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I Invented Baileys (2017) (irishtimes.com)
166 points by one-possibility 63 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 118 comments

I was hoping he would describe the work needed to make it shelf—stable. After all, anyone can mix cream, sugar, whisky and chocolate powder but that concoction will soon turn sour, clot, separate, etc. Also I seem to remember hearing an earlier version of this origin story where a can of condensed milk was used in the first experiment instead of cream.

Is the solution as simple as basing it on ultra pasteurized cream further preserved by the alcohol and sugar, all bonded forever by some mechanical homogenization process?

Once you go over 16% or so alcohol, no cell will grow in it. That’s why alcohol above that is distilled: the alcohol starts inactivating the yeast. Just make sure it’s pasteurized to begin with (or good source control) and it’ll stay clean.

Something acts like the surfactant to keep it from separating. Probably not mustard like in a salad dressing :).

Putting on my pedantic home brewer cap: The 16% number seems a bit low. I believe there are champagne yeasts that will ferment up to 18%, and specialized "turbo" yeasts designed for fermenting high-abv washes for distilling will go up to 20%.

I can absolutely agree on the turbo yeast part. I have fermented some apples with turbo yeast and they were able to bring it up to about 21% (but with added sugar).

I just tested a turbo yeast sugar wash I have and it's sitting at exactly 21%

Dare I ask why you happen to have turbo yeast sugar wash lying around?

For making neutral spirits as the basis for gin

In my uni days a flatmate made "wine" like this, surprisingly drinkable with a mixer.

How "recent" are the developments of those turbo yeasts though? I wouldn't be surprised we figured out how to create those only in the last century using modern scientific insights.

It was popular to study fermentation, because nobody knew how it worked. Anton van Leeuwenhoek (the "inventor" of the microscope [0] around 1670) was the first person who saw yeast cells, but nobody knew what it was. In 1880s people realized what yeast is and that it was behind fermentation. Around 1900 breweries began using (their) specific yeast string. Yeast was the first eukaryote which genome was completly sequenced, in 1996. So, yes, research in yeast is relativly modern.

If you are interested in this topic, I can recommend the book "Proof: The Science of Booze" [1] which has a chapter on yeast and a following one on fermenation.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonie_van_Leeuwenhoek

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18222694-proof

I am curious actually, thanks for the info!

What does that matter when they're replying to "Once you go over 16% or so alcohol, no cell will grow in it. That’s why alcohol above that is distilled"?

Because it is quite common for common knowledge to be outdated for decades. Even among professionals, let alone the general public.

I've definitely seen (or felt) a separated bottle of Bailey's before. My uncle had one that sat in his liquor cabinet for over a year. When I tried to pour it, the liquid that came out was a thin, disgusting color, and the bottle itself felt like a carton of milk that had turned to cottage cheese (e.g. there was definitely a solid mass in the center of it, floating inside the thinner liquid).

Someone drunk from the bottle and contaminated it? ;)

> Something acts like the surfactant to keep it from separating.

Gum arabic or Xantham gum?

It does go bad eventually, though, doesn't it? I worry about anything with cream in it that doesn't list an expiration date.

Probably some standard emulsifier is surely added. That for me would be the key bit: Wikipedia suggests "emulsifier containing refined vegetable oil".

Yeah, it's likely made from soybean oil:

> Ingredients: Fresh Dairy Cream, Sugar, Alcohol, Maltodextrin, Milk Products, Cocoa extracts and flavours, Irish Whiskey, Colouring: 150b, Emulsifier: E471, Acidity regulator: E331


Veg oil seems like a bad call for shelf-stability. Sure you can boil off any dissolved O2 and N2 sparge the bottle before sealing it, but that only helps you until you open the bottle.

It does but as pointed out above -- once above a certain % of alcohol as long as it's emulsified the alcohol will kill any bad bacteria.

Veggie oil will go rancid without any help from bacteria.

That being said, Bailey’s isn’t that shelf stable and will likely turn into undrinkable too faster than the average veggie oil will go rancid. And veggie oil can be stabilized to some extent by adding vitamin E.

the agent that prevents its separation is most likely soy lecithin.

