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What is Irish Cream?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Irish Cream is a mixture of whiskey, cream, and sugar. It is sold pre-blended and nearly always uses Irish whiskey as its base. It is also a flavor for a number of other sweets, such as ice cream. Baileys Irish cream is by far the most popular brand on the market.

This beverage began its rise to popularity in the 1970s with its official creation by R.J. Bailey & Company in Ireland. The drink was formulated to appeal to a wide range of drinkers, particularly an American audience. Most Irish cream smells of hazelnuts or sweet almonds, and it is very sweet to taste. By 2003, Baileys had become the top selling liqueur worldwide, and its popularity has only continued to increase. In the same year, the company released a less-alcoholic version called Baileys Glide, which is sold prepackaged in small bottles.

Because of the presence of dairy, Irish cream will curdle and coagulate when combined with any sort of acid. In fact, there was for some time a persistent legend that drinking this beverage with tonic water could kill you. This is of course patently false, but there are many who still believe it.

Though not deadly, the coagulating effect of Irish cream and an acid makes it ideal for a number of prank drinks, most famously the Cement Mixer. A Cement Mixer consists of giving a person a shot of lemon juice or some other highly-acid juice to hold in their mouth, then giving them a shot of Irish cream to drink them down together. When the cream meets the acid, it forms a thick substance in the mouth that is difficult to swallow.

Many people also make their own Irish cream by starting with a good Irish whiskey, placing it on a double-boiler, mixing in flavoring such as chocolate, adding sweet-and-condensed milk, and then stirring in a large amount of cream and coffee flavoring if desired. Once made, the concoction is bottled and refrigerated for a few weeks, at which point it is ready to enjoy.

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Discussion Comments

By andrewtwina — On Oct 14, 2012

Can sorbitol be used as a substitute for sugar in cream liqueur? What would be the effect of sorbitol on precipitation of proteins in cream liqueur?

By serenesurface — On Jul 26, 2011

I don't really think of Irish cream as an alcoholic drink. It's definitely not something I would have at an event or at a bar.

It's a drink that's meant to be had in small quantities, maybe before meals to increase appetite, or right after to help digest it. I think the founders of the drink had the same thing in mind when they made it. It's definitely not the most affordable drink, especially considering the alcohol percentage of it.

I don't really enjoy it in food either. Maybe something like ice cream or chocolate would be good, but definitely nothing more complex or heavier than that. Irish cream is already pretty heavy, it is cream!

By ddljohn — On Jul 25, 2011

There is also something called an Irish creme extract that can be used for making desserts and alcoholic drinks. The extract itself doesn't have any alcohol, it just tastes like Irish cream so I think if you were making the drink Irish cream, you would follow the regular recipe with whiskey and cream and use the Irish cream extract for the flavoring.

I've had an Irish cream cheesecake that was made with the extract once and it really was delicious. It was very creamy and satisfying like all cheesecake but the Irish cream added a flavor as if liquor had been used. It reminded me of the liquor cakes I had in France.

By anon10754 — On Apr 02, 2008

you forgot the Jameson for your car bomb. The shot glass is filled 3/4 with whiskey then topped off with Bailey's.

By anon2155 — On Jun 30, 2007

what is the caloric count in Irish Cream Whiskey

By anon84 — On Mar 05, 2007

mmmm! Best Irish cream drink: Irish car bomb (shot of Baileys dropped into a half a pint of Guinness) Best Irish cream dessert: Irish cream cheesecake (my own recipe)

Anyone have any others?

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