Fancy a Baileys? How to make your own Irish cream liqueur
An Irish whiskey-based creamy liqueur using condensed milk, vanilla seeds, coffee, cocoa and a pinch of salt can be made without emulsifiers – just shake the bottle each time you indulge
One of the most popular after-dinner drinks is Baileys Irish Cream. You may be surprised to know it was only created in 1974. Creamy drinks have long been part of a bartender’s repertoire; the White Russian, which is equal parts coffee liqueur (Kahlua or Tia Maria), vodka and cream poured over ice and served in a rocks glass is a classic that springs to mind. But what wasn’t available before the creation of Baileys was a creamy liqueur that you could pour straight out of the bottle.
Finding a way to make such a liqueur that stayed stable in the bottle, without curdling or separating, was a huge challenge. Enter a very enterprising group of Irish lads who loved a challenge.
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After much trial and error, and with many pleasurable sips of Irish whiskey and cream, they managed to make that first batch of Baileys Irish Creamusing a kitchen mixer.
The alcohol level (17 per cent) in a bottle of Baileys is high enough that no preservatives are needed for the full fat cream. There is a vegetable oil-based emulsifier to keep the cream and alcohol from separating during its two-year shelf life once the bottle has been opened.
Other ingredients? Sugar, of course, vanilla and a few other spices – my guess would be nutmeg, a bit of allspice and a pinch of salt. The cream that goes into Baileys is Irish, of course, and is mostly from County Cavan for the past 30 years.
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Another cream-based liqueur is the South African Amarula, which has an elephant on the label, and is made from marula fruit. The native South Africans call the marula tree the elephant tree because of stories of the animals getting tipsy from eating the overripe, fermented fruit. Marula trees have been a source of food for thousands of years, and the nut (which is the part used to make the liqueur) is another source of nourishment. Even the skin of the fruit can be used to make a herbal drink, or, if dried and burnt, has flavours and aromas very similar to coffee and none of the caffeine.
Here’s a recipe for those who want a drink that’s similar to Baileys Irish Cream, but without the emulsifiers. You’ll need to store it in the fridge and give the bottle a good shake before indulging.
400ml sweetened condensed milk
400ml Irish whiskey
5g instant coffee powder
Seeds from 3 vanilla pods
30g cocoa powder
A pinch of Maldon sea salt
200ml cream (UHT is best)
Put everything but the cream into a blender and give it a good whiz for one minute. With the blender running, pour in the cream a little at a time until thoroughly combined.
Pour into a sterile bottle (rinsed with boiling water then cooled). Store it in the fridge for up to about two months (although you’ll probably finish it before then), and shake the bottle well before serving. Make about one litre.