We set out on a dangerous mission: to build a better butterbeer. We searched through recipes! We gleaned truths from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! We scoffed at cream soda! And finally, just in time for a slew of winter holidays, we created and tested four drinks that just might set a new bar for fantasy-based beverages. But perhaps the truth can only be known once each and every one of you has created and tested these recipes? Click through for four of the yummiest—dare we say…magical?—concoctions we could hope to imbibe.
Only one thing is certain.
WE BLAME J.K. ROWLING FOR THE SUGAR HANGOVER WE STILL HAVE.
Now read on, gentle traveler, and join us for some serious DIY Hogsmeade shenanigans.
Experiment by Emmet Asher-Perrin:
There is more than one type of butterbeer in the Harry Potter series, and one of them comes in bottles and is clearly fizzy. Cream soda versions are not really my style, and I thought that the butterscotch flavor that butterbeer is meant to have would stand up just as well to… well, beer. I normally make a darker butterscotch for eggnog, but I found this recipe for a topping-style sauce from David Lebovitz and thought I’d try that one out because of the increase in cream, which would make the beer richer and more comforting.
I’m gluten-free due to a wheat allergy, so I had a gluten-free blonde ale for my initial run. But I wanted to see if the flavor would stand up to different types of beer on both the light and dark sides of the spectrum, so I got a non-gf one (Bell’s porter, if you’re curious) and had everyone try both. It works incredibly well as a butterbeer recipe, not terribly complicated and not oversweet either. The biggest problem is that it’s compulsively drinkable and can lead to downing more butterscotch than you intended in the long run.
1 batch of David Lebovitz’s butterscotch sauce
1 bottle of beer (light ales or dark beers go best)
Put 2-3 tablespoons of butterscotch sauce into a glass. Pour 6 ounces (half the bottle) into the glass. Mix them together with spoon until both components are thoroughly blended and a fluffy head forms on the beer. Drink to celebrate post-Quidditch win. Repour when glass is empty.
I straight-up said “This one’s MINE” about the porter version as soon as I tasted it. I’ve still got butterscotch sauce left over from my own recipe and I see no reason not to drink these for dessert for the next few weeks. —Molly
I haaaaate beer, yet I couldn’t stop drinking this? I want it every day? And I can’t imagine a better beverage to drink during a Quidditch match! —Leah
Definitely my favorite of the group for sheer resemblance and the fact that it lightened up the porter, which I’m not usually a fan of. Perfect for the winter, but I could also see it being a refreshing treat sitting outside in the summer. —Natalie
Vietnamese-style Butterbeer Macchiato
Experiment by Leah Schnelbach:
Of all the glorious foods in this world, if I had to choose a favorite it would be some form of coffee. Coffee ice cream, café au lait, coffee, black—I know it goes against the deep British-ness of Harry Potter to say so, but I’ll take coffee over ever other beverage, even a tea. So when we were concocting butterbeer recipes, my first thought was: is there a way I can make this…coffee? What I came up with is a sweet drink that can work either hot or cold: Vietnamese-style butterbeer coffee!
1 Tbsp Smitten Kitchen butterscotch recipe (significantly modified—see below!)
1-2 shots of Espresso
Generous scoop of whipped cream if desired
Create your butterscotch by melting 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, and adding ¼ cup of brown sugar, stirring to make your base. Ask your (fairly-compensated) house elf to slowly pour half a cup of sweetened condensed milk into the base while you stir. Once those three elements are combined, add salt to taste—personally, I used about ¼ teaspoon of large salt flakes because I prefer the complexity the salt adds.
Brew espresso (in whichever way you prefer—I used a stovetop Moka pot) and pour 1-2 shots into a glass.
Finally, if you want to top your macchiato with whipped cream combine 1 cup of whipping cream, 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla, then whip them up into soft peaks. (Because the butterscotch mixture is so sweet, I used slightly less sugar and vanilla that the recipe called for, and it worked well.)
Once all of your elements are ready, pour a heaping tablespoon of the condensed butterscotch into the shot of espresso. Now is where you have to make a choice: you can add whipped cream to the top, and then sip the drink so you can appreciate all three flavors separately. Or you can do what I did and stir the butterscotch mixture into the espresso to make the entire drink sweeter. I also chose to drink it hot, but you could allow it to cool slightly, and then pour over ice, if you prefer a cold drink.
