The Food Hacker
Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Butterbeer

· Hacking the magical drink using clues from the creators ·

February 10, 2018 27 Comments

The imaginary drink from J.K. Rowling's books became a reality when the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter appeared in 2010. Since then, many hacks for the beverage have emerged online. The only problem is, if Rowling's reported requirements for the drink are true, then almost all of those copycats recipes got something very wrong.

Muggles like you and me (non-magical folk) pack themselves into wand shops, candy stores and thrill rides throughout the impressive re-creations of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood.

Kids scamper around streets straight out of the Harry Potter books waving $50 wands to animate window displays and fountains. Restaurants serve British pub food like bangers and mash, and mini meat and fish pies. There’s even a real fire-breathing dragon (the fire’s real, not the dragon) on top of one building, taunting the crowd below.

But as fun as these amusements are, none are considered the number one attraction at the park.

That honor goes to this imaginary-beverage-turned-real that everyone wants to taste….

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

It took three years for two guys, chef Steve Jayson and Ric Florell, to develop the secret recipe for Butterbeer, a frothy sweet drink mentioned in J.K. Rowling’s books several times, but with a flavor that’s never described.

What Jayson and Florell developed is a two-part beverage: sweet flavored soda on the bottom with a creamy whipped flavored head on top. When sipped, the flavors combine for a taste that makes you think of caramel butter cookies.

The drink looks like a beer, but it has no alcohol in it, and the foam is not a by-product of the drink. It’s added separately, and you cannot get a drink without it. That makes it hard for a curious person like me to tell what the soda tastes like on its own. Hard for sure, but not impossible.

After I finished the first one, I ordered another Butterbeer, quickly removed the top with a spoon, and poured the soda into an empty plastic water bottle. At home I compared it to other popular sodas on the market and found the best match was A&W Cream Soda. Okay, that part was easy.

Now, for the tricky part: the foamy topping.

Check out this short video I took at the Hollywood park:

A weak foaming machine is used to distribute a pre-measured bubbling portion of the creamy topping into each cup.

The machine is similar to a whipped cream machine, like the one behind the counter at The Cheesecake Factory that adds add a pile of whipped cream to every slice of cheesecake. But this machine makes a looser foam. And this is definitely not cream. Or any kind of dairy product, for that matter. According to The Huffington Post, J.K. Rowling was adamant that Butterbeer be a dairy-free product:

“…because Universal Orlando wanted as many guests as possible to be able to sample this brew (and that included the lactose intolerant), there could be no butter, or dairy products of any kind, in Butterbeer.”

This information means that virtually every copycat recipe you’ll find on the cyberwebs is incorrect, since they call for either ice cream, evaporated milk, half-and-half, cream, butter or some other cow product. Dairy may be an easy and obvious way to make foam, but in this case it’s not the right way.

Since an accurate hack of the famous drink can’t rely on dairy protein to make foam, we must turn our attention to another protein for the job.

Thank the chickens.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Egg whites come in different forms with each of them making a slightly different foam. Fresh egg whites make the tightest foam, and the meringue powder makes the loosest. The dry egg whites are somewhere in the middle, and that’s the one I liked best.

These egg foams are a good start, but they are much too light by themselves. We need a stabilizer to thicken the foam and make it “creamier,” as if it has dairy in it.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Here are a select few of the many natural ingredients we can use to gel our creamy topping. Some of them, including gelatin, need heat to do their magic.

Others, like xanthan gum, can be activated in cold solutions.

The amount we need to add depends on the type of thickening we desire. In this case we need a fairly loose gel, so about 1/4 teaspoon per cup of water is a good average measurement.

Now we need a quick way to turn our liquid into foam.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

As you can see, there are several ways to suspend millions of air bubbles in a liquid. Four of these five devices make a tight foam with small air bubbles.

What we need is something to make a very particular creamy foam, with big bubbles. We need the hand blender.

A hand immersion blender will allow you to move the blades slightly out of the liquid as you’re blending to work more air into the liquid. This creates large bubbles and a loose, wet foam similar to what you saw coming out of that nozzle at the park.

An immersion blender is the magic wand for this hack, but if you don’t have one you can use an electric mixer. Your foam will look different than the real thing, but it will still taste great, and only the pickiest will care.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

It took me 42 to attempts in all to complete this Butterbeer hack. About half of the time I was stuck on making it this way, because it made sense.

I added gelatin to water, heated the water, then cooled the solution.

