As the next Gaslight Theatre show “Henry Porter and the Sorcerer’s Secret” is almost upon us, I thought I’d drop some knowledge and a few recipes about a hotly contented topic: Butterbeer.
The drink Butterbeer made its first appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Ron and Hermione venture to Hogsmeade. Ron returns with “three foaming tankards of hot butterbeer.” The only description we have of it at this point is that when Harry drank it, “It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.”
The only other clues we get from the books are:
- it’s sold cold in bottles, or hot in tankards.
- The price is two sickles
- it has a very slight alcoholic content, and can get house elves in a drunk-like state.
If we look at world history, we can also find a real version of this drink: buttered beere – the earliest reference is from The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin, published in London in 1588, and is made thus:
Take three pintes of Beere, put fiue yolkes of Egges to it, straine them together, and set it in a pewter pot to the fyre, and put to it halfe a pound of Sugar, one penniworth of Nutmegs beaten, one penniworth of Cloues beaten, and a halfepenniworth of Ginger beaten, and when it is all in, take another pewter pot and brewe them together, and set it to the fire againe, and when it is readie to boyle, take it from the fire, and put a dish of sweet butter into it, and brewe them together out of one pot into an other.
Another old recipe for buttered beer, published by Robert May in 1664 from his recipe book The Accomplisht Cook (search for buttered beer), calls for liquorish root and anniseeds to be added.
Those of you interested in these above recipes may take heart: I’ve made them. Twice. And they taste……. well, let’s just be glad we no longer live in Tudor times. I mean, it’s a miracle anyone survived that era to begin with. Those of you thinking “Oh, I’ll just have a glass of water”, step to the left, because you’ve just lost a game of Oregon Trail and have died of Dysentery. People (even children) would drink something fermented or alcoholic – water wasn’t drunk because it wasn’t drinkable until filtration methods were adopted in the 1700’s – too much poo and other nasty gunk flowing into rivers and oceans at this point in our history. Trust me: If you want to know what the above recipe tastes like, just go and find a grungy shag carpet to lick.
Putting some distance between ourselves and the Food Network Chefs of the 1600’s, we arrive at the Harry Potter version of Butterbeer. Outside the novels and movies, J.K. Rowling said in an interview with Bon Appétit magazine that she imagines it “to taste a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch.” It took Executive Chef of Universal Parks and Resorts Steve Jayson three years and 15 tries to get the famous author’s approval. He also had to make it fit many people’s dietary requirements, knowing this would be one item practically every person through the gates would want to sample. It had to contain no dairy, and no alcohol – and at the request of the author, only pure sugar – no high fructose corn syrup.
If you do a quick search for Butterbeer recipies (go on, I’ll wait…) you’ll find too many that include dairy. And far too many that are not only bad for you, but could, if taken in the right quantity, make you very sick. (We all know no kid [or adult] will be able to stop at just ONE Butterbeer.)
Now, While I do love a good experiment, many of the recipes I came across were admittedly, from teenagers with limited knowledge of what drinking: an entire stick of butter, half a cup of butterscotch syrup or an entire liquified pint of ice cream, will do to your arteries (It tops out at 3504 calories, and 1700+ are fat. Make this and you won’t need to eat for four days.)
Other recipes call for the blender, and will be a good life lesson. You will quickly find out what happens when you pour carbonated soda into a blender and add ice cream (Hint: you ever shake a bottle of soda, open it and try, in vain, to put the cap back on?) Instead, I’m going to present a recipe you can make and enjoy multiple glasses of, without real harm to your system.
So without further adieu, or perhaps with further adieu if you’re that type of person, I present my guide to recreating the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Butterbeer.
Yes it’s tasty in a glass,
But please pick one with some class!
(Really – it’ll taste better in a fun glass/mug/goblet)
For the base drink:
Makes one glass. Scale up as necessary.
- Artificial Butter Flavoring.
- Artificial Rum flavoring
- A bottle of Cream Soda OR Ginger Beer (it’s non-alcoholic) that you enjoy. (Ginger beer?!? Yes. Hermione ordered her Butterbeer “and some ginger in mine” in HBP. The ginger gives it a warming kick. If you don’t like or can’t find Ginger Beer, you can always use a Microplane and add in 5-6 grates of ginger root – if you want.) Update: At the request of a friend who enjoyed this drink but felt it was too sweet to enjoy an entire glass: Instead of Cream Soda, try a nice Ginger Ale (I tried one with Vernor’s). It’s not nearly as sweet as the cream soda, and gives the drink a “This isn’t cream soda…it’s not 7-up.. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s GOOD!” taste.