Obviously there should be butterbeer coffee. Why didn’t anyone give me this before? With the sweetened condensed milk butterscotch, it’s kind of like Thai coffee and butterbeer had a baby. So tasty. —Emily
Finally, an answer for how to actually use up an entire can of condensed milk! I couldn’t stop sneaking swipes of this dulce de leche on its own, but combined with the coffee, it’s such a tasty mix of opposites. —Natalie
Caramel macchiatos were already my weakness. I’m doomed. —Molly
Experiment by Molly Templeton:
Despite having a wicked sweet tooth, I’m not huge on sugary drinks (excepting the occasional coffee-that’s-basically-candy, fine, yes, I have a small problem). And though Potterverse butterbeer is supposed to have just a teensy bit of alcohol, I figured the quickest way to get around the OMG SUGAR! aspect of a lot of the existing recipes I found was to turn it into a cocktail. I gave myself three rules: no butterscotch schnapps, no flavored vodka, and no cream soda.
As it turned out, I had just the thing for the beer part: a bottle of Pur Geist bierbrand, which is distilled from beer. This bottle has been on my liquor shelf for so long that it appears the manufacturer no longer offers it; now they offer hop-flavored whiskey, which would also do the trick. But this recipe is malleable in many ways: you could make it with any old whiskey, or with rum; you can add more or less butterscotch, to suit your own personal sweet tooth; you might add a bit of chile liqueur to give it a kick.
1 ½ ounces beer liqueur (or strong spirit of your choice)
¼ ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
a generous dollop of Smitten Kitchen’s butterscotch sauce*
¼ ounce lemon juice
1 egg white
*This stuff is thick and troublesome to measure; I used a heaping regular (not measuring) tablespoon, and drizzled as much as I could into the shaker.
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously, without ice, for as long as you can stand. (You want those eggs to foam up good.) Add a few ice cubes and shake until cold; strain into a coupe or the glass of your choice. Savor, and adjust the recipe for round two to suit your particular tastes.
Perfect holiday drink. Rich, creamy, full of interesting flavor combinations. That beer liqueur really comes through in a surprising way, and the egg white makes the whole thing nice and dense the way you expect butterbeer to be. —Emily
Finally, a holiday alternative to egg nog that’s delightfully geeky. The complexity of this blew me away, especially because the way it comes together is so simple and sweet. —Natalie
I WANT EIGHT OF THESE IMMEDIATELY. Seriously, this drink alone could launch an entire trend of speakeasy-style cocktail lounges in the wizarding world. —Leah
Experiment by Natalie Zutter:
In giving myself the challenge of making hot butterbeer that’s stomach-warming and feels-inducing without alcohol, I figured I had it set by turning to the corner of the Internet that would get that: mom blogs. But while I loved the idea of this recipe that incorporates butterscotch pudding, the execution left a lot to be desired. Maybe I missed a step or my ratios were off, but the pudding component wound up way too watery to stand up to the other flavors. So, I decided to use it as a springboard to reimagine comforting hot cocoa, but with butterscotch!
whole milk (however many mugs’ worth you’d like to make)
2 Tbsp butterscotch (I nabbed some of the Smitten Kitchen one that Molly had made, above!)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp cinnamon*
½ tsp ground ginger*
¼ tsp cardamom*
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp vanilla extract
whipped cream for garnish
*If you want to cut corners—if, like us, your local grocery store is charging $15/bottle for ground ginger—you can substitute pumpkin spice for these.
Steam milk in a saucepan at medium-low heat so it doesn’t scald. Mix in butterscotch, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, cayenne, and vanilla extract.
Stir until mixed and until it’s the desired warmth, then ladle into your favorite Potter- or book-themed mug. Top with whipped cream and drizzle some extra butterscotch over. Then go sit in your favorite chair, curl your legs under you, and take a big sip.
Butterbeer cocoa, without the cocoa! This drink was made to be sipped in front of a roaring fire with a well-worn novel in your other hand, and, if at all possible, a cat sleeping on your lap. —Leah
The most coziest. Just looking at it feels like fuzzy socks and roaring fire. —Molly
Amazing for when you feel like stepping up your winter hot cocoa game and doing something unexpected. The whipped cream topping is essential for making the whole drink feel like butterbeer. This one is more comforting than all the others. —Emily
There you go—four different ways to enjoy butterbeer this holiday season!
Photos by Sylas K Barrett
Originally published in Novemeber 2017