Butterbeer is a popular drink in the Harry Potter series – a nonalcoholic (or very slightly so) liquid confection that is described as “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch”. It’s served cold or hot, in foaming tankards. Just like butter chicken, butterbeer doesn’t necessarily contain butter – the name in fact refers to the butterscotch used to flavour it.
It’s easy to make butterbeer at home, and it makes a perfect cold, creamy-sweet summer treat for kids and grown-ups. It can be made simply, in the same way as an Italian soda, with butterscotch poured into the bottom of a glass and ginger ale or soda water (to cut back on the sugar, use soda water) poured overtop, or with a scoop of ice cream or splash of milk or cream for a thicker, creamier version with more dramatic, long-lasting foam. To make a deliciously boozy version, add a shot of rum or Scotch to the ice cream before pouring the ginger ale or soda overtop. (If your butterbeer is destined for a kids’ party, the grown-ups may appreciate their own tall mugful.)
If you’re having a Harry Potter-themed party (or even watching the Harry Potter movies at home and want to get into the mood with some appropriately-themed snacks) butterbeer is simple to stir together in any quantity you like – by the jug or tankard, or by the glass.
For this butterbeer recipe, you’ll need some butterscotch sauce – mix up a simple batch in advance and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready for it – that way it will keep your butterbeer cold. For a completely smooth and sippable drink that requires only a straw, stir the ice cream and butterscotch sauce together first, then pour the bubbles overtop. If you’re serving junior wizards, you can often find tankards at second-hand thrift shops.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla
Whisk everything but the vanilla in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Cool completely before using in your butterbeer recipe.
dairyice-cream-free butterbeer, simply put a generous spoonful of butterscotch sauce into the bottom of a glass, pour ginger ale or club soda overtop and stir to blend.
Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, or a splash of milk or cream
Butterscotch or caramel sauce (store-bought, or recipe above)
Ginger ale or soda water
For each serving, put a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a tall glass and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of butterscotch sauce. Stir with a spoon to soften the ice cream and blend in the butterscotch sauce. Pour ginger ale overtop to fill the glass, and serve with a straw.