Always took a perverse pleasure in reminding my proud Irish relations that Baileys Irish Cream was invented by some "Brit" out of a lab in Essex, England in the 1970s.

They just loved that one. :P

I'd still pay the premium for Baileys. It's like buying off brand "Pringles"; you might save a small bit and the tin might look pretty similar but they taste is never taste quite right.

> I, on the other hand, was most definitely an arriviste, having fled South Africa in 1961 aboard the Cape Town Castle to occupy a mattress on a floor in a shared room in Earl’s Court.

He was South African though ;)

I'd agree though, off brand baileys just doesn't taste the same. I think it was Aldi I bought a similar one from before, and It was fine, but it's kind of similar to Pepsi vs Coke. I like pepsi, but if I order Coke, and I get pepsi, I'm disappointed as I was expecting Coke, even though to me both taste similar and I like both.

Pepsi is noticeably sweeter, I prefer coke as it's got a bit more of a 'dry' taste to it.

I'm simular but the other way around.

Coke is bland and awful to me. I only drink Pepsi max, yet they are all fairly similar and cola's, Pepsi max is far better than anything else.

Haha, true but he's still one of "us", just like Sid James, Chris Froome, Gordon Murray ...or my Irish Mum. ;)

And Bob Holness, the first actor to play James Bond. But not, alas, the saxophonist on Baker Street.

My mum's Irish too, but can't stand Bailey's.

Second actor, preceded by Barry Nelson: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0310853/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_14

I used to frequent an Indian restaurant which gave a free shot of ‘fake Baileys’ at the end of your meal. We actually came to prefer it to real Baileys - partly because it was a bit less thick and sweet, and probably partly from the positive association with a satisfying meal of very good Indian food.

I dunno, you say "save a small bit" but the off-brand Baileys here costs €5 while the real stuff is closer to €20 (it varies by shop and depends on promotions a lot)

Nearly off-topic aside: if you like Bailey's, try Dooley's. It's like a toffee/praline version of Bailey's, and pretty darned tasty (and I generally don't have much of a sweet tooth).


In the fine tradition of Bailey's Irish name but British birth, Dooley's is German.

> It's like buying off brand "Pringles"

Does anyone make worse chips than Pringles?

Pringles are not chips. They are mathematically precise reifications of idealized perfection. It has nothing to do with potatoes and binders, those are only incidental. It's all about the libidinal act of destroying perfect objects with your mouth.


Of course they are not chips, they are crisps.

I want to read the books you are reading.

To bring it full circle, the guy who invented the Pringles machine is a famous author (Gene Wolfe)

or writing...

Never thought of it this way, but that is obviously and irrefutably true.

In my case, given a fairly weak upper palate, it’s also a case of destroying your mouth with perfect objects.

Apparently off brand pringles are worse, if such a thing is even possible. But I'd argue pringles are not chips

> if such a thing is even possible

Exactly. The way Pringles taste; to go looking for "off brand" Pringles at lower prices seems totally nuts.

I'm not sure if they are crisps, chips or just a horrid potato mix formed into "perfect shapes"; but whatever they are, their popularity is a mystery to me.

Also popular are ready meals and squashed-sponge pre-sliced 'bread' that takes a year to mould.

If you want bread that molds readily, try getting some Francesi rolls. I've had those mold on the way home from the store.

(Some people might argue that that was just bread that was already moldy in the store. Perhaps, but Francesi rolls really will mold within a day or two of purchase.)

For 'normal' (well, to a Briton anyway) bread I just bake my own. It'd certainly mould before the miserable squashes-sponge stuff, but it's broken down by stomach acid before it has a chance. (I live alone and bake & eat one (440g flour's worth incl. starter) every ~5 days I reckon, slightly more than one a week anyway.)

> I've had those mold on the way home from the store.

They can sense you've bought them..

I guess these are all eaten by the same people, the Pringles people?

I quite like Baileys but find it a bit too light and sweet on it's own. It's great in a BMW (Baileys Malibu & Whiskey), or just with a splash of Southern Comfort.

The story has always been set in London’s vibrant Soho area, not Essex.

