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Irish Wines and Baileys

Saint Patrick's Day seems to be the defining day for the month of March. As this day approaches, it's as if a green virus begins to affect all McCarthys and Callahans. The quest for Irish wine - and Bailey's Cocktails - begins.

Even people whose families have lived in the states for centuries now recall with wistful longing those sad days of old ... when their ancestors of long ago had to leave the jewelled isle. Ancestral memories across 6 and 7 generations have phrases like "Faith and Begorrah" and "Another pint for the lads!" flowing as easily as the Guinness and Harp.

Therefore, every March I begin the quest for looking for wines in Ireland. This was like chasing leprauchaun's gold, but perseverence is a virtue. No such luck! Only small personal wineries exist in the Emerald Isle. Time to reconsider ... what was an easily-drunk, well accepted wine-like substance in Ireland, excluding beer and whiskey? The answer was loud and clear - Baileys Irish Cream!

Baileys first became my non-wine drink of choice while visiting Ireland in 1997. The only way for me to keep up with the men chugging down Irish whiskey was to drink small glasses of Baileys. That point has been hammered home to me on subsequent visits. Many wine-drinking friends have come forth to admit this love.

Grab a glass, pour some over ice, and learn more about Baileys!

First off, what is Baileys and how did it get started? Baileys is a relatively recent invention. For decades Englishmen had been drinking a mixture of Scotch and milk to help with ulcers. The problem in pre-mixing this concoction was that soon it would curdle into a clump that could be used as an anchor. Baileys biggest obstacle during development was to find stabilizing ingredients which would allow the drink to keep its great taste, but also help it stay creamy and smooth for a length of time.

The stabilizers they created are, of course, a Big Secret. All we know for sure is that Baileys blends fresh dairy cream, Irish whiskey, other spirits and natural flavors, including chocolate and coffee. The cream accounts for 50% of the final volume of Baileys, while the whiskey used in Baileys is a triple-distilled Irish pot still whiskey (Scotch whisky is normally double-distilled).

This magical combination was hit apon in 1974, and from that small start Bailey's now uses 1/3 the total manufacturing milk in Ireland!

Baileys, with its Irish charm, was a hit in all lands. There are now 1,000 glasses of Baileys drunk every minute of every day. Baileys is sold in 130 countries. Compare this to Sutter Home White Zinfandel, for a while the most popular wine on the planet, which at its peak sold 432 glasses a minute.

How about love and care for your 'Irish milk'? First off, don't refrigerate it! Refrigeration affects the taste and is highly discouraged by the makers. On the other hand, Baileys contains no preservatives or additives and so should be consumed within 6 months of opening the bottle. What a dilemma! The attached recipes should help with this. Sláinte!

Sláinte! is Gaelic for "To your health!" -
It's pronounced as if you slurred "It's a lawn chair!"

I adore Bailey's so much that I bought a set of glasses just for drinking Bailey's from. I got my hands on glass etching cream. You take a plastic stencil with the letters you want to create, stick them to the glass, then "paint" the glass etching cream into the openings. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then wash off. Voila! Your glass now has letters carved into it! For my Bailey's glasses I chose phrases such as "Bailey's" (go figure), "Add Ice", and so on. In this image, you can see my glass on the right, with the matching lowball volume on the left. So it's just right for a healthy serving. A traditional shot glass is in there too for comparison's sake.

Baileys Cocktail Glass

Bailey's Cocktail Recipes

Wine and Holidays
Wine in History


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