Irish Cream Recipe – Reverse Engineered

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

Bailey's Irish Cream Copycat
Bailey’s Irish Cream Copycat

I fell in love with that first taste. It wasn’t long after a friend passed a recipe and over the years, I’ve tried a lot of the different “copycat” recipes out there. And tinkered, and tried again. None of them taste exactly like Bailey’s Irish Cream, but most are pretty darned good!

Finally, I decided to “reverse engineer” the recipe, using information from the 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.

A serving of Bailey’s is 100 ml, which is 3.22 ounces or about .422 of a cup (a little less than 1/2 cup.) Bailey’s is 17% alcohol, contains no eggs or nuts, has 50 percent cream and milk protein from dairy milk, and some oil which forms the emulsion. Bailey’s has “hints of chocolate and vanilla” and proprietary herbs. The herbs are the reason some add almond extract to the recipe. If anyone knows what those herbs are, please let me know!

It was a bit complicated working from metric and standard American measurements, dry and wet, but I broke down the amount of alcohol first, which varies wildly in the home-made 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.

Next came the sugar, which makes up a large amount of the Bailey’s; the amount of sugar is listed right on the Bailey’s site. Since I used chocolate instead of cocoa powder, which helped me get to the right fat content (remember, a home cook isn’t going to be able to emulsify with oil like Bailey’s does)I had to make a few adjustments. A serving contains 22 grams (about 1/2 that of a can of coke!)

That chocolate? 2 1/2 ounces. At first the chocolate seemed too much, after two days in the fridge? 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 with time. Using the real chocolate brought in a lot of unbelievable flavors and notes to the home-made Bailey’s. I’ve used a Semi-Sweet Guittard and Ghiradelli before.

Bailey's Irish Cream Copycat
Bailey’s Irish Cream Copycat

The spices and herbs? Hints of chocolate and vanilla. No mention of coffee, nor do I taste coffee in Bailey’s. Since the chocolate is covered, I added a little vanilla and brewed up a tincture of herbs and spices. I’ll use that instead of the almond extract in the old recipes. I do wish I knew what herbs are used by Bailey’s, but the small amounts I used adds a barely discernible depth of flavor.

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. Home-cooks have gotten that thickness in two ways:

  • They use condensed milk.
  • They add eggs.

Frankly, my more adult palate nixed the condensed milk. In side by side tastings, it was cloying and put the home-made Bailey’s over the amount of sugar it should have. It also made the Bailey’s taste strange. It wasn’t bad, and I used it myself for 25 years, but in side by side tastings with real Bailey’s, the difference between condensed milk and cream & sugar was immediately apparent.

Eggs, to me, are the way to go. They can be left out, and you’ll have a very tasty, but thinner, Bailey’s. I’ll talk about the eggs more, 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.

I have an immune deficiency, so 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. Exactly how long is unclear, but these Mad Scientists dosed their eggnog with Salmonella, it was completely clear when tested at three weeks. Since the home-cook isn’t “dosing” with Salmonella, the home-made Bailey’s might be completely clear sooner.

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

  • 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 still tastes pretty good.

Any version is better after a few days in the fridge! Your home-made Bailey’s will taste better the next day and even better after that. The recommended maximum storage time is 2 months in most recipes, but there seems to be absolutely no valid safety reason for that. The alcohol will inhibit any bacterial growth. The cream in this Bailey’s though, without the emulsification, will clump up after a few weeks, but I doubt it will last that long, anyway! I’d keep it in the fridge.

The best part about making your own Irish Cream is that 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 old recipe passed to me. Have fun playing with them to suit your own tastes!

Does this recipe tastes 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, even using an expensive, imported Whiskey. Enjoy, but reasonably! 🙂

Bailey's Irish Cream Copycat
Bailey’s Irish Cream Copycat

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
  • Herbs & spices: 1″ stick cinnamon, pinch of cardamom seeds, 1 star anise and 1/4″ slice of ginger, optional

Optional Herbal infusion:

First, make an infusion of the herbs and spices. 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.

Heat cream with sugar in a medium saucepan (be careful, cream can boil over in a heartbeat) stirring often until sugar is dissolved. This is easily checked by wetting fingertips with the cream; if the 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 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 2 months; this is not a safety issue, but may perhaps be an issue with the quality of the cream and the emulsion. Mine has never lasted that long.

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

from the kitchen of

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 blender, serve over ice. Store in fridge.

from the kitchen of

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! Every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

Check under Savings for St. Patrick’s and Easter & Lent, Leveraging the sales for what items to shop for at great prices around St. Paddy’s Day.

Cost and Alcohol values for the 1st version, Bailey’s Irish Cream Copycat (I didn’t work this up for the 1980’s version.)

The cost for home-made is dependent upon the ingredients, which vary by area. For the past 20 years, I’ve used Jamesons, 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 I could see at a glance the liter bottles were less expensive, 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 the 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 left over whites or else freeze them.


Less 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 %

17 thoughts on “Irish Cream Recipe – Reverse Engineered”

    1. 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! 🙂

      1. 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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

    1. 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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