Making Butterbeer: An Exercise in Hubris

This week I’m going to be attempting to make a Harry Potter staple: Butterbeer!

“But which recipe are you going to use, Sam?” I hear you ask through the screen. To which I reply: What is a recipe? I don’t need a recipe! Recipes are a myth! (In all honesty, I tried to look up several recipes, originally intending to compare a few in this article. However, there are so many and so much variation that it quickly became apparent I’d have to to just arbitrarily pick a handful. And that sounded boring.)

So, I closed every single tab that had the word “recipe” in it and violated the stay-at-home orders to go buy an assortment of ingredients that seemed common between some of the recipes, operating largely from memory. That’s right readers, I valiantly risked my life just for you. And also because I really wanted to make my own version of Butterbeer. Because I do what I want.

Now, I should clarify that what I’m really doing here is making something that could, in theory, resemble Butterbeer and that I, personally, would like to drink. I’ve never been to Wizarding World, and we’re not strictly going for accuracy here, folks. That said, I really prefer warm drinks. Hot chocolate, lattes, you get the picture. My sister however, who has watched the Harry Potter movies twice over in the past month and was immediately on board with this little project, likes cold drinks. So I’m going to make two different variants.

What I’m not going to do is make you scroll through the whole article if you’re just here for the recipe. I do use recipes occasionally, often enough to be aware of how annoying that is. So here’s Sam from the future to tell you how I made the final product:


Hi everyone! It’s Sam from the future! Here’s the recipe for a warm drink. Warning: this is closer to a dessert than a beverage.

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/4 Cup Butter: stir in pot until combined and bubbling like a witch’s cauldron, turn heat to low.
Add 1 Cup milk, a dash of nutmeg, and a dash of cinnamon. Whisk until combined. Remove from heat.
Add just a splash of brandy if you’re into that, stir until combined.
Add to glass and enjoy!

And here’s the recipe for a cold one. Warning: This is a beverage in the same way a milkshake is a beverage. It’s not. Everyone knows it’s a dessert.

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/4 Cup Butter: stir in pot until combined and bubbling like a witch’s cauldron, turn heat to low.
Add 1/4 Cup milk, a dash of nutmeg, and a dash of cinnamon. Whisk until combined. Remove from heat. Let cool until just warm.
Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a mason jar, pour mixture over ice cream until jar is about half full.
Top with cream soda and enjoy!


This has been a message from future-me. Now, let’s begin. I’ll start with the warm one.

Original plan, step one: brown sugar and butter in a pan. I’ve done this before for a pie recipe so so far, so good.
Step two: Turn down the heat and add in some condensed milk and quite a bit more regular milk. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk a lot while it heats up and watch it like a hawk because you’ve been betrayed by milk on low heat before.
Step three: remove from heat. Add half a shot of brandy to the whole thing for just a little kick.
Step four: drink, meet mug. And whipped cream. And butterscotch topping.

Results: Holy hell do not make this drink. This isn’t even a dessert. This is a cavity in a cup. I think my internal organs all shut down on the first drink. I’m not including measurements for your own safety. I mean… I finished drinking it but that’s beside the point.
Also I put in too much nutmeg.

“Let’s try the cold one now,” I thought. “Surely I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

Step one: same thing.
Step two: just a LITTLE condensed milk. No regular milk. Just the barest dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. No brandy because my sister wasn’t feeling it.
Step three: Ice cream, meet mason jar. Butterscotch, meet ice cream. Finish filling the glass with cream soda.

Results: not nearly as jaw-aching, but still too sweet. And it was still a little warm from the butterscotch despite the ice cream that I was hoping would cool it down.

Here I had to take a quick break because I’d finished my warm drink at this point and I’m reasonably certain it was sending me into a coma. I never claimed to make good choices. About half an hour later I was up and running again and ready to do everything in my power to make these drinks less sweet.

My goals for both drinks:

  1. Remove ALL condensed milk. More regular milk.
  2. Up the butter side of the brown sugar/butter ratio and cook the butterscotch longer, going for a bit of a controlled burn, hoping to bring some bitterness to the drink.
  3. Let the butterscotch cool more before putting it into the cold drink
  4. Just a splash of brandy in the warm drink this time since I was making a smaller portion over all.
  5. No whipped topping. No butterscotch topping. It looks pretty but this drink needs as much sugar removed as possible.
I considered not adding these pictures, but it felt dishonest.
Sometimes instagramability is the price you pay for drinkability.

Results: Success! Mostly. They’re still closer to desserts than beverages but at least they could be classified as desserts and not monstrosities. 10/10 Would make again if I had a sweet tooth.

Lessons learned: If you want to have a consumable drink on the first try, just follow the recipes of people who know what they’re doing. However, if you want to have fun, and consume way too much sugar, and have an excuse to drink brandy at 1 in the afternoon: try to make your own drink! Do it! My kitchen is a mess but I had a blast, and I highly recommend partaking in hubris on occasion. It’s good for the soul.

Tell me what you think of the recipe! I wholeheartedly encourage criticism (as long as you’re not too much of an asshole), I both need and deserve it for this monstrosity. And recommend your favorite recipes, I’d love to try a few that have a personal recommendation and aren’t just faceless lists of ingredients and instructions on the Internet. Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Well, in all seriousness kudos for the attempt and looks um…sweet. In the absence of a better descriptive word I’ll go with that lol 🙂 The version they sell at the Harry Potter studio tour in the UK has the look of a pale beer with a very creamy head but tastes like very sweet butterscotch so you are on the right track but as you said, it’s on what looks good vs what is nice to drink!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s