very sleek. It’s got a nice sort of white color with gold lettering and a gold cap. Then you turn around, and you get all of the descriptions, but there aren’t nutritional facts staring at you. This is obviously true for most beverage alcohol in this country. Because like with seltzer we’re talking about how aggressively they’re marketing the calorie count because of that context. Here, more than most, I think they would not want to put it on the label.
J: But I’m OK with that.
A: I’m OK with that, too. I highly recommend you pick it up, because it is delicious.
J: Yes. Let us know if you’ve had RumChata.
A: All right, guys. Talk to you next week.
J: Have a good one.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.