Several years ago I decided to try my hand at making an Irish Cream in my kitchen. A little research showed, to my surprise, that Irish Cream is really something invented purely for marketing in the 70’s…the 1970’s. So there were no 18th century classic Irish recipes to be found…or that I could find. There are, however a plethora of modern day home recipes that are available online.  Marketing invention or not, Irish Cream appears like a genuinely good idea and also seems like something that would be a prime candidate for the value added by making it yourself at home.


I generally search through books and the web for as many recipes as I can when learning something new. I filter out the ones that I feel are nonsensical and then compile a list of common denominators of them all. I then use my best judgment to come up with a prototype recipe to go to kitchen with. Most of the recipes I found for Irish Cream seemed to amount to glorified chocolate milk and didn’t make me think value added. Most recipes rarely used egg as an emulsifier, more often relying on things like evaporated or sweetened condensed milk to gather viscosity. Most rarely used heat.

The most common base flavors incorporated into the home recipes that I found included chocolate, vanilla, coffee, almond and cinnamon. Many of the recipes relied heavily on either coffee or chocolate or both as the dominant flavor and many also used things like cinnamon and almond which I like, but don’t feel are present in Irish Cream. Most recipes seemed to lack subtlety in the base flavors, thus creating more of a chocolate cream or coffee cream.


Milk, Half and Half, Cream, Evaporated Milk, Sweet Condensed Milk, Non-Dairy Creamer, Dry Milk

Eggs, Burnt Sugar, Cane Sugar, Beet Sugar, Honey

Vanilla, Cinnamon, Dried Coffee, Fresh Coffee, Coffee Infusion, Almond Extract, Cocoa Nibs, Cocoa Powder, Baking Chocolate, Chocolate Syrup, Chocolate Extract, Coconut Extract



The history of Irish Cream and Bailey’s is very sketchy and little doubt glossed over or kept in the closet, so to speak, by its marketers. A long storied history is what is implied by the name and the marketing. Nonetheless, it is a delicious and simple idea.

Bailey’s Irish Cream was brought to market in 1974 by Gilbey’s of Ireland. There was no R. A. Bailey behind the name. Wikipedia asserts that the name was inspired by the Bailey Hotel in London, others hold it was just an easy and identifiable Irish name used purely for marketing. In any case, it was an instant and enormous hit and remains so today inspiring other competitors as well as new flavors.

The Bailey’s website says their recipe contains fresh dairy cream, a triple pot distilled whiskey blend, a proprietary blend of natural cocoa extracts and a blend of cane and beet sugars. Bailey’s states that it does not contain eggs. No other ingredients are listed but Wikipedia says in it’s listing that other ingredients “…include herbs and sugar.” That is the wild card that seems to be the point where many decide to throw in cinnamon, almond and coffee. The coffee seems to also be related to more hearsay that Gilbey’s came up with Bailey’s Irish Cream in an attempt to use up surplus whiskey by making a bottled Irish Coffee. (Homedistillation). Coffee and chocolate seem to be goes at this point.

The Carolan’s Irish Cream website says its base uses fresh cream, honey, water, stabilizers and natural colors that are combined in stainless steel tanks and heated at high temperatures. They don’t mention coffee or chocolate/cocoa or vanilla as flavoring agents, just honey. Their spirit base is whiskey and unspecified ‘spirit’ that I can only assume is neutral grain spirit. They describe the taste of Carolan’s as “Vanilla flavour with a smooth texture. Creamy taste, accented with the burnished gold of aged spirits and wildflowers honey.” A big description that doesn’t really say much. Other than the cream, I am not sure what is in this and am not interested in using honey in this recipe. Zero from them.


One key necessity to making a homemade cream or cream liqueur, that is often overlooked, is a binding agent or emulsifier or emulsifying process to keep the cream liqueur from separating in storage. Egg yolks are commonly used in the home as emulsifiers in things like mayonnaise, custards, pastry creams and egg nogs. Artificial and natural stabilizers (slightly different from emulsifiers) like pectin, guar gum, agar, gelatin etc. are often used either at home or by manufacturers to help in this process. Other methods not readily available in the home are the use of high pressure heating or some other unspecified proprietary method of homogenization, are the most common ways to bind ingredients together. The manufacturing of cream liqueurs generally employs the industrial method of high pressure and heat.

Since the high pressure heat method is not readily duplicated at home, I decided to use the traditional egg yolk based, or pastry cream, method of emulsification that I also use for making a Mexican style rum egg nog called Rompope and a Puerto Rican coconut cream liqueur called Coquito.

Essentially this is making a flavored pastry cream and then halting the process (so it doesn’t become too thick to drink) straining and cooling the cream and finally adding a base spirit. The Irish Coffee story seemed plausible so I decided to incorporate coffee into the recipe. Chocolate was a given. I also wanted to add some vanilla. To me, vanilla is essential to the base of any cream. All these had to be blended subtly so as not to overwhelm any other flavor.


Pastry Cream Method

To make approximately 28 oz of Irish Cream:

4 Large Egg Yolks
16 oz Whole Milk
1 Tblsp Cocoa Nibs or 1/2 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 oz Brewed French Roast Coffee or 1/2 Tsp Instant Espresso
6 oz Cane Sugar
2 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

6-8 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey or Irish Whiskey of your preference

Slowly heat the milk, sugar, coffee, vanilla, and cocoa nibs. Bring to a very low near-simmer for approximately 10 minutes to bring out the nibs and coffee. Stir frequently.


In a non-reactive mixing bowl add the egg yolks and whisk together.


When the milk mixture is ready, remove from heat and strain into an appropriately sized mixing bowl. This will be used immediately in the egg yolks.


