People and Food: Homemade Irish Cream Recipe

Look no further for a simple, tasty and galley-friendly holiday liqueur.

Lyra's Irish Cream
A homemade holiday elixirLynda Morris Childress

The snow was flying outside the portholes while we were docked for the winter in Newport, Rhode Island. Christmas was only a week or so away, and I was really behind with all the holiday things I'd wanted to do — particularly baking cookies. To be honest, though, I've never really liked the process of baking batches of cookies. It takes a long time in our small oven aboard Lyra, the Reliance 44 ketch that I live aboard with my husband and two daughters. Staring at the plates of treats we'd already received from friends and dock neighbors convinced me even more that I didn't actually need to bake cookies, but I still wanted to make a special treat for gifts. What was something that people would actually like and that I could quickly and easily put together in my tiny galley? That evening, I mulled this over while sipping on a cup of coffee and wishing I had a splash of Baileys to add to it. Then the thought occurred to me: How hard could it be to make my own Irish cream? Our friends would definitely appreciate that!

I did a quick Web search to see just what was involved. After a little (delicious) experimentation, I came up with my own version of recipes for both regular and dairy-free Irish cream. A benefit of making this yourself is that you can adjust the flavors and consistency to your liking. Want a hint of coffee? Add some coffee-flavored syrup. Less sweet? Reduce the sweetened condensed milk. Let your taste buds be your guide. The results of my own experiments were definitely dock-neighbor approved!

Lyra's Irish Cream

  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (or cream, or mix the two)
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)**

**use more or less to yield desired booziness

In the bottom of a pitcher, ­vigorously whisk cocoa powder and cream into a paste. Continue whisking and slowly add the milk (or cream) a little at a time to fully incorporate the cocoa powder, then whisk in the rest of the milk (or cream) in larger splashes. Once all of the milk is in, whisk in condensed milk, whiskey and vanilla. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and store in fridge. The Irish cream is best used within a couple of days, but should keep for up to a week. Best served chilled; neat or on the rocks. Optional garnishes: Sprinkle cocoa powder on top, or add a cinnamon stick to each glass. Recipe yields about 1 quart (about nine 3.5-ounce servings).

Preparation: At anchor
Time: 15 minutes plus chilling time
Difficulty: Easy

Cook's Note: Dairy-Free Irish Cream

For those who can’t tolerate milk, or want to try a different spin on traditional Irish cream, I developed this dairy-free version (I think it’s even tastier than the original). One caveat: The ingredients might be difficult to find outside of a well-stocked grocery or health-food store. To prepare, follow the recipe as above, but substitute unsweetened almond milk for regular milk, coconut cream for heavy cream and sweetened condensed coconut milk for regular sweetened condensed milk. Adjust all to taste. (Both coconut cream and sweetened condensed coconut milk typically come in cans.)