The defining element of a cream liqueur is the use of dairy cream; the base alcohol can be whisk(e)y, rum, vodka or another distilled spirit.
Baileys Irish cream, launched only in 1975, is the best-known example of a cream liqueur but it is by no means the only one. Another well-known cream liqueur is Amarula Cream from South Africa, made from the distilled fruit of the marula tree.
The term 'cream liqueur' should not be confused with 'crème liqueur'. A crème liqueur focuses on a single flavour, such as mint (eg crème de menthe), blackcurrant (crème de cassis) or chocolate (crème de cacao).
If you like the flavour of cream liqueurs, experiment with various brands, particularly if making cocktails. Commercial cream liqueurs have a relatively low alcoholic strength, about 17 per cent alcohol by volume.
Commercial cream liqueurs have a fairly long shelf life, but do exercise caution with older, opened bottles. Store opened bottles in the fridge and consume within three months of opening, or according to the advice on the label.
Drink cream liqueurs over ice, in cocktails, or use it as a topping for ice cream. They can also be used to flavour cakes (such as cheesecakes) and other desserts. You can generally substitute one style or brand of cream liqueur for another, although the end flavour (but probably not the consistency) will vary as a result.
Article by Susan Low