How long does an unopened bottle of cream liqueur last?

Cream liqueurs like Baileys Irish Cream are shelf-stable products that can last for years if properly stored. An unopened bottle of Baileys has a recommended shelf life of 2 years from the day it was produced. However, Baileys and other cream liqueurs can typically last much longer than that if stored properly.

What is the Shelf Life of Unopened Baileys?

According to Diageo, the manufacturer of Baileys, an unopened bottle has a recommended shelf life of 24 months from the day it was produced. This shelf life information is printed on the neck label of every bottle. For example, if a bottle has a “drink by” date of July 2025, that means it will stay fresh for 24 months after being produced in July 2023.

However, the 2 year shelf life is simply a recommendation. In reality, Baileys has a much longer shelf life than that if it remains sealed and stored properly. Many people report enjoying bottles of Baileys 5, 10 or even 20 years after the “drink by” date with no issues.

How to Tell if an Unopened Bottle of Baileys Has Gone Bad

Because the shelf life is just a recommendation, the only way to truly determine if a bottle of unopened Baileys has gone bad is to evaluate its appearance, aroma and flavor. Here are signs that a sealed bottle of Baileys may have spoiled:

  • Discoloration or curdling – Fresh cream liqueur should be uniform in color. If the liqueur has taken on a brownish hue or become lumpy or curdled, it has gone bad.
  • Off aromas – Baileys should smell sweet and chocolaty. If you smell sourness or alcohol when you open the bottle, it’s no longer fresh.
  • Off flavors – Spoiled Baileys will taste unpleasantly sour or bitter when you sip it. It should taste sweet and creamy.
  • Leaking bottle – If the bottle has leaked and air has gotten inside, the Baileys will deteriorate much faster.

If you don’t notice any of these issues upon opening, the Baileys is likely still fine to consume, even years past its “best by” date.

Proper Storage for Maximum Shelf Life

To get the longest shelf life out of your unopened Baileys (or any cream liqueur), proper storage is key. Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life:

  • Store in a cool, dark place – Light and heat speed up deterioration of the dairy products in Baileys. Keep it in a place like a pantry or wine cellar away from direct light.
  • Avoid temperature fluctuations – Big swings in temperature can affect shelf life. Don’t store Baileys in places like a garage where temps fluctuate greatly.
  • Store upright – The cork must remain moist to seal properly. Storing the bottle upright prevents the cork from drying out.
  • Check seal periodically – Make sure the cap or cork remains tight. If stored on its side too long, it can begin to leak and spoil.

Does Refrigeration Extend the Shelf Life?

Refrigerating an unopened bottle of Baileys is not required and has minimal impact on extending the shelf life. The main benefit of refrigeration is slowing down any separation of ingredients that may occur over a very long storage time. If you plan to keep an unopened bottle longer than 2-4 years, refrigeration may help extend the shelf life slightly longer.

Does Freezing Extend the Shelf Life?

Freezing is not recommended for unopened bottles of Baileys. The expansion and contraction of freezing/thawing can cause leakage by breaking the bottle seal. If consumed very soon after thawing, frozen Baileys is generally safe, though some separation may have occurred. But freezing and thawing will shorten the remaining shelf life compared to proper refrigerator storage.

How Long Does Opened Baileys Last?

Once opened, Baileys has a much shorter shelf life. According to the manufacturer, an opened bottle should be consumed within 6 months if refrigerated. Here are some tips for getting the longest shelf life out of opened Baileys:

  • Store in the refrigerator – Keeping Baileys refrigerated once opened is critical.
  • Seal the bottle tightly – Secure the cap tightly to prevent air getting in.
  • Keep alcohol level high – Top off with Irish whiskey if some has evaporated to prevent spoilage.
  • Use a Baileys saver – These pumps remove air from the bottle to prolong freshness.

If stored properly in the fridge, opened Baileys can sometimes last up to a year before going bad.

How to Tell if Opened Baileys Has Gone Bad

Opened Baileys will show similar signs of spoilage as unopened bottles, but deterioration happens much faster. Signs your opened Baileys has gone off include:

  • Change in color or texture – It may become darker, separated, or lumpy looking.
  • Sour odor and taste – Fresh Baileys smells and tastes sweet. Sourness is a sign it’s gone off.
  • Mold – Any fuzzy growth or mold spots means it’s spoiled.
  • Alcohol evaporation – If it smells strongly boozy, too much alcohol has evaporated, leaving behind sour dairy products.

