Butterbeer Bonanza!

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Photo by Luxe Palmer

Butterbeer, as imagined by Luxe and Kaitlyn

By Kaitlyn Ketchell and Luxe Palmer

For any fan of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Butterbeer is a must-have drink. Official Butterbeer can be purchased from various Wizarding World locations; however, many fans have taken to creating their own recipes. We tried 3 different Butterbeer recipes from two local cafes to see which was most magical, as well as making two other recipes at home.

Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Slughorn, enjoying a hot butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Photo courtesy of WizardingWorld.com

DISCLAIMER: Neither of us has had officially licensed Butterbeer, served at Universal Studios, and sold in select stores, so we have nothing to compare the tastes of the drinks to. Apparently, the official drink tastes like butterscotch soda, so we went off of that for our Butterbeer taste ratings. 

“I made [up butterbeer]. I imagine it to taste a little bit like less sickly butterscotch.”

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

Because we wanted to give each drink a fair chance, we had two scores (out of 5 stars): one based on how much we enjoyed the taste overall, and the other based on how close in flavor it was to how we imagine Butterbeer tasting. 

Local Cafes’ Take On Butterbeer

From left to right: Starbucks Butterbeer Latte, Starbucks Butterbeer Frappuccino, Serranos Butterbeer Latte

Serranos Butterbeer

The Serranos Latte tasted like a basic (although fairly sweet) autumnal latte. With hints of caramel and general autumnal spice, it could be compared to a dirty chai (chai tea with coffee), but it didn’t remind us of Butterbeer whatsoever. This drink was on the official seasonal menu, so it can be ordered fairly easily. 

Serranos Butterbeer Latte

Ratings: 

  • Overall taste: 3.75 stars
  • Butterbeer taste: 2.75 stars 

Starbucks Butterbeer

The Starbucks Butterbeer Latte, not to be confused with the Butterbeer Frappuccino, was on the secret menu, meaning we had to order a specific combination not listed on the official menu. It was a whole milk steamer (essentially a latte without any coffee) with 2 pumps of caramel syrup, 2 pumps of toffee nut syrup, 2 pumps of cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream, and salted caramel bits on top. The latte itself was reminiscent of the milk from a leftover bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, warmed up with whipped cream on top. It was heaven. If the Serranos Latte was anything like a dirty chai, the Starbucks Latte was the closest you could get to a chai latte without actually ordering a chai latte. This praise being stated, the drink itself tasted nothing like Butterbeer. The caramel and toffee syrups themselves would have most likely given the best resemblance to a warm Butterbeer, but the cinnamon felt unnecessary in the earning of the latte’s name. 

Ratings:

  • Overall taste: 4.75
  • Butterbeer taste: 2
Starbucks Butterbeer Latte

Starbucks Butterbeer Frappuccino

The Starbucks Butterbeer Frappuccino is also on the Starbucks secret menu, which means you must specify your order: a creme Frappuccino, 2 pumps of caramel syrup, 2 pumps of toffee nut syrup, whipped cream, and a caramel drizzle. This recipe excludes the cinnamon dolce syrup that the latte had– a good move on Starbucks’ part. Overall, the drink tasted very syrupy, though that may have been on us since we didn’t stir the drink before consumption. The Butterbeer Frappuccino was a mirror image of the Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino, minus the hint of toffee nut syrup. It wasn’t what we expected Butterbeer to taste like, but we think it was the closest out of the three beverages we tried thus far. 

Ratings:

  • Overall taste: 4.75
  • Butterbeer Taste: 4.25
Starbucks Butterbeer Frappuccino

Butterbeer from Home

Homemade Creamy Butterbeer

If there were such a thing as autumnal eggnog, it would be this. In general, the drink itself was absolutely delicious, mind-blowingly good, and most likely the best drink we’ve tried in terms of the overall taste. In terms of likeness to butterbeer, the milk and cream in the recipe threw us off, as we didn’t perceive butterbeer to be as creamy as this drink was. It looked far more like eggnog than it did a beer or carbonated soda, which is what butterbeer has been said to look like. We’d highly recommend this drink if you’re looking for an alternative to hot cocoa, eggnog, or any seasonal drink, but not as a replicate for the Three Broomsticks beverage. 

  • Overall taste: 4.75
  • Butterbeer taste: 4

*We used this recipe for the creamy butterbeer and the hot butterbeer (which had no cream)

Feast of Starlight’s Creamy Butterbeer

Homemade Hot Butterbeer

We modified the previous “creamy” butterbeer recipe to exclude the heavy cream and milk, which resulted in a far more butterbeer-looking beverage. We also added actual butter– about a teaspoon– which contributed to a very strong butter taste. If we were able to find butter extract in the stores, we would have used that instead, but alas… We also added a pinch of salt to the butter, cream soda, and butterscotch, which moderately combated the very sweet taste. The flavor most resembled our ideal of butterbeer, but the taste itself could be improved. 

  • Overall taste: 3.25
  • Butterbeer taste: 4
Homemade Hot Butterbeer (no cream)

Most of the drinks tasted like a mix of traditional or generic fall flavors: caramel, toffee, cinnamon, chai, etc. We would have been very disappointed if we had encountered any pumpkin flavor in any of them, and thankfully, we did not. None of the drinks hit the “Butterbeer” flavor that we were expecting: a predominantly butterscotch flavor, with, hopefully, notes of actual butter. We analyzed the original source material and quotes from the author, J.K. Rowling, and have concluded that according to the original Harry Potter canon, butterbeer is primarily served hot in a “foaming, steaming tankard,” such as in the Three Broomsticks. It can be served cold, though, in glass bottles– Luna Lovegood collects the corks for her necklaces. We were disappointed to see that even at Universal Studios, the drink is served cold.

In conclusion, the three drinks we ordered may have been inspired by Butterbeer, but only their names could suggest that. All three drinks were delicious on their own, and we’d definitely order them again, but they do not live up to their “Butterbeer” nominal. As for the drinks we made, they were far closer to the magical drink we imagined, but it looks like we’ll just have to go to Hogsmeade if we’re ever going to get the real thing.

Butterbeer: Best enjoyed with friends.