1. Add 2-3 teaspoons of Butter flavoring, and 2-3 teaspoons of Rum flavoring to a glass and chill until ready to combine the drink. (You can also use 1/2 oz. of actual rum or Dekuyper Buttershots – it’s up to you and the alcohol laws where you live.)
2. Make the foamy topping – I’ll give you non-dairy, and dairy options. They’re both the same methods, apart from ingredients.
(This makes enough for about 4-6 glasses, and is lighter, texture-wise, than the dairy version):
In a large bowl, add:
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar OR white vinegar (either one helps it stabilize and fluff)
- dash of salt
Get out your hand mixer (3-4 minutes) or a whisk (about 10-15 minutes) and go to town. When you start seeing soft peaks form then you’ll add to the bowl:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1. You’ll want to beat until just slightly beyond soft peaks. (If you beat to the stiff peak stage, you won’t get a butterbeer mustache when you drink it.)
2. Mix in a few drops of Butter flavoring. Adding rum or buttershots will make it curdle.
You may choose to add a teaspoon of Vanilla extract at this point also, it adds a nice complexity, but is not necessary.
(This makes enough for about 4-6 glasses):
In a large bowl, add:
- 1 cup heavy cream
Get out your hand mixer (1-2 minutes) or a whisk (go out and buy a darn electric hand mixer, will you?) and go to town. When you start seeing soft peaks form then you’ll add to the bowl:
- 1 Tablespoon confectioners sugar
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- a drop of three of butter flavoring
Mix to incorporate. Do not overbeat or you’ll wind up with lumpy, whipped butter.
To complete the drink:
Remove your chilled glass from the fridge/freezer and add your cream soda/ginger beer.
While it’s fizzing, add a heaping spoonful of topping to the drink. There are two methods:
- The Wizarding World presents the drink with the topping floating on top, and the drink remaining clear.
- I like dunking the spoon all the way to the bottom and giving it a swirl. The carbonation will do the rest.
Now go fire up the blu-ray player or streaming download and watch the movies.
Or better yet – go grab one of the books and settle in to your favorite chapter.
But Wait! I hear you cry. What about HOT Butterbeer. Well.. you own a microwave, don’t you? Carefully warm up the soda base (it helps if it’s not been refrigerated) in 10 or 20 second spurts. When it’s at a temperature you are comfortable drinking, add your topping in the method described above.
“Wait, wait, stop. You’re going to put someone’s eye out…”
If you’ve noticed the Butterbeer in the films looks different from what’s served at WWoHP, good eye!
As Dumbledore said: “We’re in a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” What I’ve listed above is the easiest and fastest way to successful butterbeer. There is another way, if you have the time…
Deliciously Hot Butterbeer
Yield: About 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (the difference is the molasses content.)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, plus more to taste
1. Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
2. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine. This sauce will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge
For the Base drink: Adapted from The Roaming Kitchen
- 2 teaspoons butter flavor
- Optional: 5-6 grates fresh ginger
- a heaping 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For adults: up to 1 ounce dark rum or Buttershots
- 1 bottle or 1-1.5 cups Cream Soda or Ginger Beer
- grated nutmeg, to garnish
1. In a medium pot, over medium-low heat, add the butter flavor, grated ginger, the nutmeg, the light brown sugar, and the vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the cream soda or ginger beer to the pot, and lower the heat. Keep the pot on the stove just long enough for the liquid to heat through, and to impart the flavor of the ginger and vanilla, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Prepare your glasses. Add a spoonful of butterscotch to the bottom of each glass (adjust depending on personal sweetness preferences).
4. Fill each glass 2/3 full with the butterbeer. Stir to incorporate the butterscotch. Add your topping of choice, and a gentle dusting of nutmeg. Serve warm. (If left to cool, the butterbeer will separate a little; you can fix this by reheating and stirring.)
Next time, I’ll give you an easy recipe for Pumpkin Juice!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – one of my favorite of the films, notable for the washed-out look employed by director Alfonso Cuaron, who has stated: “Green is the only color I can understand” – take a look at ‘Great Expectations’ with Gwyneth Paltrow, as an example – the majority of the film uses a monotone green color scheme – but I digress..