Baileys or to give it its full name, Baileys Original Irish Cream or even just Baileys Irish Cream can be found in many of our homes, enjoyed as an after dinner treat in coffee, in cocktails, or even just on the rocks. Baileys can also be enjoyed in many desserts or even just used to turn a bowl of ice cream into a luxury treat.
If you only use a little Baileys occasionally though, or just need to buy a bottle for a one-off recipe, then an important question is does Baileys go bad? Although it will eventually go bad, a bottle of Baileys should be good for two years or more after its date of manufacture if stored correctly either in a cool dark place or in the refrigerator. If you have used Baileys to make desserts or other treats then they will stay at best quality for the shelf life of the shortest shelf life ingredient, which would usually be fresh cream, eggs, butter or other similar ingredients.
Baileys was the first Irish cream to be introduced in 1974. The development of Baileys came about due to demand for a product for the international market along with a surplus of cream from dairies owned by the manufacturer and whiskey from a distillery it also owned which was losing money.
It only took around 45 minutes for the first version of Irish cream to be created by its development team although it took much longer than that for it become the drink which we love and instantly recognize today. The name Baileys was chosen as an ‘Anglo-Irish’ name although its inspiration actually came from the name of the restaurant downstairs from the development team’s office in London! After seeking permission to use the name, Baileys was then registered as a trademark.
When Baileys was launched in the US it quickly became the biggest selling liqueur. As it was launched in other countries it became just as popular, making it the bestselling liqueur in the world.
Baileys is still made in Ireland. Every year, the manufacturer sources about 250 million liters (264 million quarts) of milk from around 1,500 Irish farms. This makes around 80 million bottles of Baileys – many of which are exported to other countries.
How Long Does Unopened Baileys Last?
Although Baileys does contain alcohol which acts as a natural preservative, because it also contains dairy, it can go bad.
Baileys is made with Irish whiskey, around 50% cream, chocolate and vanilla flavor. The whiskey and the cream are homogenized with a vegetable oil emulsifier which creates an emulsion. This means that the liquid will stand during storage without separating. The other flavors, including the proprietary chocolate/cocoa mix, are added to give Baileys its distinctive flavor. Baileys does not contain any additional preservatives apart from the whiskey.
A Baileys best before date is two years from its date of manufacture because at one time Baileys guaranteed its taste for two years from the date of manufacture if it was unopened, opened, refrigerated or just stored in a cool place away from any light or heat sources. Although this guarantee no longer seems to appear on the Baileys website. As well as Baileys Original Irish Cream, the two year guarantee also applied to Baileys Almande which is the vegan/dairy free Baileys liqueur, which is made with almond milk instead of dairy milk.
The ‘best used by’ date on a bottle of Baileys can be found on the bottom of the back label. As this is a ‘best used by’ date, it does not mean that the Baileys will be bad if you decide to open it after that day, in fact it may still be good for a while longer, although as with any food or drink, over time, its quality will deteriorate, even if left unopened.
How Long Does Baileys Last Once Opened?
Once you open the bottle of Baileys, the liqueur is exposed to the air which means it will start to deteriorate. Although Baileys did used to guarantee that it will keep for two years even if opened, some suggest that for best quality and taste, Baileys should be used around six months after opening.
To help Baileys last once opened, avoid taking a drink straight from the bottle as the enzymes in saliva will cause Baileys to curdle. When you have poured out your measure of Baileys, always put the cap back on straight away and make sure it is screwed on tightly.
Although Baileys is a popular Irish cream, there are now many Irish creams available. In fact, there were as many as 75 Baileys competitors set up within just five years of Baileys being on the market. So, a more general question is how long does Irish cream last once opened? Like Baileys, most other Irish creams or off-brand Irish creams made by larger manufacturers have an unopened shelf life of two years or more and six months or more in the refrigerator once opened. These will also be printed with a ‘best used by’ rather than ‘use by’ date.
Small batch or artisan Irish cream may not last as long and homemade Irish cream – depending on what ingredients it is made with - will usually only be good for up to two couple of months if kept refrigerated in sterilized bottles. If you make a homemade Irish cream with a milk alternative such as good quality almond milk, then it may last slightly longer just because these have a longer shelf life than fresh milk.
Baileys contains 17% ABV (alcohol by volume) but if you buy an Irish cream that contains more whiskey, it may last longer. Not only because there is more alcohol to act as a preservative, but more alcohol will often mean a lower volume of dairy ingredients.
Does Baileys Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?
The bottle says Baileys does not need to be refrigerated once open although there is a recommendation that you ‘refrigerate for best taste’. If you prefer Baileys in cocktails rather than on the rocks it makes more sense to store it in the refrigerator, so it is ready chilled for drinking. If you want to refrigerate it then put it to the back of the refrigerator rather than near the door as this will keep it away from the temperature fluctuations.
Baileys is not suitable for freezing because it contains so much cream. If you try to freeze it – ignoring the fact that you will be unable to pour it from the bottle – its texture will change too much because of the ice crystals that have formed during freezing. You can still make Baileys ice cream with it though as ice crystals are stopped from forming during the ice cream churning process.
