Don’t waste your money on Baileys. Homemade Irish cream is easy to make. Add a splash of this delicious liqueur to create sweetened cocktails or provide a hint of booze to desserts.
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Adding Irish cream to some drinks or desserts can instantly elevate their taste. The simple mixture includes barrel-aged whiskey, flavorful dairy products, and sweeteners. Once you master the recipe, you’ll love drinking this over ice or using it to make Irish coffee.
Working with fresh cream can be a little tricky. To prevent clumping, you need to incorporate the ingredients together correctly. I’ll show you my technique for success and ways to customize the concoction. Bottle it up. This decadent liqueur makes for a lovely gift.
“This recipe was spot on. The recipe surpassed any bottle of Irish Crème I have bought from retail store. Most of the store bought Irish Crème I have noticed had a watery consistence. This recipe which I am proud to say I made was much creamier and had a kick to it.”—Pamela
- Sweetener: I use sweetened condensed milk for sweetness and to thicken the consistency. This product is heat-treated to remove most of its moisture, then goes through the retort canning process between 230 to 275ºF. During this time, the added sucrose lightly caramelizes. This product adds a hint of caramel flavor to the liqueur.
- Cream: I use heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream) to provide thickness and body. These dairy products contain at least 36% milk fat. The higher percentage of fat and the lower amount of casein protein help keep the drink emulsified while preventing the proteins from clumping together when mixed with alcohol.
- Chocolate: In my Irish cream recipe, I use chocolate syrup. The cocoa is already dissolved in a sugar syrup, making it easier to blend.
- Vanilla Flavor: Pure vanilla extract helps to marry the sweet and boozy flavors together.
- Alcohol: I use Jameson Irish whiskey for an authentic flavor. It has a slightly sweet aroma, subtle oaky, spicy, vanilla, nutty taste, and a smooth finish because it’s triple distilled. It has a 40% ABV (80 proof), but it won’t cause the cream to curdle when diluted properly.
See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).
Mix the dairy
Add the ingredients.
Process on low setting.
Step 1: Make Irish cream liqueur in a blender, stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or combine it by hand in a large bowl. The goal is to gently incorporate the ingredients without actually aerating the cream.
If using a blender or mixer, use the lowest speed setting and process until just combined. The sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, chocolate syrup, and vanilla mix first to disperse the thick dairy product into the solution.
Add the whiskey
Step 2: The trick to preventing curdling is gradually adding Irish whiskey at the end of mixing. This dilutes the more acidic spirit into the mixture to minimize the cream’s casein proteins clumping.
Step 3: Store in an airtight bottle or jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I use these 16-ounce glass flip-top bottles. They even come with labels and a funnel for easier transfer. Mason jars work well, too. Cream is typically a perishable item that lasts up to 10 days after opening.
However, the ethanol and high sugar concentration act as preservatives, reducing microbial activity while extending the shelf life. Sterilizing glass containers for storage also helps to kill spoilage organisms. Bottling Irish cream is a festive St. Patrick’s Day or Christmas gift.
- Alcohol: You can use other spirits or whiskey to customize the flavor. However, don’t go above 40% alcohol. Spirits too high in alcohol by volume (ABV) could cause curdling.
- Coffee: Add instant coffee (a medium strength like Colombian works well) or instant espresso for a more robust flavor. Start with 1 to 2 teaspoons.
- Mocha: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of instant coffee and 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup. Add dark cocoa powder (Dutch-processed) for a more intense flavor.
- Caramel: Add homemade caramel sauce, or caramel syrup, start with 2 to 3 teaspoons.
- Almond: Use almond extract, starting with ¼ teaspoon.
- Mint: Add some peppermint extract, starting with ¼ teaspoon.
- Pumpkin Spice: Start with ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix and 1 to 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree.
Ways to use it
- Make an Irish coffee.
- Make a chocolate martini or white Russian cocktail with the homemade Baileys.
- Add it to brownies for a boozy kick.
- Whisk some into whipped cream for a topping or frosting for French toast, cupcakes, cakes, or drinks.
Frequently asked questions
An Irish cream liqueur recipe with heavy cream and whiskey mixed with flavors like cocoa and vanilla adds depth and complements the aged alcohol. Coffee is a popular add-in for those who enjoy the taste of espresso. Irish cream is a low-alcohol product, around 13 to 17%, depending on the brand and variety. The most well-known store-bought product is a bottle of Baileys Original Irish Cream, flavored with vanilla, cocoa extract, and caramel for color.
Other alternatives are pure maple syrup (my top choice) or honey. You can use granulated or brown sugar, but it needs to be thoroughly dissolved. Add about 1 ⅓ cup of sweetener and adjust to taste. The Irish cream won’t be as thick since there are no concentrated milk solids from the condensed milk.
I do not recommend using dairy products like milk or half-and-half with lower fat amounts. They have higher amounts of protein, increasing the chance of clumping.
It’s a lovely dessert cocktail poured over ice or mixed to create other specialty adult drinks. You can also serve it hot, the most famous being Irish coffee or something sweeter like hot chocolate. Other applications include cakes, cookies, brownies, cheesecake, or frozen desserts like homemade ice cream.
Heavy cream is more stable with alcohol
Heavy cream consists of fat and casein milk proteins homogenized to suspend the droplets in a stable oil-in-water emulsion. This product also typically contains small additives to prevent separation, like carrageenan and gellan gum. It has a pH of 6.5, but when you add acidic ingredients, the pH drops to around 5.5 or lower, and the casein begins to lose its repelling properties. That’s why whiskey is added at the end, to dilute the acidic spirit and prevent curdling.
- 1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream, or heavy cream
- 5 teaspoons chocolate syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ⅔ cups Irish whiskey, Jameson recommended
- Mix the Dairy – To a blender, add sweetened condensed milk, heavy whipping cream, chocolate syrup, and vanilla extract. Mix on low speed until just combined, about 20 to 30 seconds. You do not want the cream to thicken.
- Add the Whiskey – Gradually add the whiskey with the mixer running on low until just combined, about 20 seconds.
- Storing Irish Cream – Transfer Irish cream to glass storage bottles. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Gently shake the bottle before using it.
- Recipe Yield: 32 ounces (960 ml)
- Serving Size: 1.5 ounces (45 ml)
- Bowl Method: In a large bowl, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, heavy whipping cream, chocolate syrup, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined but not too frothy.
- Mixer Method: If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment and mix on low speed (setting 2) for about 30 seconds. Gradually whisk the whisky into the cream mixture until combined, about 20 to 30 seconds.
- For a Coffee Flavor: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of instant coffee or instant espresso when blending the cream mixture.
- Using Cocoa Powder: Substitute chocolate syrup with ½ to ¾ teaspoon cocoa powder. The mixture will be slightly less sweet. Whisk in the cream mixture until fully dissolved, then add the whiskey. Strain if needed to remove any clumps.
- Stronger Chocolate Flavor: Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup. This also makes it slightly sweeter with less of an alcohol bite.
- Sweetener Substitutes: Instead of sweetened condensed milk, use 1 ⅓ cups granulated or brown sugar. Fully dissolve in the cream. You may need more cream if the liqueur is too thick after adding the alcohol. Use equal parts of honey or pure maple syrup. The consistency will not be as dense with these alternatives since there are no milk solids.
- Make it Dairy-Free: Substitute heavy cream with canned unsweetened coconut milk. Use one of the sweetener substitutes above instead of sweetened condensed milk. The taste will be different than the original recipe.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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