July 13, 2011

Butterbeer Recipe 2011

Two years ago I published a short essay on the alcoholic magical beverages in the Harry Potter books, with my versions on how to make them, called "Firewhisky Recipe! Butterbeer Recipe!" It's since been one of the most viewed posts on this blog, and for good reason. They are delicious.

In anticipation of the final movie coming out this week, one of the top articles on The Huffington Post was "Butterbeer: How the Harry Potter Beverage Was Made Real." According to Jim Hill: "Based on surveys that UOR employees have done, the greatest Guest Satisfier in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter [the theme park in Florida], that piece-of-the-magic that people most wish that they could take home and share with friends and family... is a beverage. Butterbeer, to be precise."

He also said the Wizarding World folks "labored for nearly three years to come up with a workable real-world recipe for this magical, mythical brew." Three years, really? Our recipe came to my friend Jenny Ruth in a dream. The sugary, highly-processed creation they serve at the theme park, of course, has a top-secret recipe. So you have to apparate to Florida to drink butterbeer? Do you know what else has a secret recipe? Coca-cola. And Ira Glass, like Hermione would have done, figured that one out with a little research.

"So -- that said -- what is actually known about this amber ale?," you query. Well, there are two distinct phases to the preparation / pouring of a glass of Butterbeer. First the bottom layer -- a slightly thickened mixture which tastes like a combination of butterscotch, cream soda and shortbread cookies -- is poured into the bottom of the glass. Then the Butterbeer's head -- which is this lighter, fluffier, less sweet version of marshmallow fluff -- is carefully placed on top of the brown brew that has previously been poured into this glass.

I fully sympathize with a Harry Potter-themed resort wanting to sell a version of the magical drinks, one that can be legally sold to kids and help them have an inspiring experience. (The "magic" in that secret recipe sounds like it's sugar and artificial flavoring, which would have the magical effects of a sugar-high and weight gain.) A close reading of Rowling's books will reveal that Butterbeer is not only magical but alcoholic. It's clearly the latter, because it has certain mild but well-known effects on the student characters after they consume it, such as the lowering of inhibitions. As I wrote in my essay two years ago:

In Harry Potter, after Harry has been attacked by a dementor, Professor Lupin gives him chocolate to restore him, not exactly advanced magic. All thru-out the books, Rowling understands that there are simpler magics & emotional forces more powerful than some of her sillier spells. What exactly is a potion but a brewed beverage with transformative properties? Alternately, when Ron is recovering from a strong potion, Professor Slughorn gives him a shot of mead which turns out to be laced with a powerful poison - not exactly the positive metaphor for drinking that parents fear. And there's of course two much more potent beverages in the Half-Blood Prince book - love potion & felix felicis (liquid luck). None of this fictional magic is far-fetched from what any teenager or adult has experienced from well-timed libations.
At the time, I was righteously outraged by online recipes I found, not because they were non-alcoholic but because they were disgusting, using melted butter & butterscotch syrup. I'll reprint now the simple alcoholic itwaslost version, which I recommend smuggling into the cinema this weekend:

-a dark ale or black ale (I recommend New Belgium's 1554 black ale.)
-a dash of butterscotch schnapps on top.

It's easy & inexpensive to make, available outside of Florida, it's sweet & butterscotchy but not sugary, and it might loosen you up and give you the courage to ask the witch you like to the ball. Cheers!


Brains said...

You're so right, J.

I had to go to Florida for relatives last Christmas. The Butterbeer was disgusting. It could make Dr Pepper or Pixie Sticks taste bitter. But the "Hogsmeade" area of Universal Studios did have a full bar and a sexy bartender. And Misti and I got properly wasted.

S. Sandrigon said...

Just as I suspected... thanks, Brains.
I'd love to get wasted at Hogsmeade, sign me up.
I have nothing conceptually against The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, only against trying to pass a sugary float off as "butterbeer," even with Rowling's personal blessing.