When I was about 19 and in college, my mom and I were chatting on the phone one day when she told me about this amazing book she had been reading called Harry Potter. “It’s a children’s novel, but you would enjoy it. I like it!” She sent me a copy. Amused at the whimsy of an adult woman sending her adult child a children’s novel, I opened the pages with high expectations. I was not disappointed.
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
That’s got to be one of the best opening lines of a novel ever written. In just one sentence, we know all we really need to know about the Dursleys. The rest of the book just got better. I was hooked! My roommate was intrigued by my reading and soon, we were reading aloud to each other every chance we got. We plowed through the first two or three novels and pre-purchased the fourth book on new-fangled Amazon.
College kids who loved Harry Potter was a rarity back then. When the first of the films came out, we were in line for the first showing with several other movie-goers whose heads barely reached our shoulders. I remember, I wore a blue and gold jersey emblazoned with the word “Quidditch” that I bought in the boys’ department at Sears. Back then, we didn’t have the Daniel Radcliff and the rest to show us the world of Rowling’s imagination. We had only her words, and they took us away on a magical journey filled with new sights, sounds and tastes!
There were so many flavors we had never experienced yet somehow we almost remembered them, a vague familiarity and some universal understanding told us exactly what that tasted like.
No taste was as familiar yet foreign as Butterbeer.
What has become the signature drink of the Harry Potter world, was introduced to us in the third book, in a rather innocuous way:
Ron came back five minutes later, carrying three foaming tankards of hot butterbeer.
“Merry Christmas!” he said happily, raising his tankard.
Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.
That’s it. No description of the flavor, the level of sweetness, the undertones, the fragrance…
Yet it buried itself deep in our brains and wouldn’t leave. Butterbeer? Yes, I know it. Remind me, what does it taste like?
The Search for Butterbeer
Last year, on my daughter’s 11th birthday, we held a Harry Potter themed party, naturally. I scoured the internet for a suitable Butterbeer recipe.
The basic concept was this: Cream soda, butter flavoring, whipped cream topping.
Guys, that is just NOT going to cut it.
In their defense, butterbeer is served cold in bottles and hot in tankards. I think that would fit the cold variety, but not the hot.
It needed to be rich, complex, delicious, warming, and magical.
So I set out to create the perfect, hot butterbeer.
I gave thought to the types of flavors and aromas I expected in The Three Broomsticks.
I imagined what sort of flavors would be warming to “heat every bit” of you inside out. The first thing that came to mind was alcohol. Butterbeer most likely has a bit of alcohol in it. I’m not much of a drinker, and I know the target audience of Harry Potter is not so I chose to make this a non-alcoholic butterbeer, safe for your tiny tots.
I tried SIX different concoctions before I settled on one that was delicious and easy to replicate.
Since this is a creation of my imagination–inspired by the imagination of an author–it may not fit your imagined butterbeer. I encourage you to play around with the flavors until you find something that hits it right on the nose for you.
The Best Hot Butterbeer Recipe
To begin, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter with 1/4 C brown sugar and 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup in a large pot or sauce pan. Boil for two minutes.
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Stir in 1/2 C milk or half and half if you’re feeling decadent.
Whisk to combine
- 3 C water
- 2 heaping Tablespoon Butterscotch pudding mix
- 1/2 tsp caramel flavoring
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
I think it would be best to mix the pudding mix and water separately and then stir into the butterbeer.
Heat to almost boiling. Serve in small mugs as this is a rich and sweet beverage.
To Top or Not to Top…
Personally, I didn’t think it needed a topping. If anything, I would love to work out a whipped egg foam, but that’s getting awfully complicated.
But, my daughter requested whipped topping, so I obliged.
Beat 1/2 C cold heavy cream until foam begins to form. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of ginger. Once the whipped cream has a little body to it, add a small drizzle (2 teaspoons maybe) of maple syrup.
Make it your own!
If you find your drink too sweet, I’ve found a splash (Tablespoon) of apple cider vinegar cuts the sweetness and develops the flavor quite nicely.
If you find it not sweet enough, add another Tablespoon of maple syrup.
For grown ups, you could add a bit of brandy to really bring out the flavors. In the book, the drink does seem to have a slight alcoholic quality. Children do not appear to be affected by it, but house elves are.
I would love to know what you think! What are the flavors of magic and warmth to you? Does this hit close to home in your memory of an imagined brew?
Would you like me to work up a recipe for a cold version of this new classic?
This post is a part of a series, Geek Feast, put on by several bloggers featuring recipes inspired by works of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. A friend of mine quipped that the perfect Sci-Fi recipe would be “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
If you are interested in tasting the flavors of our imagined worlds, you’ll definitely want to check out the other posts in this series!