Fans have been devising recipes for butterbeer since the day after Harry Potter first hit the shelves, and now that the theme park in Florida serves “real” butterbeer, they’re more prevalent than ever. I’ve seen recipes for both hot and cold versions of the drink, and it occurred to me that a base which would work for either might be worth concocting.
I ran across this recipe which suggests that “vanilla butter and nut extract” is essential to an authentic taste. Most of the brands I found were artificially flavored, which I don’t particularly care for. If you’re in the same boat, this brand says it’s “derived from natural sources,” or you can do what I did and make your own: Cover 2/3 cup pecans and 1/3 cup walnuts (or 1 cup butternuts if you’re fortunate enough to have a local source; they’re not commercially available) with boiling water for about 90 seconds to remove their tannins. Drain, put in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, and cover with vodka. Let sit in a cool, dark place for about three weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain through a coffee filter to remove particles and store in a jar or bottle with a tight lid.
For the base, you will need:
1 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 C light corn syrup
1/4 C (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1/2 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp butternut extract (that stuff we just made up above)
2 Tbsp butterscotch schnapps*
In a small heavy saucepan combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side with a brush dipped in cold water, until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer without stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in cream (the mixture will bubble dramatically), extracts, and schnapps. Cool, then refrigerate for up to 2 months. Makes about 1-1/2 C.
A condiment squeeze bottle is handy for storage, since you can squeeze the desired amount right into your beverage.
For cold butterbeer, squeeze 2-3 Tbsp of the base into the bottom of a glass, pour in a small amount of cream soda, stir a bit to dissolve the base, then top up with more cream soda.
For hot butterbeer, bring 1 C whole milk (or a mixture of milk and half-and-half if you’re feeling particularly decadent) to a simmer, whisk in 4 Tbsp of butterbeer base, and pour into a mug.
Either version can be topped with whipped cream (flavor it with a bit of butternut extract for extra punch), and spiked with additional butterscotch schnapps. It might also be interesting–although I haven’t tried it, so take that into consideration–to use the syrup to flavor stout (oatmeal or chocolate).
A squeeze bottle of base paired with a couple of etched mugs might be a nice gift for the HP fan in your life.
*If you’re really, really hardcore about natural ingredients, you can make the schnapps from scratch too: Make butterscotch candy, then use it to infuse vodka to taste.