Can Baileys Be Frozen Once Opened?

You can freeze opened Baileys to prolong its shelf life. To help preserve texture and prevent separation, mix in 2 tablespoons of corn syrup per 1 cup Baileys before freezing. Frozen Baileys will keep for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Can Expired Baileys Make You Sick?

Consuming Baileys that has gone bad is unlikely to make you seriously ill, but it can definitely cause some stomach upset. Some possible issues from drinking spoiled Baileys include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Unpleasant taste that lingers in your mouth

These effects may range from mild to severe depending on just how far past its prime the Baileys is. At the first signs of spoilage upon opening, it’s safest to discard the Baileys rather than drinking it.

Can You Cook or Bake With Expired Baileys?

You can cook or bake with Baileys past its “best by” date if it has been properly stored and still smells and tastes normal. The heat from cooking or baking will evaporate most of the alcohol and help inhibit microorganism growth. Some recipes that work well with older Baileys include:

  • Baileys cheesecake
  • Chocolate Baileys cupcakes
  • Baileys glazed ham
  • Baileys Irish cream fudge
  • Baileys hot chocolate

Avoid using Baileys that has separated, smells sour, or shows any other signs of spoilage. Consuming spoiled dairy products can still make you sick even used in cooking.

How Long Does Unopened RumChata Last?

RumChata is another popular cream liqueur with a shelf life similar to Baileys. According to the manufacturer, an unopened bottle of RumChata has a shelf life of 1 year from the production date. However, like Baileys, RumChata can often last 2-4 years stored properly.

Refrigeration is not needed for unopened bottles. Stored at room temp in a cool, dark place, unopened RumChata can maintain quality for several years past the “best by” date on the bottle.

How Long Does Unopened Amarula Cream Last?

Amarula is a cream liqueur made from the African marula fruit. Per the manufacturer, unopened bottles have a 36 month shelf life from the production date. The shelf life of unopened Amarula can be extended by 1-2 years through proper storage conditions – cool, dark place at stable room temperature.

How Long Does Unopened Chambord Last?

Chambord is a raspberry liqueur, but it does contain dairy so it has a similar shelf life to cream liqueurs. According to the makers of Chambord, it will stay fresh and retain optimal flavor for about 2 years after bottling. As long as the bottle remains well sealed, Chambord can often last over 5 years stored in a cool, dark place.

How Long Does Unopened Irish Mist Last?

Irish Mist is a liqueur blending Irish whiskey and honey, giving it a shelf life slightly longer than cream liqueurs. The manufacturer estimates Irish Mist has about a 3 year shelf life from bottling. Properly stored in a cool environment, unopened Irish Mist can last 5+ years before flavor and quality deterioration becomes noticeable.

Does Liqueur Go Bad Once Opened?

All liqueurs, including non-cream varieties like Chambord and Irish Mist, have much shorter shelf lives once opened. Exposure to oxygen starts the clock towards spoilage. Properly stored in the fridge, opened liqueurs typically last:

  • Cream liqueur – 6 months
  • Fruit liqueur – 1 year
  • Herbal/spice liqueur – 1-2 years
  • Coffee liqueur – 2 years

To help preserve opened liqueurs for maximum freshness:

  • Refrigerate after opening
  • Use a stopper to limit air exposure
  • Keep bottle upright to keep seal wet
  • Don’t transfer to a decanter, which exposes it to more air

How Long Does Homemade Cream Liqueur Last?

It’s possible to make your own homemade cream liqueur using basic ingredients like whiskey, heavy cream, and sugar. Homemade cream liqueurs have a shorter shelf life than mass produced commercial products due to lack of preservatives. Store bought distilled spirits also have lower moisture content for better preservation.

For maximum freshness and shelf life of homemade cream liqueurs:

  • Make 1-2 week supply at a time
  • Store in airtight container in the fridge
  • Add alcohol to 20% ABV or higher
  • Use ultra-pasteurized dairy products

With proper refrigeration, homemade cream liqueur will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks before quality deterioration is noticeable.


Cream liqueurs can remain drinkable long past their labeled shelf life if properly stored. An unopened bottle can often last years in a cool, dark place. Once opened, cream liqueurs should be refrigerated and consumed within 6 months. With care taken to limit air exposure, many liqueurs keep well over a year past their “best by” date.

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