Irish cream is no longer limited to alcoholic beverages. The flavor has transcended St. Patrick’s day celebrations, and found its way into coffee creamer and even energy drinks. So what makes Irish cream so tasty and popular?
What is Irish cream flavor?
I hate to burst your bubble, but Irish cream is not a traditional Irish beverage. The first commercially available Irish cream was Bailey’s, which was created in 1974 by an English marketing executive named Tom Jago. Ironically, he also created Malibu rum.
A traditional Irish coffee is coffee spiked with whiskey, mixed with sugar, and topped with cream. Bailey’s, in an attempt to replicate that flavor, came up with their Irish cream liqueur. The liqueur is a cream liqueur, meaning that it contains dairy cream, along with Irish whiskey and other flavorings and sweeteners. Because of the cream, it’s often used to jazz up coffee and as an addition to milk-based alcoholic drinks like Mudslides and boozy milkshakes.
That flavor produced by Bailey’s, along with other Irish cream liqueurs, is the basis for non-alcoholic Irish cream flavoring. It’s all the taste without the hangover. Unless you count a sugar crash.
What does Irish cream taste like?
Bailey’s is a deceptive alcoholic beverage because it is incredibly sweet. There’s enough sugar and cream in there to hide the flavor of the whiskey.
If you’ve never had Bailey’s, I’m here to tell you that Irish cream flavor is a really close approximation of the liqueur. It’s extremely sweet, both from the sugar and cream, and has notes of vanilla and chocolate. It even pulls in the sometimes nutty flavor elements of whiskey without including the burn you get from the actual alcohol.
How do you make Irish cream flavor?
The Irish cream flavor you find in commercially available products and at your local coffee shop are probably the result of food wizardry, containing all sorts of artificial flavors and colors. So replicating it at home is a fool’s errand. You can search the Internet high and low for a recipe, but they all seem to be cheap approximations.
The most common ingredients in those recipes are both cream and condensed milk, mixed with vanilla extract and some type of sugar. I’ve seen maple syrup used in many of them as the sugar replacement, but I don’t particularly taste syrup notes in normal Irish cream flavoring. I’ve also seen the inclusion of some kind of citrus extract, particularly orange.
For my money this is an instance in which you just bite the bullet and buy it in the store.