Bailey's Irish Cream - Reverse Engineered Copycat

Irish Cream Recipe – Reverse Engineered

Bailey’s Irish Cream. I remember my first taste. I was barely legal but didn’t have my license with me, and my Dad, his wife, and their friends vouched for me. That probably doesn’t happen anymore. They just really thought I should try Bailey’s. I agree, and think everyone should, especially with St. Paddy’s day around the corner?

I fell in love with that first taste. A friend passed me a recipe and over the years, I’ve tried several other “copycats.” None of them were bad, but none were great & all had their flaws. Some were overly sweet, others way too strong.

So, I decided to “reverse engineer” the recipe, using information from Bailey’s website, including breaking down the nutritional data to determine just how much cream, sugar, and so on was actually in Bailey’s and the right proportion of alcohol to use.

feel free to skip to the recipe

A serving of Bailey’s is 100 ml (3.22 ounces or .422 of a cup). Bailey’s is 17% alcohol, contains no egg or nuts, has 50 percent cream and milk protein from dairy milk, and some oil for an emulsion. Bailey’s has “hints of chocolate and vanilla” and proprietary herbs. (The herbs might be why some add almond extract.)

Working from metric & American measurements, dry and wet, I was able to figure out the amount of alcohol to use (it varies wildly in the copycat recipes.) To get close to the 17%, I used this handy-dandy alcohol calculator and came up with the proper ratio. It’s 1.5:2 alcohol to cream.

The amount of sugar is listed right on Bailey’s site. Since I used chocolate instead of cocoa powder (the fat in the chocolate helps me get to the right fat content; as a home cook I can’t properly emulsify with oil like Bailey’s) I had to make a few adjustments. A serving contains 22 grams of sugar (about 1/2 that of a can of coke!)

That chocolate? I used 2 1/2 ounces. At first, it seemed a bit much but after 2 days in the fridge it mellowed and was perfect. Which brings up another thing – your home-made Bailly’s will need a couple days in the fridge to smooth out and will taste completely different.

Using the real chocolate instead of cocoa brought in a lot of unbelievable flavors and notes to the home-made Bailey’s. Try the recipe with a Semi-Sweet Guittard or Ghiradelli.

But back to the flavors. There’s no mention of or taste of coffee in Bailey’s, yet many copycat recipes use it. I don’t. I did add a little vanilla and brewed up a tincture of herbs & spices in place of the almond. They add a barely discernible depth of flavor.

Bailey's Irish Cream - Reverse Engineered Copycat

Bailey’s Irish Cream – Reverse Engineered Copycat

My little recipe was starting to taste quite a bit like Bailey’s, I just had to address the “mouthfeel.” Bailey’s is rather thick, due to their special emulsion. The chocolate helped, but wasn’t enough, alone. Home-cooks have gotten that thickness in two ways:

  • They use condensed milk.
  • They add eggs.

My more adult palate nixed the condensed milk. It was cloying and sweet which is no surprise. The condensed milk puts the homemade Bailey’s over the amount of sugar listed on Bailey’s site. Even worse, Bailey’s made with condensed milk tasted strange, especially when tasted side by side with real Bailey’s and my other experiments made with sugar and cream.

Eggs seemed the way to go. They can be left out, and you’ll have a very tasty, but thinner, Bailey’s  but if you’re basing your recipe on taste, using the real cream and sugar rather than condensed milk, whether using eggs or not, will make your Bailey’s taste better! No eggs will just make it thinner.

Raw eggs are a bit of a nagging concern, even though the chances of getting a bad one are incredibly small. I wondered, does alcohol really kill Salmonella? I did a lot of research and finally found the real answer. Given enough time and enough alcohol, yes, it does. When these Mad Scientists dosed their eggnog with Salmonella, it was completely clear when tested at three weeks.

So here are your choices, keeping in mind you’ll probably want to “age” your Bailey’s at least a day and preferably a week:

  • Use egg and age for 3 weeks for maximum safety.
  • Use pasteurized eggs.
  • Use egg and drink anyway.
  • Don’t use egg and have a thinner Bailey’s.
  • Use condensed milk for a thicker Bailey’s with more sugar that tastes a bit cloying…but isn’t bad.

Your home-made Bailey’s will taste better the next day and even better after that and will continue to improve. The recommended maximum storage time for all the old Bailey’s recipes using condensed milk is 2 months in most recipes, but there is absolutely no valid safety reason for that. The alcohol will inhibit any bacterial growth.

If you’re making this homemade Bailey’s with cream, though, with no way to commercially emulsify, the cream will clump up after a few weeks. You’ll want to serve after a day, but for maximum flavor after a week and finish it in another week or two, maybe three.

Other than the fantastic flavor, the best part about making your own Irish Cream is you can make it just how you like! If you wish to go low-fat, fine. If you want to cut the sugar, go egg or no egg, condensed milk, cream or 1/2 & 1/2, use premium ingredients, different flavors, it’s all under your control.

I’ll give you both recipes, the one I currently use and my original old recipe passed to me. Have fun playing with them to suit your own tastes!

