I was recently looking through recipes on the internet, trying to find ideas for the holidays, when I randomly came across a recipe for Butterbeer. Butterbeer is a popular drink featured in the Harry Potter series. Students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry often partake in this beverage during their outings to Hogsmeade (a small town near the school).
As a Harry P fan myself, I was excited to find this recipe. Although butterbeer can be served hot or cold, I always imagined butterbeer as a warm, soothing drink on a cold day (probably because many trips to Hogsmeade were made in the winter). I also imagined that it had a sweet taste and a buttery mouth-feel that coats your throat as you drink it.
I searched around the internet for more information on butterbeer and soon realized that there is not a consensus on the ingredients of butterbeer. Some recipes use butter, some use butterscotch. Some recipes are mixed with cream soda, some with apple cider, some with root beer, and some with actual beer (ale to be more exact). In the Happy Potter series, the beverage is sold at The Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head pubs and is written as “slightly alcoholic.” Humans apparently experience a warming effect from drinking butterbeer, while house-elves can get drunk off of the stuff.
The alcoholic versions I found are typically made with butterscotch schnapps while the non-alcoholic version is made with butterscotch syrup. A variety of spices can be used. I also found information that suggests that butterbeer is a real beverage originally made by the Tudors from ale, sugar, egg yolks, nutmeg and butter (as mentioned in Heston Blumenthal's television show Heston’s Feasts). Wow...talk about calories!
After all of this research, I decided to make my own version of butterbeer…a Butterbeer Float. What could be better for the holidays! The only consensus I found among the online recipes is that the beverage is supposed to impart a buttery taste, whether it comes from actual butter or butterscotch. Butterscotch ice cream seemed like the perfect solution. Throw a couple scoops of ice cream in a mug and pour in some warmed cream soda, and you get the warm, throat-coating beverage I always imagined butterbeer to be.
So here is the final version of the recipe. It is non-alcoholic except for a bit of whiskey in the ice cream (which is optional). Feel free to make an alcoholic version, if you choose. Enjoy...hot or cold! Happy Thanksgiving (a day early)!
3 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons whiskey (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ teaspoon course sea salt
In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch with about ¼ cup of milk.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add dark brown sugar and stir until the sugar is well moistened. Remove from heat and add ½ cup heavy cream, whisking until well combined. Once combined, pour in remaining cream and milk, mixing until well incorporated. Whisk in cornstarch slurry.
Return to heat and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking continuously, until mixture thickens (draw a line on the back of a spoon).
Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, vanilla, and salt. Pour into bowl or baggie and refrigerate until well chilled. Once chilled, pour ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container when finished. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream (to prevent ice crystals) and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
To make a Butterbeer Float:
Warm cream soda in a small saucepan or in the microwave (don't heat too long in the microwave or it may bubble over). Pour into your favorite mug. Place two scoops of butterscotch ice cream in the mug. Add a straw and enjoy!