The story behind the unconventional pairing of Irish cream and whisky is one that involves spontaneity and the luck of the Irish. The drink was invented in just under an hour by Gluckman and Davies, following a short discussion and an equally short trip to the supermarket.
As the weather starts to turn colder and the days grow shorter, there's nothing quite like curling up with a warm, comforting drink to chase away the chill. And when it comes to wintertime tipples, one classic choice stands out above all the rest: Bailey's Irish Cream.
Bailey's Irish Cream is a brand of Irish cream liqueur that was first developed by David Gluckman, Hugh Seymour-Davies, and Mac Macpherson for Tom Jago of IDV (International Distillers and Vintners) and produced in Dublin, Ireland, in 1974. The original recipe for the drink included cream, Irish whiskey, hot chocolate powder, and sugar. The hot chocolate powder was later replaced with a chocolate extract to produce a more uniform flavor. The cream and whiskey used to prepare the mixture are sourced from various dairies and distilleries that are based in Ireland. The end product is homogenized in a process similar to that used by the dairy industry, so as to extend shelf life and ensure uniformity in taste and texture.
The beverage is a popular choice for use in cocktails and as an inclusion in baked goods. The brand is now owned by Diageo, a multinational alcoholic beverage company based in London, England. Bailey's has become a widely recognized and popular brand of Irish cream liqueur, with a variety of flavored versions available in addition to the original recipe, including dairy-free options made with almond derivatives.
The story behind the unconventional pairing of Irish cream and whisky is one that involves spontaneity and the luck of the Irish. The drink was invented in just under an hour by Gluckman and Davies, following a short discussion and an equally short trip to the supermarket. The actual brief from IDV asked them to refrain from using Irish whiskey since the company did not have any solid ties with any distilleries on the island. Gluckman was a part of the team that created the famous Kerrygold Irish butter, making it only natural for him to suggest using Irish dairy; Davies would agree and immediately suggest pairing cream with whiskey.
The two would hit the supermarket immediately after and make a bare-bones version of the concoction in their kitchen. They deemed the concoction barely palatable, leading them to make another short run to the supermarket for a third ingredient to balance out the strong flavors. The pair initially thought the problem would be solved by adding sugar, a near universal fix when it came to alcohol. The addition of sugar certainly did help the drink, albeit by presenting a new problem—the need for yet another inclusion to balance out the sweetness. Their search ended with a box of Cadbury's hot chocolate, as they deemed the sweet flavors of the fireplace staple to be the perfect complement to the spiked cream.
Gluckman would present the product to Jago immediately after in a used Schweppes bottle for lack of a better vessel. Jago was thoroughly impressed with what he tasted and approved it for further R&D, after which the pair took the bottle to Gilbey’s (a division of IDV). The technical team at Gilbey’s tasked Macpherson with refining the drink, which is where the beverage closest to the modern iteration of the drink was developed—a homogenized mixture of Irish cream and whiskey, married together with a mild chocolate extract. The only thing different about the drink today is the final ABV; the original drink clocked in at a hearty 25% ABV, which was later toned down to a modest 17% in order to allow the flavors to be more perceptible.
The modern iteration of the beverage is a truly unique liqueur with nearly unmatched versatility. While it's delicious on its own, it can also be used as a base for all sorts of cocktails and mixed drinks. From contemporary Irish coffee to classy hot chocolate, the possibilities are truly endless.
But Bailey's Irish Cream isn't just for sipping; it can also be used in cooking and baking to add a rich, creamy flavor to all sorts of dishes. Whether you're making a batch of festive cookies or whipping up a batch of Irish cream fudge, this liqueur is the perfect ingredient to add some holiday cheer to your kitchen.
So next time you're in need of a little wintertime pick-me-up, reach for a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. Whether you enjoy it neat, on the rocks, or in a festive cocktail, this creamy liqueur is sure to bring a smile to your face and warm you up from the inside out.