Last November, when a couple of friends from college said they’d visit me in early January, I promised to make them homemade Irish cream. I can’t remember why, exactly, but I know I had been reading about how to do it—it sounded like a fun project, but at the time I had eggnog to make, age, and then taste. About an hour before they showed up I remembered the promise and took a quick trip to the corner store for the necessary ingredients: cream, sweetened condensed milk, and Irish whiskey.

There are dozens of Irish cream recipes online, and they vary in their proportions of these ingredients, whether to use eggs, and what flavorings to add (coffee, chocolate, vanilla, almond extract). I even saw one that didn’t involve alcohol, but that was never even in the running. There was one recipe that seemed to be the most standard; it cropped up again and again as I read through blog posts, and I decided to stick with that one. It goes as follows:

1 cup heavy cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cups Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

The directions for making Irish cream couldn’t be easier. You add all the ingredients to a blender and blend, or to a bowl and stir, and that’s it. You’re done. Pour it into a clean empty bottle or jar and keep refrigerated, supposedly for up to two weeks.

I bought Fecking Irish Whiskey, because it was fairly cheap (around $20) and I thought the name was funny. I was worried this would turn out to be a mistake, but it’s actually pretty good: while it’s not particularly complex, it’s very smooth and works well for mixing. I did make a mistake, though, in substituting dark chocolate melted in some of the cream for chocolate syrup. I could swear that I saw at least one recipe that called for real melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder or chocolate syrup, but the slightly grainy texture it produced wasn’t ideal. I also used a couple tablespoons of strong coffee instead of the coffee granules, and skipped the almond extract.

The result was pretty good: creamy and very sweet with plenty of chocolate (since I was just guessing how much would equal two tablespoons of syrup, I might have overdone it) and a little coffee bitterness. You can definitely taste the alcohol, but it’s not strong enough to burn.

  • Julia Thiel
  • The homemade Irish cream (left) is lighter in color and thinner in texture than the Kerrygold (right)

I also had a bottle of Kerrygold Irish Cream that I was sent by a publicist after the new product was released last fall, so I decided to compare the two. The commercial product is much smoother and thicker in texture than mine; it’s mouth-coating and viscous but equally sweet and creamy. It could be the power of suggestion, but it tasted almost buttery to me (it’s not made with butter, just cream, but I associate Kerrygold with butter). It tastes less alcoholic than my version, which makes sense since it’s 17 percent ABV—a little less than the 20 percent ABV of the homemade Irish cream.

If it weren’t for the grainy texture of the homemade version, I think I’d prefer it over the Kerrygold, but not by much: they’re both good. While making your own Irish cream is a little cheaper than buying it, it doesn’t seem to create a vastly superior product. I thought about serving it in these marshmallow shot glasses I read about, but the Irish cream was so sweet on its own that I couldn’t imagine adding more sweetness to it.

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Thursdays.