Bailey’s is one of Ireland’s most successful exports, and it was created in 1973 by a team of experts hired specifically to create a spirit that would become Ireland’s most valuable alcohol. Funnily enough, this prized liquor was not created by an Irish but by two Englishmen and a South African.
Today, the brand’s Dublin facility produces and packages more than 80 million bottles of Baileys per year, which are exported to 180 countries worldwide. America is the company’s most important international customer, importing more Baileys than any other country.
This brings us to the question — is Bailey’s vegan? Except for Baileys Almande, which has been discontinued, the other varieties of Baileys are not vegan because they contain milk derivatives.
What Is Baileys, Exactly?
Baileys is a liqueur made with Irish whiskey, cream, and cocoa. It was created in 1973 and quickly became the best-selling liqueur in the world.
In addition to Baileys Original Irish Cream, year-round offerings also include Baileys Salted Caramel, Baileys Espresso Creme, Baileys Chocolate Cherry, and Baileys Vanilla Cinnamon.
The liqueur is also available in seasonal Baileys Pumpkin Spice and vegan Baileys Almande Almond Milk flavors. Other new products include a limited-edition Baileys Strawberries & Cream, Baileys Chocolat Luxe, and Baileys Dulce de Leche, which is only available in Mexico.
The original Baileys is sweet and milky, with notes of vanilla and chocolate, and a hint of the fruitiness found in Irish whiskey as a finishing note.
When compared to 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) spirits such as whiskey, rum, vodka, and gin, Baileys is relatively low in alcohol with 17% ABV.
So, Is Baileys Vegan?
Unlike most products regulated by the FDA, alcoholic beverages do not have nutritional labeling because they are regulated by a different federal agency called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which does not require nutritional labeling.
It’s an old story, but it makes determining whether a spirit like Baileys is vegan extremely difficult. There will be no ingredients to scan if there is no nutritional labeling. This is inconvenient, but it is also the reason Barnivore is such a valuable resource because they contact companies directly to obtain information, allowing us to determine which alcoholic beverages are vegan.
Fortunately, alcohol companies are still obliged to mention whether their products contain any allergens, so you can still figure out whether or not they contain any milk or milk derivatives.
Baileys uses a lot of milk to make its creamy liqueurs; in fact, they use more than 250 million liters of Irish whole milk each year. According to a 2015 report from Merrion Street, an Irish government news service, the milk is sourced from 40,000 dairy cows on 1,500 Irish farms.
So, although Baileys did have Baileys Almand which was technically vegan, it’s still not a vegan-friendly brand as it contributes heavily to the exploitation of cows due to the heavy use of milk.
What Does Baileys Almand Contain?
Baileys Almand was originally non-vegan because it was made with ingredients such as honey and beeswax, however, they eventually reformulated the recipe to make it 100% vegan.
According to Baileys, it is made with almond milk, almond essence, cane sugar, purified water, and real vanilla, all of which are vegan-friendly.
With that being said, Baileys Almand is no longer available through their official website (or even through big retailers such as Amazon or Ocado). It seems that it has been discontinued, which means that Baileys no longer has a vegan-friendly variety available.
Who Owns Baileys?
Baileys is owned by Diageo, a British multinational beverage alcohol company that operates in more than 180 countries and produces in more than 140 sites worldwide.
In addition to Baileys, Diageo also owns brands such as Smirnoff, Guinness, Captain Julio, Don Julio, and other hundreds of brands that you’re probably able to recognize.
This being said, Diageo is not a particularly ethical company, not only because it produces a vast array of drinks containing animal byproducts, but because it also wields disproportionate influence by virtue of its sheer size, affecting the public policy on issues such as alcohol, environment, and labor regulation.
In Africa, Diageo became a partner of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which claimed it would lift 50 million people in Africa out of poverty in 2022.
But according to a 2015 ActionAid report, the scheme will benefit multinational corporations at the expense of small-scale farmers and is likely to exacerbate poverty and inequality in Africa.
