Can Irish Cream Go Bad?

Bailey's Irish Cream

Irish cream is as much a dessert as it is a drink. This creamy, rich liqueur elevates mixed drinks, coffee and can even make a pretty delicious chocolate sauce, but how much Irish cream can you really drink in one night? Can Irish cream go bad, and how should you store the rest of the bottle?

Can Irish Cream Go Bad?

This may surprise some people, but Irish cream can actually go bad! While many liqueurs have an indefinite shelf life, Irish cream actually contains a good deal of dairy in the form of heavy cream, and will spoil accordingly. Don’t go throwing away that bottle just yet, though!

The shelf life of Irish Cream is about two years after bottling, when properly stored. The freshness of Irish cream doesn’t depend on whether or not the bottle has been opened, but the bottle should remain tightly sealed when stored. While Irish cream may not exactly spoil after the two year point, the quality will likely have declined pretty significantly. Because of this, you should always check for signs of spoilage before consuming cream liqueurs.

The two year shelf life is the recommendation of most manufacturers to ensure that the Irish cream retains its quality, though the general recommendation is to consume Irish cream within six months of purchase. Cream liqueurs are considered “young," when they are under six months old, and this is generally when they taste the best.

Bailey's Irish Cream

Image used under Creative Commons from Ruth Hartnup

How to Store Irish Cream

Irish cream should be stored in a tightly sealed bottle, in a cool, dark place. While Irish cream can be stored at room temperature, so long as the bottle remains tightly sealed, refrigeration will certainly help to retain the quality for as long as possible.

Whether or not you choose to store Irish cream in the refrigerator, the bottle should be kept out of warm areas, or direct light exposure. If the temperature of your home is frequently above 70 degrees, you should consider storing the Irish cream in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.

Can You Freeze Irish Cream?

Contrary to popular belief, you really shouldn’t freeze Irish cream. While the alcohol will not freeze, the cream can freeze, which will make pouring the Irish cream impossible. Additionally, the freezing process will form small ice crystals, and the texture will in the cream change completely after thawing.

This doesn’t mean that Irish cream can’t be used to make ice cream! Because the churning will prevent the formation of large ice crystals, as well as keep the ice cream from separating, Irish cream can certainly be used to make a delicious, creamy dessert. Ice creams made with alcohol will melt more quickly than other ice creams, but the taste is worth it!

How to Tell When Irish Cream Has Gone Bad

The first thing you should check for, in terms of spoilage, is the smell. When you open the bottle, if the Irish cream smells at all sour or unpleasant, it has likely gone bad. Appearance will be the next indicator – any sort of separation or coagulation indicates that Irish cream has spoiled, and should not be consumed. As Irish cream starts to spoil, it may become darker and much thicker. If you notice that the Irish cream doesn’t pour well, it may not be good anymore.

Of course, if Irish cream smells and looks okay, then it’s likely still good to drink. If you’re unsure of whether or not the Irish cream has spoiled, and it has been in your cupboard for a while, you may want to err on the side of caution and discard the liqueur.

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