Does Irish Cream Go Bad?

So you decided to try out Irish coffee and the recipe called for Irish cream. And while the coffee turned out great, you don’t plan on having it all that often.

Now you’re with an open bottle of the liqueur, and you’re probably thinking: does Irish cream go bad?

Or maybe you prefer liqueurs instead of wine or liquors and decided to give Irish cream a try. And only once you arrived home with a bottle, you noticed that you’re not quite sure how you should store it.

Since it contains dairy, you might think it should go to the fridge. But at the same time, it has an alcohol by volume level of above 15%, which suggests it is probably just fine stored at room temperature. Plus it sat on the shelf in the liquor store too.

If any of these questions or doubts sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of Irish cream.

Please note that information in this article applies to store-bought Irish cream, like Carolans Irish Cream or Bailey’s Irish Cream, not a homemade one.

Bailey's Irish Cream
(credit: nestor galina)

How To Store Irish Cream

Like other liqueurs, such as Kahlua or Malibu rum, Irish cream doesn’t like changing temperatures and high temperatures. Thus it’s best to pick a place that keeps a fairly constant temperature.

As long as the bottle is unopened, the pantry seems to be the best place for Irish cream, but a fridge works perfectly fine as well.

Once you open the bottle, the refrigerator is probably the best place to store this liquor. While this liqueur contains cream, which is a dairy product that requires refrigeration, the liqueur doesn’t really need it.

But if you expect it to sit around for longer than half a year, keeping it in the fridge is probably the best choice when it comes to preserving the freshness and taste of this whiskey-based liqueur.

Also, Irish cream is best served chilled, so keeping it in the fridge simply makes sense. Of course, if it sits at room temperature, you can serve it over ice to chill it quickly.

As usual, remember to keep the bottle sealed tightly when not in use.

A drink with Bailey's Irish Cream

How Long Does Irish Cream Last

Unlike hard liquors like whiskey or vodka, liqueurs don’t last forever.

Each bottle of Irish cream should have a best-by date on the label and that’s a pretty good starting point. In most cases, provided the bottle is unopened, the liqueur should be fine for at least two years after bottling.

Of course, it won’t go bad a day or two after that date, but the longer you store it, the worse its quality will be. In other words, a brand new bottle of Irish cream should taste better than one sitting in storage for the last 6 months.

Once you open the bottle, air gets to the alcohol, and its quality starts to deteriorate a bit faster.

Generally, it’s recommended that you should finish an open bottle of Irish cream within about 6 months.

Obviously, storing the bottle for a month or two more won’t make that much of a difference. But at some point, you will find that the liqueur doesn’t taste quite as good as it used to.

Note

Please remember that the quality degrades faster if you don’t refrigerate the drink.

 PantryFridge
Irish cream (unopened)Best-by + 6 months 
Irish cream (opened) 6 months

Please note the periods above are estimates and for best quality.

How To Tell If Irish Cream Is Bad

Like other liqueurs, Irish cream degrades in quality over time. And chances are that if you ever need to discard Irish cream, it’s going to be because of quality changes, not because it’s spoiled.

At some point, its taste won’t hit the spot anymore, and that’s when you should get rid of it.

As usual, pay attention to the standard signs of spoilage too. These include an off or funny odor and changes in texture.

If the liqueur looks and smells okay, give a small amount a taste. If everything is fine, feel free to continue drinking it. Otherwise, it’s time to let it go.

Last not least, if you store an open bottle for more than 2 years, just throw it out for safety reasons. The quality of the liquor most likely won’t be any good anyway.