The New Alliance provides aid money from wealthy countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as assistance to large corporations interested in investing in the African agricultural sector. In exchange, African countries must change their land, seed, and trade policies to benefit big business.
In other words, the New Alliance makes it easier for large corporations to seize African land and prevent farmers from breeding, saving and exchanging seeds, thereby heavily promoting chemical fertilizers and pesticides, increasing farmers’ risk of debt while also harming the environment and farmers’ health.
Outside of these large corporations, no one benefits; in fact, the harm done to small farmers and their families is exacerbated, as is typical. One could say that consuming Baileys or any other alcoholic beverage belonging to this big corporation is the same as contributing to the downfall of average hard-working people in emerging economies while the elites keep filling their pockets.
Make Vegan Baileys At Home
If you miss taking a sip of Bailey’s and would like to have something closely similar, you can always attempt to make vegan Baileys at home, which might not be as complicated as it seems.
The Simple Vegan Blog by Iosune is a blog with hundreds of different vegan recipes, including one of vegan Baileys which you can prepare with just five ingredients.
According to Iosune, the author, you only need Jameson Irish Whiskey (80 ml), strong coffee or espresso (60 ml), vanilla extract (1 tbsp), full-fat coconut milk (400 ml), and agave or maple syrup (60 ml).
Once you gather all the ingredients, you can add them to a blender and blend for about 1 or 2 minutes until it gets pretty smooth. The author also recommends serving it chilled or with some ice.
4 Vegan Alternatives to Baileys
Finding an alternative to Baileys is near impossible as there are no brands that manage to replicate its flavor; however, there is a world of liqueurs beyond Baileys and you can certainly find great vegan alternatives.
Here are 4 vegan alternatives to Baileys:
- Licor 43 Horchata
Licor 43 Horchata is a delectable combination of Mediterranean flavors such as real vanilla, tiger nuts, citrus fruits, and spices. It skips over dairy milk by including almond milk.
This light creamy liqueur is inspired by a traditional Valencian horchata recipe, but Licor 43 has added a mouthwatering twist by incorporating sweet citrusy flavors from Mediterranean influences to create a truly delicious blend.
Whilst this creamy liquor is not meant to replicate the flavor of the original Baileys, it’s probably the closest thing you might have to Baileys Almade, the discontinued vegan liqueur Baileys once sold.
- Bom Bom
Bom Bom, an award-winning beverage brand, offers two sweet, creamy, but dairy-free beverages. Its “cream” liqueur, Nilli Vanilli, is a vanilla cookie-flavored blend of Caribbean rum and almond milk. Fully Baked – its other product – is the market’s first hemp milk cream liqueur, which was inspired by Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream flavor, so the beverage is said to taste like brownies and cookies.
- Besos de Oro
Besos de Oro is a vegan brand that is based in Spain, although it was created accidentally by Durham County native Peter Smith when making his wife a drink.
Tiger nuts and brandy are used to make this dairy-free liqueur. It has two main flavors: classic and chocolate. The company was inspired by traditional Spanish horchata, a creamy beverage made from tiger nuts, for its product.
- Marks & Spencer Coconut & Chocolate Liqueur
Marks & Spencer first introduced this festive vegan liqueur in 2017, and it became quite popular among its customers. The dairy-free cream liqueur is made in Northern Ireland and features a chocolate and coconut cream blend. Some people claim it tastes exactly like Baileys but we haven’t tested it to find out.
Unfortunately, as a creamy liqueur, Baileys uses dairy cream as it gives the drink its creamy texture.
At some point, Baileys did introduce a vegan liqueur called Baileys Almande but it seems it was discontinued in Autumn 2021 as there’s no way to purchase it on the Baileys website (or other popular retailers).
If you want to have a drink that might taste similar to Baileys, you have a couple of options— either make your homemade version of Baileys (using vegan ingredients), or you can perhaps try one of the four alternatives we’ve shared with you in the section above.
Whilst they won’t be exact replicas of Baileys, you might find a suitable substitute or one that you may even like better!