Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cocktail Wednesdays: Butterbeer

Butter Beer

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, this week's drink was butterbeer. I used the recipe from this week's Working Class Foodies episode featuring the drink. Now, butterbeer as described in the books, is only mildly alcoholic, and the WC Foodies version is completely non-alcoholic, though they suggest adding a shot of bourbon if desired.


3 Tbsp Butterbeer Syrup (see below)
Seltzer Club Soda
2 oz Bourbon (optional)

To a tall mug, add Butterbeer Syrup, bourbon (if desired), and top with Seltzer Club Soda.

Butterbeer Syrup:

3/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Water

5 Tbsp softened butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup heavy cream

Add brown sugar and water to a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Stir constantly. Keep a glass of water to the side for dipping your spoon or heat-proof spatula in. Bring to a low boil and remove from heat when candy thermometer reads 240ºF. Stir in butter, vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Once these are incorporated, add heavy cream, mix and let cool.

(Image of Emma Watson and one of the Phelps twins drinking butterbeer at Universal Studios from here)

The verdict: The syrup is amazing, similar to butterscotch or caramel, but with a beautiful tang from the lemon juice that keeps it from being too cloying. The first reaction to the finished drink from everyone else was how strong the whisky taste was, but I wasn't so sure. I felt that the sharpness was actually from the seltzer in the original recipe. I tried adding more syrup, and that made it better, but I still felt that you could barely taste the syrup and I wasn't enamored. I tried another using club soda rather than seltzer, which I thought was much smoother. The sweet flavor came out much better, even with the original syrup quantity, and the taste of the whiskey was not strong. Still, I'm not satisfied.

(Butterbeer movie still found at

As you can see, the color and texture matched neither the theme park version nor the movie version shown above. Particularly unappealing about this version of butterbeer is the head, which does not dissipate, but floats on the top like some kind of buttery foam or scum. It's not bad tasting, but it's a very strange texture, and would be better if it were lighter, like the head on beer. Butterbeer should be able to be served hot as well as cold, and I can't imagine this one hot. I suppose I was expecting something closer to hot buttered rum, but with more foam. (On the other hand, the hot buttered rum shown here looks just right.) According to Wikipedia, the drink served at Universal Studios is very similar to cream soda. Some butterbeer recipes include cream soda. Some butterbeer recipes and some hot buttered rum recipes contain less butter. I'm interested in trying other recipes. I wonder if we can convince our friend who loves to homebrew to try this one. We could also try this historical buttered beer recipe. I am also wondering if we could adapt a cream soda recipe to end up with better results. Interestingly, the original cream soda recipe used acid and sodium bicarbonate to fizz, but I think I like the idea of a yeast based soda better than either sodium bicarbonate or seltzer. A cream soda made with brown sugar does seem to have a good color and good potential, and I'm curious about what I'm reading about lactose sugar. Maybe butterbeer is yeast-based cream soda left to ferment a little too long? Anyway, lots of ideas to try.

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