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Baileys, known by its makers as 'the original Irish Cream', is a sweet-tasting whiskey and cream liqueur. Due to its sweetness, it's mostly a ladies' drink, although there are probably as many men who drink Baileys as there are ladies who drink pints. However, don't let the sweetness fool you into thinking this is a soft drink - it has 17% alcohol content. Baileys is manufactured by the Dublin-based drinks company Gilbeys of Ireland, although the trademark is currently owned by Diageo plc.

The Birth of Baileys

The conception of Baileys began in 1971, by a committee of senior managers at Gilbeys of Ireland, who came up with the idea of producing a uniquely Irish short. After three years of experimenting, including overcoming the difficulties of mixing whiskey with cream, Baileys was born in 1974.

There were rumours that Baileys was the idea of Andrew Bailey of the RA Bailey Company. Apparently, no one of that name is connected with the RA Bailey Company. It's questionable whether the RA Bailey Company actually exists, other than for advertising purposes.

The Success of Baileys

As the only drink of its kind when first released, Baileys sales growth grew rapidly. In its infant years the sale of Baileys grew to hit one million cases annually by the fifth year, almost doubling that over the next five years. In the 1990s Baileys was reputed to be the most successful new spirit to be introduced anywhere in the world in the last 30 years. Today Baileys is said to account for 55 per cent of all spirits exported from Ireland.

The Baileys Family

After the success of the original Baileys, new additions have been added over the years. The first addition, in 2002, was the 50ml Baileys Original mini bottle. In 2003 Baileys dipped their toe in the alcopop market, with Glide. After just three years, Glide was discontinued. That was followed in 2005 by full size bottles of Hint of Crème and Hint of Mint Chocolate. Initially these were only available in UK airports; however, by 2006 they were available internationally. One of the most recent additions, in 2008, is the Hint of Coffee version. In the autumn of 2009 a promotional advert ran on UK television offering a free sample (50ml bottle) of Hint of Coffee. An estimated 10,000 were sent out. The newest addition is a premium variety, Gold1.

The mini bottles of Hint of Mint Chocolate, Crème and Coffee are usually only available in Baileys gift boxes. Baileys ice cream, cream and frozen desserts are also available, with more additions added and planned for the future.

The Baileys Family Secrets

The exact recipe for Baileys is a well-kept secret. However, we do know something about the process that goes into producing the drink. The milk which makes the cream comes from approximately 1,500 specially selected Irish dairy farms, with around 40,000 cows. These cows spend nine months of the year outside, and graze on four different types of grass. The cream is delivered to the distillery daily, within 36 hours of the milking process. Then a fusion of spirits and the smooth triple-distilled Irish whiskey - the exact make is one of Baileys' secrets - is blended with the cream, using a process that enables the whiskey to preserve the cream, which gives Baileys a 24-month shelf life. Finally, the sweet flavours, including cocoa nibs, vanilla pods, sugar and caramel are added.

Baileys Christmas Additions

There's a whole variety of gift boxed Baileys available, particularly near Christmas time. They include mini (50ml) bottles, mostly original, with or without chocolate truffles, in a keepsake tin; selection boxes, which include mini bottles of different varieties of Baileys; and chocolate truffles. The hot chocolate pack includes a Baileys mug, a mini bottle of original and a sachet of hot chocolate, plus a mini whisk. You can even purchase an ice cream maker with the Baileys logo on, along with a mini bottle of original Baileys.

Baileys Imitations

Many supermarkets caught on to Baileys' popularity and produced their own versions with names such as: O'Gradys (Sainsburys), Irish Meadow (Tesco), Irish Knights, (Asda), Ballycastle (Aldi) and Queen Margot (Lidl). Some people have experimented with their own homemade version of Baileys. One such recipe can be found in the Entry 'How to Make Coffee Cream Liqueur '.

Baileys Recipes

As well as being a popular ingredient for cocktails, and sometimes just drunk with ice, there are various recipes devised to enhance the enjoyment of Baileys. Just a couple of them are included.

Also, if you run out of milk, and happen to have a bottle of Baileys, you can use it in your coffee as a substitute for milk and sugar.

Baileys Cinnamon Cup

Serves one

  1. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to a glassful of milk and warm in a saucepan or in a microwave oven.
  2. Pour warmed milk into a large brandy glass and stir in 100ml of Baileys Hint of Coffee.

Luxe Mint Hot Choc

Serves two

  1. Heat 300ml of milk in a sauce pan, or in a microwave oven, until it boils.
  2. Remove half of the milk into a jug, and add 25g of dark chocolate to the boiled milk.
  3. Leave to soften and then whisk until smooth.
  4. Add 50ml of Baileys Hint of Mint Chocolate and the rest of the milk, whisk again, then pour into two heatproof glasses or two mugs.
  5. Top with whipped cream, garnish with chocolate curls and a sprig of mint.
1At the time of writing, Gold may only be available at some European airports.

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