Baileys is a mix of Irish Whiskey, cream, chocolate and vanilla aroma, and some other additional flavors that are kept secret. It's a real treat when enjoyed on the rocks and it also works great in dessert cocktails like the Chocolate Martini.
But what appears to be a product with a long Irish tradition is actually an invention from the 70s that didn't look to promising at first. And it's not even Irish when it comes down to it. So what's the story behind Baileys?
What is Baileys
Baileys Irish cream is a cream liqueur with a base of 50% cream and about 40% Irish Whiskey. The remaining 10% are sugar and flavorings like vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. The exact composition is a big secret, of course.
Baileys has an alcohol content of 17% and 140 calories per 1.5 oz serving. That equals about 40ml. The taste is rich, creamy, and slightly boozy, and you definitely get those chocolate and vanilla flavors.
The story behind Baileys
You can't tell the story behind Baileys without telling the story about Irish cream in general. With Baileys being the first brand on the market, it's simply inevitable. So how did it all happen?
How it began
As mentioned, Irish Cream doesn't have a long Irish tradition, but its two main components of it do. Whiskey was invented in Ireland some time during the 13th or 14th century, dairy products always made up a large part of Ireland's economy. But Baileys only has 50 years on its back.
It all started in 1971 with Tom Jago, who had been working for Gilberts of Ireland, a subdivision of the British company International Distillers & Vintners (IDV) at the time.
He got the task to think up a new product for the international market because the Irish government wanted to get away from relying almost exclusively on agriculture. Therefore, they promised generous subsidies to those releasing new products internationally. Naturally, IDV wanted to benefit, as well.
But Jago - who also is responsible for other alcoholic beverages like the coconut-flavored Malibu - had no sparking idea. So he was joined by consultants David Gluckman and Hugh Seymour-Davies. The pair had just started out with their independent business a few months prior.
However, Gluckman had worked with Kerrygold (a renowned Irish dairy brand) before. And in a flash of inspiration, it was him who threw together Irish Whiskey and cream. -Which seemingly must have been quite disgusting. Still, there was something to this odd mix, and he and Seymour-Davies didn't give up.
They bought Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and some sugar and added this to their initial mix of Jameson Whiskey and single cream. And surprisingly, it kind of worked, so they introduced the idea to Tom Jago.
How Baileys became what it is today
After the three men agreed to move forward with the product, a long and painful period of market research followed. With the Irish caring so much about their Whiskey, the creamy mix might not go down too well. And it didn't!
The male test group found it girly, and the female test group found the drink resembled a medicine called Kaolin & Morphine, a drug to cure an upset stomach. And a test with two bottles of Baileys in a local pub also seemed to produce no results because no one bought them. -Until two policemen did.
Today that would be far from sufficient market research, but in the 70s, the two police officers were good enough. Even more so when it turned out that the management of IDV didn't care about market research and gave the product a go just because they liked it. Imagine...
More months of searching for the right marketing strategy and tweaking the recipe to perfection followed. And finally, in 1974, Baileys was released. And within no time, Baileys became a real hit. So much that within only five years, 75 competitors entered the market.
If you want to read the whole story, you can find it in the article about the invention of Baileys by David Gluckman in the Irish Times.
How Baileys got its name
Some people think - and write online- that Baileys is a product of R & A Bailey & Company. That is because it used to be written on the bottles for a long time. However, that's nonsense. It was just a marketing gag.
The name Baileys itself was something that sprung to the mind of Seymour-Davies and Gluckman when they were standing in front of a restaurant with the name Baileys Bistro. They spontaneously decided to go with it, and Tom Jago agreed. The R & A came along when the marketing department of IDV decided the brand needed more authenticity to it.
Substitutes for Baileys
With 75 competing products on the market within the first years of its release, the list of possible substitutes for Baileys is sheer endless. You will have a hard time finding a supermarket that doesn't have at least one Irish cream liqueur on offer. Here's a list with the best budget alternatives for Baileys.
And if you should somehow manage to find that one place where there's no Irish cream available, an alternative would be Amarula. It's a cream liqueur from South Africa made from the marula fruit. But from my experience, that's usually harder to get than Baileys or other Irish cream liqueurs.
Another viable alternative is using chocolate liqueurs like those from Mozart. But what's easy and a lot more cost-efficient is to make your own Irish cream liqueur at home. You only need cream, condensed milk, Whiskey, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder for your homemade Irish cream.
Cocktails with Baileys
Initially, Baileys was a cozy drink to share with friends or family on cold winter evenings. However, I think, Baileys on the rocks makes a perfect summer drink, as well.
And you can find it in typical dessert cocktails like the Mudslide or the Chocolate Martini. Another infamous representative of Baileys cocktails is the Screaming Orgasm, a mix of Baileys, Vodka, Amaretto, coffee liqueur, milk, and half-and-half.
But what Baileys is more famous for than for cocktails is layered shots. The B-52 or the Baby Guinness are real crowd-pleasers. And then there's crazy stuff like the Cement Mixer, a combination of lime juice and Baileys. Sounds gross? The taste is actually alright, but still a wild experience.