> We took it to the technical group in the Gilbeys building that housed their factory offices, distillery, research laboratories and warehouse in Harlow, Essex,

I think I always associated it with Harlow but I wouldn't let the truth get in the way when winding up my family relations. :D

The office where they came up with the idea and first mixed prototypes is in Soho, as in the story.

Coole Swan is nicer by far, if you ever get the chance to try it.

For the curious, the name likely refers to another kinda Irish gift to the world W.B. Yeats' poem The Wild Swans at Coole [0]

[0] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43288/the-wild-swans-...

This is wonderful how this has ended up on the front page of Hacker News. It's one of my favourite pieces I've read in the last few years - I bought the book arising from it - I don't even like Bailey's! It's just a very neat story of product development, branding, etc.

> My dinner-party party piece for many years was to say, “Well, actually, I invented Baileys. You know, Baileys Irish Cream. I did that back in 1973.”

> Hugh looked at me with an almost earnest stare. “What would happen if we mixed Irish whiskey and cream?” he said. “That might be interesting.” He sat back and waited for a response.

Sounds to me like it was actually Hugh who invented Baileys.

Came here to say this

"Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the real heroes of ideas are not the people who have them – they are the people who buy them."

Absolutely love this.

Interesting chemistry experiment you can try at home is to mix Baileys and lime cordial. Also known as a "cement mixer".


Accidently did this, when we were creating dirty drinks.

Four people had to blind buy drinks where the other didn't know what it was, two alcohol, and two soft drinks and we would mix them together to create a blind cocktail.

Ended up discovering this the hard way!

The mass-market alcohol industry is almost entirely based on branding and bulk ingredents. (A considerable fraction of the so-called top-shelf market is as well.)

I'd had some exposure to that through a former life, though this classic comment of Animats drilled home just how sordid the whole thing is, through Frank-Lin distillers, who buy bulk grain alcohol by the tankerful, delivered to their own private railroad siding, and service over 3,500 accounts.[1]


Baily's Irish Cream has virtually all of the standard addictive food / consumption elements: booze, sugar, fat, and chocolate. If they could work out how to add salt, heroin, and cocaine, they'd have the full package.

Some years back I looked into just when various well-known alcoholic beveridges or other branded concepts came into being. Virtualy all are from after the beginning of the broadcast-based mass-advertising era, with the exception of Captain Morgan's Rum (which dates from US Prohibition).

You can trace this with startling clarity through Google's Ngram viewer. Smirnoff Vodka in particular stands out, it appeared out of nowhere in 1950:


Yes, the label dates to the 19th century. And yes, it had circulation in Russia earlier. But as following the Google Books links will show, a series of submarines (many in Life Magazine) appeared in print in 1950 to popularise the brand.

I'd researched a number of other brands at some point (probably in a Reddit comment, not readily searchable), but you can do this yourself. There's a notable influx of new brands in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and aughts. And many apparently "venerable" brands are far younger (at least in general market presence) than their marketing would have you believe.

The whole notion of the "Irish pub" is mostly a post-1980s marketing gimmick (inspired strongly by the US TV series "Cheers" AFAIU).

Mostly, though, you're just paying for the label.



1. I've written my own brief here: https://ello.co/dredmorbius/post/bztu6ot3xumpeiiiygdzaa Further background at http://www.frank-lin.com/ https://www.webcitation.org/5jjmHRr9C http://web.archive.org/web/20061018134019/http://www.packagi... https://www.dailyrepublic.com/all-dr-news/solano-news/top-st... and http://web.archive.org/web/20150907040248/http://sourmashed....

Amazing. One of their brands' websites, Black Saddle Whisky, even says "handcrafted here in the US by Master Craftsmen" [1]. I'm surprised that is legal.


There's a good Atlas Obscura story on how Smirnoff had to not just invent the brand, but introduce America to vodka:


New cocktail: "The Full Package": Take Baileys. Muddle with Salt & Heroin. Serve over Cocaine, Mint to taste.

What. Have. I. Done?!!!

Don Draper at work.

Uhm, what about Guinness? The guinness brewery has been around a lot longer than 1950. Also, are you claiming there was no such thing as an Irish pub before 1980? Again, uhm, no.