Does this recipe taste like Bailey’s? You be the judge! I will say it tastes fantastic. And it has a kick, just like the real Bailey’s, but it isn’t overwhelming like so many other copycat’s. And it’s about a third of the cost using an expensive, imported Whiskey. Enjoy, but reasonably! 🙂

Bailey's Irish Cream - Reverse Engineered Copycat

Bailey’s Irish Cream – Reverse Engineered Copycat

finally, the recipe

Bailey's Irish Cream Copycat

  • Servings: 1 liter
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
  •  1 1/2 cup of Irish Whiskey
  • 1 pint cream
  • 2 1/2 ounces chocolate, semi-sweet, about 1/4 cup
  • scant cup of sugar (9/10ths of a cup, to be exact)
  • 3 egg yolks, pasteurized if desired, optional
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • optional herbal infusion

Optional Herbal infusion:

  • 1″ stick cinnamon
  • pinch of cardamom seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/4″ slice of ginger, optional

Bring about 1/3 cup of water to a boil, place herbs in a cup, pour boiling water over, cover and allow to steep. An hour is good, overnight, better. Strain. Refrigerate until needed.

Bailey’s Recipe:

Heat cream with sugar in a medium saucepan (be careful, the cream can boil over in a heartbeat) stirring often until sugar is dissolved. This is easily checked by wetting a clean fingertip with the cream; if the sugar granules aren’t dissolved, you’ll feel a grittiness as you rub your fingers together.

Add chocolate and eggs to a blender and with the motor running, through the hole in the top, pour in the hot cream. Pulse and blend on slow until all is incorporated. Strain, if desired.

Add whiskey, vanilla and a tablespoon or two of strained herbal infusion.

Taste, adjust any elements to your liking, and refrigerate, at least one day, preferably several for the flavors to meld. If you can wait.

Recommended storage time is 4 weeks; this is not a safety issue, but may perhaps be an issue with the quality of the cream and the emulsion.

Each serving contains 1 “jigger” of whiskey, 1.5 ounces.

Bailey's Irish Cream Copycat, 1980's version

  • Servings: 3 3/4 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 3/4 cups Irish whiskey
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 eggs, pasteurized
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 1 to 2 teaspoon instants coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I usually only used 1/4 teaspoon)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, serve over ice. Store in fridge.

let’s talk about pricing

The cost, nutritional and alcohol values are for my home-made Bailey’s Irish Cream Copycat, not for the 1980’s version.

The cost for home-made is dependent upon the ingredients, which vary by area and by sales prices. For the past 20 years, I’ve used Jameson’s, but this year I tried Bushmills – I like their bottle style better and recycle it in my own home!

Both were around $28.00 full price, $20.00 on sale (a very doable price for a holiday week) for a liter. The larger bottles were on sale, too, which usually means a better deal, but in this case wasn’t. The larger bottles were actually more expensive. (Just something to watch for.)

I could see at a glance the liter bottles were less expensive per ounce, so watch that! A liter holds about 4.22 cups which will make three batches if you don’t mind shorting the booze by just a hair.

By the time you add the cream and other scant ingredients, you’ll have a liter of Bailey’s, and your cost might vary, but mine ran $9.40. That certainly beat Bailey’s price of $24.99. The cream was about $1.79 at Aldi, the chocolate 40 cents, the sugar 8 cents, eggs 45 cents and other ingredients negligible. Make sure you have a use for those leftover whites or else freeze them.


Slightly fewer calories than the real Bailey’s, based on 11 servings:

Calories 332; Total Fat 1827 %; Saturated Fat 12 59 %; Monounsaturated Fat 5 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 117 mg 39 %; Sodium 18 mg 1 %; Potassium 50 mg 1 %; Total Carbohydrate 21 7 %; Dietary Fiber 0 2 %; Sugars 20 g; Protein 2 4 %; Vitamin A 51 %; Vit C 0 %; Calcium 1 %; Iron 2 %

Bailey's Irish Cream Copycat: Reverse engineered & you won't believe how good it is!!


17 thoughts on “Irish Cream Recipe – Reverse Engineered

  1. Pingback: Irish Cream Truffles | Ginger&Bread

    • I love it! What a fantastic idea! As a matter of fact it is so nice up here in Minnesota today that I could see myself sipping a little Island Punch instead of Bailey’s! 🙂

      • I do understand. Yes, spring is nigh. I can only imagine the awesome weather in your neck of the woods. Superb weather and Island are good partners. Have a wonderful week-end.

  2. This was fascinating to read! I never would have thought of making Bailey’s. You did so much research to figure it out. Really impressive. I bet it tastes great! I agree with you about not adding the sweetened condensed milk to it. I don’t care much for the taste of it. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  3. Oh gosh you’ve had me at Baileys… I just love it, that’s why I don’t keep a bottle at home, it is tres tempting! :). Love your explanations, and your ways to save money when shopping. I can’t believe you actually figured out a way to make home-made Baileys… Brilliant!

    • Well, there’s the “new” recipe and a very old one! I can’t tell you how much I’m tempted to go for a wee dram right now, even though it’s only like 3:30 in the afternoon, so I know about it being tempting. And I’m not normally much of a drinker, but I do LOVE this stuff! 🙂

      Thanks so much for all the lovely compliments! 🙂

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