Inside Columbia


Learn to Make Irish Cream This Holiday Season

By Inside Columbia
Brook Harlan's Irish cream

Photos by L.G. Patterson

About a year ago, I started researching coffee liqueur for a column in this magazine. This took me down a rabbit hole about Irish cream liqueur, as I did not realize that some recipes for Irish cream also have coffee liqueur.

Soon, I found myself thinking, “how hard could it be to make that?”

About a dozen recipes revisions later, I have something that I think holds up pretty well to the Irish cream liqueur found in the store.

I like making things as simple as possible, this method is a little easier with a scale that can measure in grams. Place your bottle on the scale, hit the tare or zero button, and tare after each ingredient.

You also can measure out the ingredients by volume, which will mean a few more dirty dishes.

Despite its name, Irish cream is not a traditional drink from Ireland. The first Irish cream, Baileys, was invented in 1973 by an English advertising executive and exploded with popularity.


Typically, Irish cream liqueur uses whiskey. When it was invented, it was Jameson Irish whiskey, but whatever suits your fancy will work. With that being said, you can use just about any liquor. I had a delicious tequila coffee cream made in the same manner that someone brought from Mexico. It was delicious.

Think outside the box (or bottle), make some things, change it up. Worst case scenario, you may pour 25.6 ounces of a liqueur down the drain if it is that subpar … or just drink it.


Cheap vanilla or good vanilla — unfortunately, it can’t be both. You can go as fancy as getting vanilla beans, aging your own vanilla or getting a high-quality vanilla extract shipped from the Bourbon islands, or just buy some imitation vanilla and add to desired taste.

With making drinks like this, vanilla is like sandpaper; it smoothes out some of the sharp edges. Those edges could be the alcohol, coffee or other overly intense flavors in other drinks. It may not be overly powerful, but it is there and doing its job.


This is another place to splurge or use what you have. You can get the best, Ghirardelli Chocolate 100% Cacao or just use Hershey’s chocolate powder that expired in 2004. Many times, I will have dark chocolate bars that need to be consumed and this works great just to shave and add to the cream. It may not completely dissolve, but sometimes that little bit of texture can really add to the final product.


Looking into how many people make an Irish cream “clone” instant coffee was a recurring theme. The second common theme was a small amount of coffee liqueur. Using something along the lines of Kahlúa or a small amount of espresso will do the trick, but if you really want to dive down a rabbit hole, you can try your hand at making your own. Some type of infusion of coffee and rum or vodka sweetened with a lightly caramelized sugar, but again, Kahlúa or instant coffee will work fine.

Making Irish cream


This is where the whole premise for Irish cream came about. Ireland is known for the delicious dairy that their cows produce. They wanted to find something that could be just as popular as the Kerrygold butter and cheese that had come about a decade before.

Many recipes I found used non-dairy creamer and while I am sure this brings a much more stable product, I was more worried about taste. I wanted to use real cream; also knowing that the addition of alcohol extends its shelf life, I knew I had a chance. When I use real cream, I usually find that the shelf life is at least three to four weeks, if not longer.


This was something I had to break down a bit. Just mixing everything together and blending would be easy, but what effect would it have on the cream? Would it start to whip, would it separate?

I eventually found that most of the sugar and other components would dissolve into the alcohol if added directly to the bottle, then shaken vigorously. This prevented the cream from being whipped, and it could be added at the end, preventing unwanted thickening of the liqueur.


Sometimes we have things longer than we intend. I had a bottle of the original Irish liqueur on a shelf and finally decided to use it for something, only to find it was a solid block of congealed cream. Looking into it a bit more, storebought Irish cream apparently has about a two-year shelf life (unopened), and once opened should go into the refrigerator and be consumed in about six months.

If you are going to make this, you won’t have that luxury. This can be much cheaper than buying a bottle of the original, but since you don’t have the ability to ultra-pasteurize, your shelf life will be closer to three to four weeks.

Irish Cream


  • 33 grams coffee liqueur (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 grams dark cocoa powder (about 1 1⁄2 teaspoons)
  • 44 grams real vanilla, or 1-3 vanilla beans, split (about 2 ounces)
  • 200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250 grams whiskey (about 1 cup)
  • 250-275 grams cream (about 1 to 1 1⁄4 cup)


  • Using a scale or measuring cups, pour ingredients from coffee liqueur to whiskey through a funnel into a bottle. You can start by placing the empty bottle with a funnel in it on the scale and hitting tare/zero. Then pouring each ingredient through the funnel and hitting tare on the scale after each ingredient.
  • Place the cap on tightly and shake vigorously for two to three minutes until sugar is mostly dissolved.
  • Using the funnel, add the cream. Gently shake the bottle side to side, being careful to not agitate too much and whip.
  • Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, typically good for three to four weeks.

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