Of course there were pubs in Ireland, but if you go to an “Irish pub” in the States, that experience is largely a recent invention.

“Pub in a Box”: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/04/12/523653040/epis...

I assume they're referring to the theme-park-ish "Irish pubs" in the US, rather than pubs in Ireland.

The US Irish pubs often go out of their way to seem old-world, e.g. sawdust on the floor, not something I see a lot in Ireland..

> sawdust on the floor

By covering with sawdust to absorb excess moisture before sweeping it up with a broom and dustpan is most usually how vomit is cleaned up by employees.

I mean the entire floor, in the middle of the day (no-one vomiting).

I draw your attention to the word "almost" in my comment, and its neighbour "entirely", which it modifies.

The brewery may date to the 1850s. As a widely-known name, popularity trailed the records book published by the same concern, largely beginning in the 1960s:


The popularity of the Book of Records probably doesn't have much relation to sales or awareness of the Guinness drinks. Guinness Extra considerably predates the 1850s: Guinness has been a big manufacturing operation and a big brand for a long time. (However Guinness Draught, being a keg beer, is naturally from the 1950s, though it's the successor of Guinness' cask beer.) Several other European beer brands have histories going back to at least the late C19: Heineken, Carlsberg, Paulaner, ... Several of the famous Italian amaros like Fernet-Branca and Campari are solidly second half of C19; so is Angostura. Chartreuse is considerably older. Several Scottish whisky distilleries have quite long histories of continuous production, though of course the current international fame of Scottish single malts is relatively recent. Bacardi was distributed outside Cuba since at least the 1930s.

That isn't the argument I'm making. I'm simply showing the prevalence of the ngrams "Guiness" (capialised) and "Guiness *" (same, followed by any other word).

"Guiness Book" clearly trends in print before any reference to a beverage, in the US-English corpus.

If you have a complaint, it's with Google Books and its ngram viewer.

That's pretty crazy. So I wonder, do Frank-Lin put any flavors in their vodkas? Or is it just water + alcohol, and any perceived differences in flavor are down to the labels?

Edit: Nevermind, just read the Skyy link. Indeed, they add flavoring to the vodka. Huh!

>>> Perrier hadn’t become fashionable then, so people were still content to do real drinking at lunch time.

I am just old enough to have caught the tail end of this world (Ahhh, Harlow, thy beauteous roundabouts call out to me ...)

My dad assured me liver damage was the only way to get a job in the 60s.

It wasn’t that long ago teachers in France could buy a pticher of wine with their lunch at the school cafeteria until ~2000. For a while after they could bring their own bottle. That stopped around 2005.

I think this was my favourite line, absolutely redolent of Britain in the 70s: “Two policemen came in this afternoon and demolished the whole bottle between them.” They were probably planning a frame-up.

You've not lived until you've had a lager and gin & tonic and Baileys Irish cream chaser.

I’ve never really thought about it, but I guess an “Irish Car Bomb” doesn’t exist on the eastern side of the Atlantic:


American here. I did a semester abroad in Ireland, and one particularly clueless fellow in our group of students made the mistake of ordering one of these in an (actual) Irish pub.

He was firmly asked to leave - and lucky that was all. I imagine he wasn't the first uninformed tourist to make this request. Years later, I likened it to ordering a "9/11" in Manhattan, although it's not a perfect analogy.

Ordering one in Britain is possibly closer¹, and a bartender I used to live with said clueless, young, American tourists would try this every few months.

They were usually dealt with by referring them to history section of their Lonely Planet.

¹ Several car/truck bombings with considerable property damage, although usually limited casualties.

No; it'd be a bit like calling a cocktail "The 9/11", really.

Yeah most people would find it in poor taste. No point in ruining a perfectly decent pint of Guinness. The comment you were replying to was referring to the "Lady Boy" drink from Alan Partridge.

We call it a ladyboy.

This job just seems so alien to me. How do you get a job where major corporations just task you with things like “Come up with a new product for us. Something Irish themed. Alcoholic.“

And all you have to deliver is a basic concept? Someone else figures out all the logistics and how to deliver at scale?

