Kirkland Irish Cream Vs. Baileys: Which One Is Better?

Two bottles of Irish cream liqueur
Two bottles of Irish cream liqueur - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Shaken, stirred, or served on the rocks, Irish cream is the go-to tipple for those who like to end their evening on a sweet note. Though the drink as we know it was invented in London, Irish cream has come to define its namesake country by touting Ireland's reputation for producing both world-class dairy products and top-shelf whiskeys. In fact, it's this blend of simple yet quality ingredients that gives Irish cream its distinctive flavor and staying power.

Perhaps the most well-known brand of this sweet spirit, Baileys Irish Cream sweetens the pot with chocolate and vanilla notes that bring an extra richness to the classic sip. While Baileys is certainly the most popular bottle, having sold more than 1 billion bottles since its inception, there are plenty of other brands offering Irish cream's rich sweetness, including Costco's ever-popular Kirkland label. While you can certainly make your own Irish cream at home, swinging by the liquor store to buy a quality bottle is just so much easier. We decided to pit these Irish spirits head to head to decide once and for all which one is better for your St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

Taste Test 1: Baileys Irish Cream

Bottle and tasting cup of Baileys
Bottle and tasting cup of Baileys - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Despite the storied history of its main ingredients, Baileys Irish Cream is a fairly new invention. The now-famous sip was developed in 1973 by a pair of advertising partners tasked with creating a new alcoholic drinks brand for export on behalf of the Irish branch of International Distillers & Vintners. The duo looked to Ireland's most famous exports for inspiration, mixing Jameson Irish Whiskey and cream in a blender to create something... entirely undrinkable. After some trial and error (and the addition of Cadbury Powdered Drinking Chocolate), the pair had come up with the basic formula for what would become Baileys Irish Cream.

Thanks to its enduring popularity, procuring a bottle of Baileys was simple enough. The bottle retails for anywhere between $35 and $50 depending on whether you hit up a large retailer or a local liquor store. While the shelf-stable sip doesn't need to be refrigerated before opening, there's just something offputting about a creamy drink served at room temperature. After chilling overnight, a glass was poured and consistency checked. The drink appeared thinner than expected for a cream-based tipple though the scent certainly packed a punch with its whiskey-forward nose and underlying caramel notes. Upon sipping, the first thing I noticed was the creamy texture and a hint of sweetness. The warmth from the whiskey flooded in shortly after, punctuated by notes of cocoa and vanilla. The flavors were fairly balanced, though the bite from the whiskey felt a touch too dominant.

Taste Test 2: Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur

Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur
Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

While no one knows for sure who really makes Costco's alcohol products, I'd bet my bottom dollar that Baileys is involved with the production of Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur. The spirits are remarkably similar, though I could detect a few small differences.

Upon initial inspection, the Kirkland sip had a slightly thicker consistency that coated the side of the glass more thoroughly than Baileys. On the olfactory front, Costco's contender certainly smelled sweeter with more subtle whiskey notes. Taste followed suit, providing a much smoother and well-balanced experience. The spirit was creamy and sweet with light smoky notes peeping through from the whiskey. The vanilla flavor was much more subtle in the Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur, which this writer tended to prefer. The Kirkland brand allowed the natural vanilla flavors of the whiskey to shine through with a touch of sugar added to elevate its sweetness and mellow out the alcohol, though the cocoa notes were noticeably absent.

The most notable difference between the two bottles is in price point. Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur retails at a double take-inducing $17.99 for a 1.75-liter bottle. Talk about a wallet-friendly way to liven up your St. Patrick's Day (or any day) celebrations.

The Verdict

Bailey's and Kirkland Irish cream liqueur
Bailey's and Kirkland Irish cream liqueur - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

While both Baileys Irish Cream and Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur each have their strengths and weaknesses, Kirkland edged out its more famous contender for a few reasons. Kirkland's version was noticeably creamier than its counterpart with a more balanced flavor that would play well with other spirits in a sweet cocktail or dessert without bringing in an overbearing alcoholic bite.

That being said, Kirkland's Irish cream lacked the hint of cocoa for which Baileys is known and loved. Baileys also boasts a more whiskey-forward flavor that may be preferred by fans of the brown spirit. While it ultimately comes down to personal taste, we felt that Kirkland's well-rounded flavor profile placed it ahead of its name-brand competitor.

But the true deciding factor here was the price point. Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur retails for nearly a third of the cost of a bottle of Baileys, which likely implies that you're paying more for brand recognition than anything else. While Baileys is certainly a liquor cabinet staple, Kirkland hits all the same high notes at a fraction of the cost.

How To Use Irish Cream In Cocktails

Pouring Baileys Irish cream
Pouring Baileys Irish cream - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Regardless of which brand of Irish cream you choose, there's no shortage of ways to use it. The simplest way to incorporate Irish cream into your cocktail repertoire is with a classic Irish coffee. Add a splash of Baileys, Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur, or whichever brand you have on hand into your after-dinner cup of Joe for a spirited end to your evening. For an even sweeter treat, swap out the caffeine for hot chocolate crowned with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Thanks to its fairly mellow flavor, Irish cream plays well with a variety of other liqueurs like Kahlua and vodka. This trio works its boozy magic in a wide array of after-dinner drinks ranging from a twist on the Dude's favorite white Russian to fancier fare like an espresso martini or homemade mudslide cocktail. While any of these delightful drinks would please a crowd, there's really only one tipple that suits St. Patrick's Day — other than green beer, of course. Blending three of Ireland's most popular alcoholic exports, the controversially named Irish Car Bomb (also known as an Irish slammer) is a rich mix of Guinness, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and Baileys Irish Cream that's strong enough to have you seeing green.

How To Bake With Irish Cream

Slices of no-bake Baileys cheesecake
Slices of no-bake Baileys cheesecake - Gunta Zagare/Shutterstock

With its rich consistency, cocoa notes, and vanilla-tinged sweetness, Irish cream works wonders in just about any dessert recipe that calls for cream. If you're new to the world of boozy desserts, try whetting your whistle with an easy Irish coffee affogato. This simple treat is really nothing more than a grown-up ice cream sundae made with vanilla ice cream, a cold brew, and a splash of Irish cream liqueur. Serve as is or toss into a blender for an indulgent Irish coffee milkshake.

If you're feeling a little bolder, you could try adding a splash of Baileys to whipped cream or buttercream for a boozy twist on frosting, or whip up an easy Irish cream fondue by simply stirring the spirit into melted chocolate and serving with fresh fruit for dipping. Classic chocolate chip cookies enjoy a rich "je ne sais quoi" when you add a splash of Irish cream to your dough. You can even enjoy the creamy goodness of Irish cream in impressive assembled desserts without having to turn on your oven — think no-bake cheesecake or Baileys-infused tiramisu. Even brunch favorites benefit from a small dose of boozy deliciousness now and then. Impress your guests with a very grown-up French toast elevated with Irish cream, best served with Irish coffee, of course.

The Methodology

Baileys and Kirkland Irish cream liqueur
Baileys and Kirkland Irish cream liqueur - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Baileys is certainly the most famous bottle of Irish cream on the market, but Costco is known (and beloved) for its sensational store-brand products, including liquor. I wanted to find out for ourselves if Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur could measure up to classic Baileys by conducting a simple taste test.

To ensure a level playing field, both bottles were refrigerated overnight, shaken before serving, and tried straight up. Sips were graded on flavor with questions like; is it balanced? Is it too whiskey- or cream-heavy? Are there any underlying flavors? I also looked at the creaminess and scent — smell plays into the taste, after all — to determine which Irish cream reigns supreme.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.