Cream liqueurs are a wonderful thing. They come in so many flavors – cinnamon, chocolate, red velvet, lemon, and more – and can make some amazingly rich, dessert-like cocktails. But as they do contain a perishable ingredient, they’re a bit different from other liqueurs. Below is everything you need to know about the shelf life of cream liqueurs.
The Makeup Of Cream Liqueurs
So first let’s think about what a cream liqueur is. It is made of cream (real, fresh dairy) combined with some type of alcohol. The alcohol can be anything, but is often whiskey, rum, or vodka.
The alcohol acts as a preservative. It prevents the cream from going bad. Bottles with a higher alcohol content are going to be more shelf-stable than those with a lower alcohol content. This is measured as ABV (alcohol by volume), the percentage you see at the bottom of most bottles. What the percentage tells you is how much pure alcohol there is compared to other additives.
Should You Store Cream Liqueur In The Fridge Or Pantry?
Some people say a general rule for storing alcohol is that anything below a 15% ABV should go in the fridge, while anything above 15% will stay fresh in the pantry. (There are exceptions, like vermouth and bottled margaritas, which should be stored in the fridge after opening.)
The ABV of cream liqueurs varies widely. We’ve seen them anywhere from 13% to 19%. The ones with higher alcohol content (like Baileys Irish Cream, at 17%) will be fine in the pantry, even after opening. But you should be more cautious about those below the 15% mark. While the bottles themselves won’t always say refrigeration is necessary, you will definitely get a longer life out of them. Because it is possible for cream liqueurs to turn sour.
Basically, most cream liqueurs will be fine in the pantry or on bar cart, at least for a while. But for the lower ABV options, you can definitely get a longer life out of them if you keep them in the fridge. Of course, it’s possible the liqueur won’t even be around long enough to go bad! Some of them are pretty dang tasty.
No matter where you store them, it should always be out of direct sunlight. Sun is no good for alcohol.
How Long Do Cream Liqueurs Last?
Most cream liqueurs come with a “best by” date. But like almost anything, they’ll probably be fine beyond the date.
If your bottle has been opened and sitting in the pantry or on a shelf for 6 months, you should start thinking about using it up. If it’s been in the fridge, you should try to finish it off within a year.
Baileys is one cream liqueur, however, that boasts an incredibly long shelf life. The manufacturer apparently guarantees freshness for 2 years after the bottling date, no matter whether it’s been kept in the fridge or not. (Note: this used to appear on Baileys website, but has since been taken down. We’re not sure whether that means they’ve changed their guarantee.) It’s up to you whether you’d want to take that chance or not (we’d recommend playing it safe and not drinking 2-year-old opened cream liqueur!).
How Can You Tell If A Cream Liqueur Has Gone Bad?
If you notice an odd sour smell, or your liqueur has developed a more chunky texture, it’s time to throw it out. If you’re unsure, you can do a tiny taste test, and your tongue will usually suss out the truth.
Cream liqueur is incredibly versatile and can last a good long while, but it’s always good to play it safe, as spoiled cream does have the potential to make you sick. But odds are you’ll finish off that bottle before it even has the chance to.