Despite its name, Baileys isn’t an old Irish drink carrying centuries of tradition with it. The Irish Times says the cream liqueur was actually the brainchild of South African marketing specialist David Gluckman and Englishman Hugh Seymour-Davies, who created the drink in London, not Ireland. The pair were working on what Gluckman calls in the Irish Times the “Irish brief,” tasking the agency with inventing an alcoholic drink for export for International Distillers and Vinters (IDV). The brief didn’t contain many details beyond keeping the inclusion of Irish whiskey low, says the news site.
Baileys was born after Gluckman and Seymour-Davies mixed Jameson Irish Whiskey with cream and Cadbury’s drinking chocolate. The co-creator estimates in the article that the prototype mixture was around 25% alcohol by volume, similar to liqueurs like Tia Maria. The mixture was presented to IDV representative Tom Jago, he says, who liked it. In total, Gluckman also claims to have made around £3,000 ($3,800) from his creation.
There were further refinements to the recipe before Baileys eventually hit the shelves in the middle of 1973. It wasn’t an immediate success, but after some work on the branding, including the word “chocolate” being dropped from its name, Gluckman told the Times that the drink eventually gained a foothold three years later. According to current owners Diageo, the 2 billionth bottle was sold in 2019 (via The Spirits Business).