Irish cream doesn’t always have the best reputation among whisky drinkers, but that’s somewhat undeserved. Sure, it hardly resembles actual whisky and is a key ingredient in frivolous cocktails like the Mudslide, but Irish cream—invented in a mere 45 minutes in 1973—makes a delicious after-dinner drink, and is the perfect single-ingredient addition to coffee when you need more than just caffeine to pick you up. “Irish cream adds a fantastic texture and ultimate creaminess to cocktails,” says Georgina McKevitt, bartender at The Irish Times Pub & Restaurant in Los Angeles.
There are dozens of Irish cream brands out there, with Baileys being the most well-known. But many brands use a minimum of real whiskey, instead swapping in neutral grain spirit to make up most of the alcohol. So if you’re looking for a guaranteed whiskey-forward Irish cream, consider making your own. The process is crazy simple, and any supermarket will carry the ingredients. All you have to do is measure and stir.
Making DIY Irish cream also allows you to customize the end result by selecting your favorite whiskey and other flavors. “Choose an Irish whiskey with a flavor profile to complement your cocktail needs, or go heavier with the cream or vanilla extract to suit your preferences,” McKevitt says. She prefers Tullamore D.E.W. blended whiskey, which offers a combination of sweetness, fruitiness, and spice—three dimensions you can play with to customize your Irish cream. While chocolate is the go-to syrup, raspberry or other syrups or liqueurs can be used instead.
Recipe: Irish Cream
- 16 oz. heavy cream
- 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
- 12 oz. Irish whiskey
- 2 tsp. chocolate syrup
- 1 tsp. strong brewed coffee or coffee concentrate
- ⅛ tsp. vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a blender at low speed, or stir the ingredients together in a container. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container for up to six weeks.
How to Use Irish Cream
- Sip it on the rocks for a sweet after-dinner cordial.
- Drizzle over ice cream or bread puddings. For an extra touch, shave dark chocolate on top.
- Substitute for heavy cream in a White Russian—that’s an instant Mudslide.
- Try a new type of boozy brunch: The next time you make French toast, add up to 2 oz. of Irish cream to the egg-milk mixture and cut back on the milk by an equal amount. Mix well, then dip your bread into the batter and cook as normal.
- Blend it into homemade chocolate mousse. Try about 1 to 2 oz. for every 4 oz. of chocolate in the recipe. Whip it with the heavy cream and fold into the chocolate as normal.
- Rather than basic creamer, stir a little into your coffee.
- Even better, make an Irish cream variation on the classic Irish coffee. Try using all Irish cream in place of Irish whiskey, or using equal parts of each. Or whip a few tablespoons of Irish cream with the heavy cream and use this to garnish your cocktail. The recipe below provides a starting point for experimentation.
Irish Cream Coffee
- 2 tsp. demerara sugar
- 4 to 6 oz. hot coffee
- 1½ oz. Irish cream or ¾ oz. Irish cream and ¾ oz. Irish whiskey
- Garnish: whipped cream
Add sugar to a warm mug or Irish coffee glass. Add hot coffee and stir well to dissolve sugar. Add Irish whiskey and stir to combine. Float whipped cream on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon.
Note: You can also make iced Irish cream coffee. Shake cooled brewed coffee or cold brew with the remaining ingredients, then strain over ice.
Created by beverage consultant Pam Wiznitzer
- 1½ oz. Teeling Single Grain
- 1½ oz. Irish cream
- ¾ oz. Borghetti espresso liqueur
- ½ oz. Grand Marnier
- Garnish: orange slice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with an orange slice.