Today’s article is about cream liqueurs, NOT to be confused with crème liqueurs!
Wikipedia provides us with the following three definitions:
LIQUEUR: is an alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit that has been flavored with fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts and bottled with added sugar or other sweetener (such as high-fructose corn syrup). Liqueurs are typically quite sweet; they are usually not aged for long after the ingredients are mixed, but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to marry.
CRÈME LIQUEUR: (not to be confused with cream liqueur) is a liqueur that has a great deal of additional sugar added to the point that it has a near-syrup consistency. Unlike cream liqueurs, crème liqueurs include no cream in their ingredients. "Crème" in this case refers to the consistency. This category includes crème de cacao (chocolate), crème de menthe (mint), crème de mûre (blackberry), and crème de cassis (black currant).
CREAM LIQUEUR: (not be confused with crème liqueur) is a liqueur that includes dairy cream among its ingredients. What unites this category of liqueurs is their use of cream and a generally flavorful liquor as their bases. Cream liqueurs should be stored in a refrigerator, and have a shorter shelf life than other alcoholic beverages, certainly after opening.
While the NLC does carry examples of both crème (i.e. Sku 13209 Wenneker Creme de Cassis Liqueur OR Sku 13382 McGuinness Creme de Menthe Green) and cream liqueurs, this piece will deal solely with the latter.
Cream liqueurs are a fairly new category of spirits, only being created in the early 1970’s. The brand that first invented this type of liqueur was Baileys – introduced in 1974 – and, at which time, was the entire category!
Since then, there have been many new additions to the cream liqueur category, although Baileys still maintains its early dominance (as indicated by the number of cream liqueurs currently being offered on the shelves of the NLC – of the more than 25 listed on the NLC website, no less than 10 of these are actually Baileys or some variant of Baileys). Some of the newer Baileys flavours to recently hit our market include caramel, biscotti and hazelnut.
The addition of cream (or milk in some cases) makes cream liqueurs thicker than normal liqueurs, slightly milder in terms of the alcoholic kick, and exceptionally easy to drink. Popular over ice, in cocktails or even as a shooter, we find many people at this time of year pouring a little into their cup of coffee! [For the ultimate “adult” dessert try pouring Baileys, or another cream liqueur, over ice creamJ].
Although such liqueurs usually contain between 15 and 20% alcohol by volume, they are mild enough so even those who don’t usually partake in the “hard” stuff can enjoy them.
Due to the fact that cream liqueurs contain dairy they do have a shelf life. To be safe, the general rule of thumb with such products is they should be discarded after about 18 months or so – and that is opened or closed.
Category leader – Baileys Irish Cream – actually claims to have a shelf life of 30 months, and guarantees its taste for two years from the day that it was made! While some of the cheaper versions might deteriorate quite quickly after being opened, most cream liqueurs can be enjoyed if consumed within a year of opening. There are many examples which actually have an expiration date right on the bottle. While it is unnecessary to refrigerate cream liqueurs it most certainly will not hurt such products!
Referred to by many as “liquid heaven”, cream liqueurs have found a place in today’s world. While it was Baileys who put this type of spirit on the map just a few decades ago, we now have many wonderful examples of what happens when you mix cream (dairy) with alcohol. In addition to category leader Baileys, the NLC carries a unique cream liqueur from South Africa called Amarula in two size formats (Sku 11156 – 375ml - $15.36 OR Sku 1267 – 750ml - $28.18). Do yourself a favour and check out this unique type of spirit – it is actually quite delicious!
Senior Product Knowledge Consultant