Now slowly pour and whisk this hot milk mixture into the egg yolks a little bit at a time. It’s good to have an assistant at this stage. Doing this slowly and in parts will ensure that the eggs do not curdle from the heat. Keep doing this…always whisking…until all the milk is incorporated.


Now return the milk and egg mixture to a clean saucepan on low heat and whisk/stir continuously until it begins to thicken. Continue until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

IMG_8580 IMG_8581

Fine strain this again and store in an appropriately sized container that can be covered and cooled off in a refrigerator. The fine straining at this point will remove any bits of egg or milk that may have congealed.

When the cream is cool, it should be thick like an Alfredo sauce. Add whiskey and stir or shake. Taste and adjust as you see fit.


It is now ready for sharing, drinking or storage in the fridge. Shelf life is several months, but if it tastes as good as it should, it won’t last that long.

Feel free to add more or less sugar depending on how sweet you want your Irish Cream. This can be non-alcoholic but it should then be used within a week or turn it into ice cream..

Once you know this base method of making a cream liqueur, you can be branch off and try many other flavors; coconut, hazelnut, cinnamon, almond and so on. Also the choice of base spirit can be almost endless. Rum, Tequila Añejo, Bourbon, sweet chocolaty Amaros, Cognacs and brandies,  etc..

If you have any questions, please reach out to me, I would be glad to help you through this recipe or answer any questions about drinks and drink making .




  1. Jason says:

    Todd, how does this recipe compare to Carolans? How sweet is it? I have a bottle of Carolans here in the Philippines that I’m quickly working through, thanks to my Filipino family’s love of Mudslides (they do not like spirit-forward or sour drinks at all). I’d love to try your recipe, as Bailey’s is the only Irish Cream available here and I don’t care for it.

    • Hi Jason. It’s been a while since I had Carolans. But you can make this as sweet as you want. I like sweetness but in balance for my taste. Since this is homemade you can adjust anything for your own taste. And make as many mudslides as your family wants. Great on a hot humid day in Philippines!

  2. Jude says:

    I like reading food ideas that don’t just follow the herd mentality. You put a lot of thought into coming up with your own version which is very nice! I, too, like to experiment with food as I consider my kitchen to be a food-based lab – one that makes tastier and healthier food than can be bought.

    I finished making my second batch of Irish cream right now and wanted to offer my own thoughts (in case you were interested). The first small batch I made a couple of weeks ago. Most is still in the fridge and will be slowly drunk but I figured it could be a little better. I didn’t follow anybody’s recipe but only used them as a basis of what ingredients to use. I dislike the taste and smell of coffee but felt a small amount was needed. To my coffee-sensitive palate, even that small amount was too noticeable. I also wanted the smoothness and viscosity Baileys has that homemade doesn’t. I’ve often made hot milk drinks before bed and find the tiniest amount (measured in drops) of various flavourings enhance the (non-alcoholic) drinks. So keeping that in mind, I made a new batch of Irish cream today.

    I used 1 litre half-and-half (10% BF), 1 can evaporated milk, brown and white sugar to taste (rather than condensed milk which is just evaporated milk and lots of sugar), 1 rounded tbsp cocoa mix powder, 1/4 tsp instant coffee (I can still taste it but just enough now), a tiny pinch of salt, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp coconut extract, 1/4 tsp maple extract and about 1/8 tsp almond extract. That came to a little over 1 1/2 litres to which I added 300 ml Jamieson Irish whiskey.

    I did some reading and researching to figure out how to thicken the drink as I didn’t want to use egg yolks. Not that I mind using them but I wanted a simpler way of making it. I have a lot of powdered xanthan gum left over from the time I’d make gluten-free bread for a friend. I also have plain gelatin powder. I used roughly 1/8th the amount of gelatin that would be needed to set the volume of the liqueur, enough to make it a little thicker. I softened it in cold milk, then heated it until dissolved (which explains why I had more than 1 1/2 litres before adding the whiskey). Xanthan gum gives added viscosity and a nice smoothness to the finished product. It can’t just be stirred into a liquid though as it will clump up. So I mixed the dry sugar and the cocoa mix together with xanthan gum to disperse the particles and then added small amounts of the cream till thoroughly blended before mixing it into the bigger batch.

    All in all, I’m happy with the results this time. Friends are visiting this Monday evening and I’ll get their opinion on it. I’m not much into drinking alcoholic drinks even though I love their taste. Years ago, I could enjoy drinks like others but over time, I started getting bad headaches after drinking even a small glass of wine. Friends insisted on me trying their homemade wines (all natural, they said) but it made no difference. Now anything containing more than a little alcohol gives me an almost 24-hour severe headache that pain killers don’t even touch. I rather envy others but I guess I save money this way!

    • Hey Jude!

      That’s a Beatles song…heh heh

      Thank you for your very thoughtful comments…I havent made this in a while…But I find nearly every time I make something I learn something new about what I am doing…or have a different perspective..

      I think about the coffee thing I thought the same thing…was kind of shocked that I would be putting this in…It is not what I consider a coffee drink nor do I want it to be…I think if you use the other flavors with it it morphs into something other than coffee…I make a cola syrup that reminds me of this effect…using cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and having it come out as something bigger than the sum of the parts…

      I was just going to suggest using some xanthan gum or gelatin to thicken this without eggs…I agree…often I dont want eggs…I think I would prefer no eggs next time I make this…

      As I have gotten older I can get these massive cluster headaches after just drinking a glass of wine…My mother had the same thing when she got older…They come and I feel like my head is going to explode…

      But it doesnt happen all the time…I am trying to figure out the other factors…I dont think it is purely the wine…

      I really appreciate your comments and your suggestions! let me know how things turned out….I’d like to follow you on Instagram…I am toddappelbar on Instagram if you want to follow..

      Best to You!


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