Wait… Baileys isn’t Irish? | The Well


Welcome to this frothy edition of The Well—your insider’s guide to the surprising stories behind the drinks you love. Today, let’s raise our glasses to a concoction that’s Irish by name but cosmopolitan by nature: Baileys Original Irish Cream.

The Story Behind Baileys Irish Cream

Picture this: London, 1973. A group not of Irishmen, but a Brit, a South African, and another Englishman, brainstorm in SoHo. Their mission, handed down by Tom Jago of International Distillers & Vintners, was audacious: invent a spirit destined to become Ireland’s next great export. This team, including David Gluckman and Hugh Seymour-Davies, weren’t distillers or brewers. They were creatives, tasked with concocting something entirely new.

The name “Baileys”? A chance pick, inspired not by Irish heritage but by a bistro below their office. The bistro’s owners were far from the rolling green hills of Ireland—further adding to the drink’s curious origin story. Despite this, over 80 million bottles of Baileys now find their way from Dublin to destinations worldwide annually, with America tipping the scales as its largest importer.

The story gets richer. Baileys owes its existence partially to a tax break and a serendipitous meeting of available resources. Irish whiskey? Check. Cream from a dairy plant with an abundance of the stuff? Check. The final recipe was a mix of Irish cream, whiskey, sugar, and chocolate—combined with no formal research but a lot of creativity and taste testing.

And here’s a twist: the first ever batch of Baileys was mixed in a cleaned-out Schweppes bottle! Yes, the world’s most beloved cream liqueur began its journey in a bottle meant for tonic water.

The notion that Baileys was created specifically for women adds another layer to its narrative. From its “girly drink” beginnings to modern ad campaigns targeting millennial women, Baileys has danced around gendered marketing with grace and whimsy. Today, it’s a universal treat, enjoyed in everything from coffee to sumptuous desserts.

Why I Love Baileys

  • It’s not just a drink; it’s a dessert, a coffee creamer, and a baking ingredient. There’s so many things you can mix Baileys with.
  • Its rich, creamy texture belies a complex history that’s as intriguing as its taste.
  • It reminds us that great things often come from the most unexpected places.

Ryan McCann
Growth & Marketing, Saucey

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