Tax-free Travel guide to cream liqueurs
Cream liqueurs are the guilty secret of the drinks world, especially for men.What macho man would admit to his friends he liked the odd tot of Baileys in front of an open fire when the evenings start to get a little chilly? What a ridiculous notion, yet the truth is that there aren’t many of us out there who haven’t tried (and secretly enjoyed) a cream liqueur at some point in our lives.
Cream liqueurs are the liquid equivalent of a big, warm hug. They are reassuringly delicious not just in the winter months when most of them are purchased, but also in the summer over lots of ice or poured liberally over ice cream. And if you are feeling a little daring, cream liqueurs can be enjoyed as a cocktail in kitsch classics such as the Flaming B52 or the risqué sounding Slippery Nipple and Screaming Orgasm.
The cream liqueur revolution really took off in 1974. In the era of long hair and flares a team of white-coated Irish boffins finally hit on a way of mixing cream and alcohol without turning the result into a sour, lip-puckering mess. Rumour has it they called their triumphant creation ‘Baileys’ after a Dublin pub they used to meet in.
It proved a massive hit and now sells over 6.5m cases worldwide and keeps some 40,000 Irish cows extremely busy all year round. Indeed, it’s probably true that if Baileys disappeared tomorrow, so would most of Ireland’s dairy industry.
Anyway, Baileys is one of the most highly visible spirit brands at airport shops. Not only will you find the original, but a growing family of flavours. These include Hazelnut, Coffee, Mint, Crème Caramel and the latest innovation, Orange Truffle. How much you think of any of these flavours adds anything to what is already a delicious product is down to your personal taste. What we would say, however, is that these new flavours make great gifts for Baileys lovers as they tend to be far less readily available in domestic markets.The path that Baileys trail-blazed has of course been followed by an army of imitators, many of them claiming Irish provenance and featuring an O’ somewhere on the bottle label. Some of the more widely available Irish brands include Carolans, Saint Brendan’s, Feeney’s and Sheridan’s. We particularly like Coole Swan and if you are lucky enough to spot a bottle on your travels, grab one. Its use of real double cream and genuine Irish single-malt whiskey really marks it our from the rest.
Moving away from Ireland you will find many other cream liqueurs with other spirit bases. For instance, over in the Caribbean you will discover plenty of rum-based creams. We particularly like Cruzan Rum cream from St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, and Sangster’s Original Jamaican rum cream liqueur. Both are excellent in coffee, or added to your favourite ice-cream dessert.
We can’t leave out Europe in our tour of the world’s great cream liqueurs, of course. Mozart Gold Chocolate Cream Liqueur, which is widely available at Austrian airports, might seem like a cheap tourist nic nac with its dinky, foil-wrapped bottle. Yet the brand is of excellent quality and a real favourite with bartenders. It has also won several awards. Oh, there is a white chocolate version too.
Over the border into Germany we go and into the spotlight comes the toffee-flavoured Dooley’s cream liqueur. This vodka-based liqueur made a name for itself as a shooter enjoyed by younger adults but it is also makes for a rather yummy grown-up milkshake and like most other cream liqueurs, works very well as an indulgent dessert topping.From Germany to exotic South Africa and the distinctive Amarula, which sells crate loads at airports all over the world. The main ingredient of this liqueur is the thick-skinned yellow fruit of the Marula tree, which elephants are rather partial to apparently. It’s also known as the “marriage tree” as the fruit is claimed to have aphrodisiac powers.
We won’t make any comment on that claim naturally, but Amarula has a fruity smoothness to it you won’t find with other cream liqueurs. It’s definitely to be tried either neat, on ice or in any number of Amarula cocktails.
Before we take our leave, a quick note about storage. The makers of Baileys say it can be drunk up to two years after purchase and it will still taste good. Other brands are less specific, but a good rule of thumb is to keep your opened bottle in the fridge and drink it within three months.
If you are a true cream liqueur fan, that shouldn’t be too difficult!