If you do want to store Baileys at room temperature, then keep it in a cool dark place or at the back of the bar shelf. If you do live in a hotter area though, you are always best keeping it refrigerated.
How Can You Tell If Baileys Has Gone Bad?
Over time, the quality of Baileys will worsen. Its flavor will decline, and the texture will change as the alcohol and dairy start to separate. This is because the cream contains a protein called casein which coagulates when it comes into contact with weaker acids such as tonic water or lemon.
If a bottle of Baileys is unopened, has been stored correctly and before its ‘best used by’ date then it is unlikely that it will have gone bad. If it is past its best used by date and unopened, then you check it and likewise, if it is within two years of its manufacture and has been open for six months or more, then it check it before drinking it or adding it to a recipe.
As always, relying on sight, smell and finally taste is the right way to tell if Baileys or any other Irish cream has gone bad.
When you open the bottle, first of all have a good sniff. If the smell is sour, then discard. Otherwise pour a little of it into a glass. If it has curdled – looks like cottage cheese – or appears thicker and darker colored than its usual beige opaque color, then trash it. If the texture seems ok, but you are not certain, you can also check it by dropping a splash in hot coffee. If the Baileys starts to curdle rather than swirl, then it’s probably best getting rid of it.
If you are happy with how it smells and looks, then it’s now time to try a bit. If it doesn’t taste quite as ‘fresh’ as a newly opened bottle of Baileys, then it is up to you whether or not you use it. If you only want a little for mixing into a cocktail, a cheesecake or frosting, then it will probably be fine, but if you want to drink it on the rocks then you may want to open a fresh bottle.
If it tastes sour though – like yogurt – then get rid of it. Even if it does not taste bad as such, but it really does not taste as nice as it should do, then it can be better to be safe and pour it away.
If you have checked your Baileys, or it has not been open long but your cocktail has curdled when you added the Baileys then it may be because of the soda or citrus juice in the cocktail rather than the Baileys being bad. If you are new to making cocktails with Baileys or even other cream-based liqueurs such as rum creams, you may have found that it does take a bit of practice to mix up a cocktail that does not separate. If you are making a cement mixer cocktail/shot with Baileys and lime juice though - it should curdle!
It is for this reason that Baileys is more common with coffee or hot chocolate drinks as these are not acidic enough to cause the Baileys to separate.
Does Irish Cream Go Bad?
Just like Baileys, any other type of Irish cream can go bad and just to be sure, you can follow the check steps above to make sure another brand of Irish cream, or indeed homemade Irish cream has not gone bad.
Does Kahlua Go Bad?
Like Baileys, Kahlua is a versatile liqueur and as a coffee flavored liqueur, we often treat it as we would treat Baileys. However, unlike Baileys, Kahlua Original does not contain any cream or milk and so lasts longer than Baileys opened or unopened. Kahlua drinkers tend to agree with the manufacturer that the coffee flavor of Kahlua (and other coffee liqueurs) will decline after four years, even if the bottle is unopened.
Flavored Kahlua and Kahlua mixes have a shorter shelf life of two years and one year respectively when unopened.
Ideas for Using Baileys
If you tend to just add a splash of Baileys to coffee or drizzle some on your ice cream, then you will be amazed at what else you can use Baileys for. For baked goods, you can add it to homemade chocolate cakes, tarts, roulades, brownies, doughnuts, cookies and cupcakes and you may also want to mix some extra into the frostings for an even creamier and boozier treat.
For hot desserts, Baileys can be added to many different puddings or even crème brûlée. It will also work well in a hot fudge sauce for a decadent topping.
Baileys is perhaps at its best with cold desserts where it can be added to classic cold desserts such as tiramisu, cheesecake and trifle. You can also whip up a Baileys chocolate mousse or some homemade Baileys ice cream.
It also works well in fudge and truffles - maybe consider adding some Baileys to your next batch of holiday candies. You can even make Baileys s’mores by pouring some Baileys over crushed graham crackers in a cup along with chocolate sauce and marshmallows.
As well as adding to coffees and cocktail favorites such as mudslides and white Russians, Baileys will also add flavor hot chocolates or even just cold shakes. You can even add a little pick me up to your French toast or pancakes at brunch!
It is obvious why Baileys is the bestselling liqueur in the world. Not only does it add flavor to hot and cold drinks, but it can be used in to add decadence and richness to so many recipes in the kitchen. It can also just be enjoyed on the rocks for an after dinner or supper treat.
Although Baileys and other Irish creams are made with whiskey, they also contain cream and this is the reason why Baileys will eventually go bad. Although it has shelf life of around two years, some suggest Baileys is at its best if drunk within six months of opening.
Baileys can be stored in the pantry once opened but many prefer to keep it in the refrigerator; especially those who live in hot areas or want it to ready chilled for drinking.If you have had a bottle of Baileys lying around for a while, then checking its ‘best used by’ date, what it looks and smells like will help you decide if it has gone bad. If it passes this scrutiny, then a quick taste will confirm that it is still good to use in some boozy frosting for your chocolate cupcakes!