How much do they pay for that? (Oh £3000 per the article. Still, in 1973 money, for a few hours work, not bad)

A lot of the stories I've heard from people who've worked at places like Ogilvy have taken a similar tack.

More often, though, advertising agencies redefine a (often failing) product through rebranding. Such as a gin to which they added cucumber - unusual at the time - to make it seem classy and British to American consumers, or Diamond Shreddies: https://fameable.com/diamond-shreddies-rebranding-case-study...

Not a few hours work. Also R&D on the recipe, market research, figuring out a bottle, designing and printing labels, etc?

That's like 18000 today, still cheap for the amount of work put in.

3000 pounds flat rate, from the article.

> If we assume that every bottle of Baileys delivered eight generous servings that suggests that over 12 billion glasses of Baileys have been poured since it all began.

Holy cow are people filling tumblers with the stuff? It's nice as a shot but more than that is sickly.

I mix it with milk and its really nice.

Does anyone find the large price premium that Baileys commands over its many imitations worth it?

In the U.S. I used to regularly buy one called Molly's and that name has stuck with me since. I still write Molly's on my shopping list here in Europe.

The Aldi equivalent never tasted quite the same. Maybe it'd be fine if you were used to it, but I'd like Baileys to taste the same as it does in a bar.

I find nobody buys it at full price which makes it only slightly premium. It's designed to be discounted. Always on offer somewhere. Most people just buy a half price bottle at Christmas and that must be a sizable chunk of the market.

As a student I used to drink "Irish Nights" at about 1/5th of the price. Couldn't really tell the difference from real Baileys.

My partner tells me she used to drink "Delayleys" (spelling lost to time), but would not buy it again today.

Maybe you mean Dooleys. It's toffee rather than coffee and is typically sold at extremely low end bars and nightclubs in the UK, or at least it was 15 years ago

I buy Irish whiskey at CostCo and if I want something like Baileys, I can make it myself in a shaker.

Honestly, chocolate-Irish ice cream is very good, but so is chocolate-Bourbon or chocolate-rum.

Premium? Stuff is cheap here in the northeastern US.

Something can be fairly cheap in price yet still be a premium version of it. It happens with toilet paper - but if you want another liquor example, liqueurs are often cheap yet there are definitely premium versions out there (but still cost fairly little).


Also there are similar drinks in other places the world (often much older than Baileys), maybe not with whiskey but brandy or other liquors.

> On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. That’s a thousand million bottles. And they will have sold at least a further 250 million bottles in the decade since then bringing the total up to something in the area of 1,250,000,000.

Slightly off topic but this writer seems to have a really low expectation of his readers.

It could have something to do with the old British definition of billion, which is a million million (10^12) and different to the new (American) one (10^9).

(1000 + 250) million seems to also be simple maths but maybe that's also to clarify this.

mmmm Baileys... pour it chilled over vanilla ice-cream and thank me later.

It's the one thing that Bailey's is good for in my opinion!

Has anyone found a decent alcohol-free version?

I don't know how it compares exactly but there is a non-alcoholic product also known as "Irish Cream". If you want to find it (or recipes for home made versions) the best thing to do is search for "Irish Cream Coffee Creamer".

You could buy alcohol free whisky (or concoct it using various spices) and mix with chocolate, milk and cream.

Have you tried watering down some cream with added dried cocoa powder?

That was a supprisingly engaging article. Here's some comments from 4 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15430653

Check out this one on the creation of Grey Goose and the invention of the super premium category. Great story on luxury branding https://nymag.com/nymetro/news/bizfinance/biz/features/10816...

I used to drink something balled a "brown bomber": chocolate milk with brandy.

No one ever took my drink since I was the only one who liked it. It was pretty high-sugar, but I think that (and the milk) helped with hangovers.

Pro tip: Baileys instead of milk for a Kellog‘s corn flakes breakfast :)

I know you’re joking but I’ve literally tried that before and wouldn’t recommend it.

Bailey's over Froot Loops totally works. Tried & verified.

Have you ever drank Bailey's from an old boot? It's smooth and creamy.

I'm old greg!!!

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