Drink Up

The Best Drink for Holiday Parties: Homemade Irish Cream

The recipe amounts to
The recipe amounts to “mix and serve.” Photo: Melissa Hom

Welcome to December, the month of eggnog-fueled holiday parties and nutmeg-flavored hang-overs. If only there were something you could make for all the holiday parties you’ll be going to (or hosting) that is better than eggnog, dead simple to make, and a guaranteed ticket to social-gathering micro fame. It turns out, there is. It’s time to make a batch of homemade Irish cream.

First, the obvious: Irish cream might seem like it’s been around forever, but it’s actually a fairly recent innovation. Baileys was the first brand on the market, in 1974. Other brands followed (Carolans, Duggan’s, Irish Manor, etc.), but lately Irish cream just doesn’t get much respect from the gastronomically enlightened. The complaints are numerous: It’s too sweet, it’s a girly drink, it will give you a brutal hang-over, it’s booze for people who don’t like booze, etc.

To hell with all of them. The same people who turn up their noses at a bottle of Bailey’s will invariably change their tune when presented with a glass of homemade Irish cream (go ahead and call it artisanal if you’d like). Maybe people enjoy the DIY factor, or perhaps there’s inherently appealing novelty in the idea of making something that nobody else would think to make, or maybe it’s because the homemade stuff really is better than Baileys. After all, it just tastes like melted ice cream that gets you drunk. Whatever the case, homemade Irish cream is always — always — a major hit at parties and people will hail you as a genius. (I know: I’ve been making my recipe for a decade.)

The other upside: This stuff is ridiculously easy to make. The prep is essentially just pour, stir, and chill. It keeps for about a month in the fridge, but you’ll polish off your bottle long before New Year’s.

Homemade Irish Cream

2 cups Irish whiskey (Bushmills, Jameson, and Tullamore Dew are all fine — don’t use super high-end stuff)
2 cups heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a large container and stir well. Refrigerate immediately and serve chilled over ice.

If you’d like, save a little bit to pour over Cheerios, a breakfast treat we can call a “Top O’ the Morning.” It’s just the thing for Boxing Day.

The Best Drink for Holiday Parties: Homemade Irish Cream