Think of sweet, decadent cream liqueurs as the Halloween candy of the spirits world. Grown-ups have a sweet tooth too, and cream liqueurs are one of our favorite ways to indulge, whether slipped into coffee or sipped over ice.
No wonder Bailey’s Irish Cream is the best-selling liqueur in the world, according to stats compiled by International Wine & Spirit Research. Still, cream liqueurs get a bad rap. They don’t have the swagger of whiskey or the sophistication of bitter amaros, and they rarely make an appearance before the dessert menu is presented.
Might that be poised to change? A number of these liqueurs offer remarkably complex flavors, like Sōmrus Indian Cream Liqueur, with its refreshing mix of exotic spices and rosewater; and Averna Cream Liqueur, which evokes its namesake herbal Italian apéritif.
However, most cream liqueurs embrace their dessert-like nature—and a pair of rum-based treats illustrate the allure. Kringle Cream liqueur, a rum-based liqueur from Wisconsin, pays homage to the kringle—the state’s beloved round pastry (the name originates from the Old Norse word kringla, meaning ring or circle). It’s made by craft distiller Death’s Door Spirits using Wisconsin cream (natch) and Don Q rum.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum Cream, a sweet new entry this fall from singer Kenny Chesney’s rum line. Trying a sample of this coconut-creamy spiced rum, a friend drained his glass and blurted, “This stuff is like crack!”
I might not have used that exact phrasing, but it certainly underscores the point: these dreamy cream liqueurs can generate the same joyful, unrestrained enthusiasm once reserved for a prize Halloween candy haul.
94 Sōmrus Indian Cream Liqueur (USA; SomPriya Fine Spirits, New York, NY). This unusual rum-based liqueur hints at exotic cardamom, almond and rosewater. It’s creamy but light, and would be a palate-cleansing way to end a richly spiced meal. The ornate gold and red bottle is an eye-catcher, too. Sip it or try the producer’s recommendation to serve frozen into a “kulfsicle.”
abv: 13% Price: $25
92 300 Joules Lemon Infusion (USA; Big Still Liquors, Clifton, NJ). Created by a cardiologist, the name refers to the units of energy used to shock a patient’s heart back into rhythm. This pale yellow liqueur offers an appealing fresh lemon peel fragrance and mild lemon-curd flavor. The best feature is that it retains a light freshness.
abv: 13.4% Price: $25
92 Kringle Cream (USA; Nordic Distillers, Middleton, WI). The name isn’t a Christmas reference. Rather, a kringle is a hand-rolled Danish pastry filled with fruit, nuts and spices and topped with icing. This superrich liqueur combines the flavor of the pastry with Wisconsin cream. Reminiscent of milk punch, it’s creamy white, with slightly nutty, butterscotchy notes. Sub it for cream in your coffee at dessert. Best Buy.
abv: 15% Price: $20
91 1921 Crema de Tequila Mexico (Mexico; Casa 1921, San Antonio, TX). Though this cream liqueur is Tequila-based, you’d never know it. Instead, you might guess this was a smooth latte, with its tan hue and coffee-tinged aroma and flavor, finishing with just a flicker of cinnamon. Presented in a 1921 replica package.
abv: 15% Price: $30
91 Fennelly’s Irish Cream (Ireland; W.J. Deutsch & Sons–Blue Division, White Plains, NY). This whiskey-based treat looks and smells just like boozy chocolate milk. On the palate, the subtle flavor suggests mocha cut with cream. It strikes just the right balance between sweet creaminess and alcohol to cut the richness. Best Buy.
abv: 17% Price: $14
91 Tolon-Tolon Macadamia Nut Cream (Spain; W.J. Deutsch & Sons–Blue Division, White Plains, NY). Rich and thick, this tan-hued liqueur has lots of bold nutty flavor and pleasingly creamy texture. Consider mixing with raspberry cordial for an old-school “nuts & berries” cocktail or pour over fresh berries. Best Buy.
abv: 17% Price: $18
90 Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum Cream (USA; Fishbowl Spirits, Nashville, TN). Part of singer Kenny Chesney’s rum line, this unusual rum-based cream liqueur has an enticing coconut and spice aroma, with a stronger hit of cardamom emerging on the palate. The mild coconut-milk effect would lend itself to tropical drinks. Best Buy.
abv: 15% Price: $19
90 Vermont Ice Maple Crème (USA; Boyden Valley Spirits, Cambridge, VT). Creamy and lush, but not too thick, this liqueur offers bold maple sugar aromatics, but pulls back on the palate. Easy sipping.
abv: 15% Price: $28
89 Averna Cream Liqueur (Italy; Domaine Select, New York, NY). Though it lacks the bracing bitterness that makes Averna so refreshing, this new cream liqueur still has faint herbal scent reminiscent of the amaro. The resemblance ends there: it’s slightly sweet and resembles milky coffee in appearance and flavor, with a hint of nutmeg spice.
abv: 17% Price: $20
89 Brady’s Irish Cream Liqueur (Ireland; Castle Brands, NY). Made using single-malt Irish whiskey, this full-bodied, creamy liqueur has an enticing coffee-and-milk aroma and flavor, with a modest but welcome whiskey note on the finish.
abv: 17% Price: $10
89 Gioia Luisa Lemoncello Crème (Italy; Red Sea Import Company, Princeton, MN). Made with Sorrento lemons and Holland cream, this bright-yellow cream liqueur is light and fresh, from its lemon-peel scent to the lemon-curd flavor and balanced sweetness. It has less alcohol than Gioia’s regular limoncello, and both seem like refreshing ways to end a meal.
abv: 17% Price: $25
89 The Irishman Superior Irish Cream Liqueur (Ireland; Palm Bay Spirits, Port Washington, NY). This whiskey-based liqueur has a bold, pleasant mix of coffee, cocoa and cream, plus a slight whiskey hit on the finish. It’s not too thick, not too strong, and goes down easy.
abv: 17% Price: $16
88 Alize Coco Pineapple (France; Kobrand Corporation, New York, NY). Made with a base of French vodka, this seems styled as a tropical drink shortcut. It’s thin and milky in the glass, with a sweet, piña colada aroma. On the palate, the pineapple flavor dominates, leaving mostly coconut flavor on the finish. Easy drinking.
abv: 20% Price: $20