Baileys Irish Cream is among the most well-known alcoholic beverages in the world. It’s especially popular during wintertime, but even in summer, it’s a common gift choice – especially for the ladies.
So if you’ve got an unopened bottle of Baileys Irish Cream somewhere in the cupboard, you might be wondering if it’s safe to open it.
Likely yes. Let’s break it down.
Does Baileys expire? Baileys does expire, though not as quickly as you might think considering it’s cream-based. The consensus is that cream-based liqueurs, like Baileys, can safely last up to 2 years in sealed bottles, and more if the bottle isn’t contaminated in some way. After the seal is broken, the liqueur can last up to 6 months, though it’s more vulnerable to outside influences and may go bad faster.
To make sure your Baileys Irish Cream lasts as long as possible and maintains its full flavor profile, you need to know how to properly store it, as well as the signs to look out for, if you’re unsure that the bottle has been kept in proper conditions.
When Does Baileys Expire?
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact date. This is why your Baileys Irish Cream bottle will have best by date and not expiration date printed upon its label.
General consensus is that cream-based liqueurs can safely last in a seal bottled for around 2 years. So your Baileys bottle best by date will be exactly 2 years after the day it was bottled.
That said, multiple external factors may influence the liquid inside the bottle. Depending on how it’s kept, Baileys may go bad inside the bottle even before the best by deadline hits or it may turn out to be fine flavor and texture-wise months after the best by date has passed.
The same can’t be said if the bottle has been opened. If the seal on your Baileys bottle has been broken, its shelf life has been significantly reduced, rendering the best by date invalid.
A Baileys bottle that has been opened still boasts around 6 months’ worth of shelf life, which is pretty impressive for a cream-based drink. But as soon as the bottle is opened, the process of cream and alcohol slowly separating starts.
This will negatively affect both flavor and texture with time, so if you’ve got a Baileys bottle open, it’s best to consume it in the first couple of months and not stretch to the 6-month mark.
Why Does Baileys Expire?
Most spirit-based alcoholic beverages don’t expire when sealed. An unopened bottle of whiskey or vodka has an indefinite shelf life. And as Baileys Irish Cream is a whiskey-based drink, it’s not wholly illogical to assume it, too, would last forever.
But Baileys is a liqueur, not pure liquor. Liqueurs get their taste by adding flavorful elements to the spirits, which makes them susceptible to spoilage depending on these additional elements.
Baileys, in particular, expires with time because it’s a homogenized drink – made by mixing whiskey with cream. And while alcohol prolongs the cream’s shelf life, it will still go bad with time.
How to Properly Store Baileys Irish Cream
A sealed bottle of Baileys Irish Cream needs to be stored at a temperature between 32°F and 77°F. The warm temperature will accelerate spoilage the same it would do with pure cream, and there’s a high chance of it going bad before the best by date.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be refrigerated unless it’s summer and there’s no temperature-controlled place in the house.
If the Baileys bottle has been opened, on the other hand, you do need to reseal it to the best of your abilities and keep it in the refrigerator.
What are the Signs that Baileys Has Expired?
The main reason Baileys can expire is that it’s a cream-based drink – so the main indicators it’s gone bad will be quite similar to that of cream going bad.
You’ll need to pay attention to the drink’s:
As with spoiled dairy, spoiled Baileys will start smelling sickly sweet first if the process has just started (like custard), or outright sour (if the process has been going on for some time).
Over time the homogenization between whiskey and cream starts breaking down. Instead of the creamy and smooth texture characteristic of Baileys, you will have a drink that’s lumpy, thick, and congealed on your hands.
However, the texture may start breaking down even without the drink going bad. Give it a light shake and if the texture smooths out, your drink may still be good.
Another side-effect of whiskey-cream homogenization breaking down is color darkening. The darker color on Baileys means it’s around half a step away from starting coagulating, so it’s best to get rid of it.
If you’re still not sure about it after the smell/texture/color test, you can give it a little taste test (but no more than a sip).
If the drink has started going bad, it’s going to have sour elements to it. Full-on expired Baileys has been compared to sour cream and yogurt in taste, but it doesn’t necessarily need to reach those levels to be considered expired. A few sour notes are good enough indicator.
What Will Happen if You Drink Expired Baileys?
Drinking expired Baileys will likely have results similar to drinking spoiled cream. If drank in small quantities, you may experience no results at all, or a mild stomach upset at worst.
In larger, it may result in typical effects of food poisoning – nausea and vomiting, upset stomach, and/or diarrhea.
Luckily, typical spoilage signs should act as good indicators that your Baileys has expired, warning you against consuming any at all.
The shelf life of a sealed Baileys bottle is usually considered to be around 2 years. While it won’t necessarily go bad after that (that’s why it has best by date on the label, not expiration date), it’s not advised to stretch the drink past it, as more than likely that by that time it’s flavor and texture profile will have degraded.
An opened bottle will be safe for consumption for up to 6 months, however, the degradation process will accelerate as soon as Baileys is unsealed, so it’s best to consume as soon as possible.
Heat will accelerate spoilage, so the bottle (be it sealed or opened) needs to be kept in a cool dry place, preferably a refrigerator.
The results of consuming expired Baileys will likely be similar to that of consuming expired dairy. It won’t cause much harm in small quantities but may result in food poisoning if you persist.
Keep the drink properly stored in a cool place and use it before the best by date hits, and you should be able to fully enjoy its smooth luxuriously creamy taste with no drawbacks.