I mixed in egg whites, a little xanthan gum for a slightly thicker gel, and some cream of tartar to add more volume to the egg white foam.

I used the stick blender and made a good-looking loose foam, then I dumped in some powdered sugar and mixed it again.

The finished product looked great, and the taste was heading in the right direction. But the consistency wasn’t quite right. It lacked the smooth mouth feel that emulates cream.

Also, it required obtaining some ingredients which are not usually found in food stores. Like dry egg whites and xanthan gum.

I decided I could do better.

So I went shopping.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

In researching this drink I read a comment from someone who said the foam topping on Butterbeer reminded them of marshmallow creme. That stuck in my mind. A check of ingredients listed on the jar confirmed most of the ingredients I was using in my first round attempts are also in marshmallow creme, like dried egg whites, and cream of tartar, and xanthan gum. Okay, then. Now we’re onto something.

I grabbed some marshmallow creme at the store and started the new round of tests with it.

For the next few days I played with marshmallow creme. I tried several ways of mixing it, and adding other foaming agents and stabilizers into the mix. Most things I tried didn’t work, but some did. And eventually, 20 batches later, I had my hack.

Here’s what I did to make the final recipe:

Marshmallow creme is a stable foam, but it’s a little too stable, so we must dilute it.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Add about half a jar of marshmallow creme to a small bowl of water.

You can use warm water for this, or even better, pop it in the microwave…

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

It only takes about 30 seconds for your microwave to help liquefy the marshmallow creme.

Use a whisk to combine the marshmallow creme with the water, and you’ll begin to see your foam forming.

Now we need to cool the liquid before moving on.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Cool the solution down for about an hour or even longer in your refrigerator.

You want it cold.

Our foam has started to form, but it’s still much too thin at this point. And it’s lacking an oily quality that makes the topping feel like cream.

I needed something that would thicken the foam, add a slick quality to it, but not contain any dairy.

So, I used this…

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Dream Whip topping mix contains exactly what we need. And none of what we don’t want.

It adds cellulose gum and cellulose gel, which are natural thickeners and stabilizers made from the cell walls of plants. These ingredients give the foam more body.

And the palm kernel oil adds some needed fat. This will help to create a silky smooth foam that feels like cream in your mouth.

Thanks to Dream Whip we finally have the foam we want.

Time to add the perfect flavor.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Here’s what one of Butterbeer’s co-creators, Universal Orlando Executive Chef Steve Jayson, had to say about the taste of the drink to Bon Appetit:

“We wanted this beverage to be for everyone — it wasn’t going to be alcoholic. And we wanted to make something that would feel mystical and whimsical and magical, but that also resembled a beer, with a beautiful base, amber color, and creamy top. It had to taste unfamiliar, yet soothing and smooth. I thought of those soft butter cookies, or butterscotch, and that’s what the recipe is based off of. But everyone tastes it differently — some say cookies, some say creamsicles. It’s a magical beverage like that.”

If the flavor profile is “butterscotch” and “sugar cookies,” we must determine what will duplicate that.

In sugar cookies we taste butter and vanilla, so we’ll add those two flavors.

The butterscotch taste was trickier. Butterscotch is basically caramel made with brown sugar rather than white sugar. But every butterscotch flavoring I tried did not taste right in this drink. Too, um, butterscotch-y.

Then I tried some caramel extract and…bingo! It was the perfect flavor.

All caramel flavorings taste a little different, so choosing the right one is important. I tried several brands and Watkins was clearly the best tasting of them all. If you can, get Watkins.

Now it’s time to bring it all together.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Dump a whole envelope of Dream Whip mix into your marshmallow creme foam, and blend it until it’s bubbly.

Add the sugar and salt and blend again.

Lastly, add in the flavorings and give it all a good blend. Move the hand blender up and down in the foam as you mix so that big bubbles are formed.

Once it looks thick and bubbly, you’re ready to build the drink.

Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Pour cold cream soda into a glass and be sure to leave some room at the top.

Add a few spoonfuls of foam over the top of each drink and serve immediately.

Soon you will see that Muggles can do magic after all.

They will make these drinks disappear.

Make restaurant-style dishes at home

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4.75 from 8 votes
Harry Potter Butterbeer copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Butterbeer Hack
Hustle
5 mins
Hang
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
 

It took three years for two guys, Steve Jayson and Ric Florell, to develop the secret recipe for Butterbeer, a frothy sweet drink mentioned in J.K. Rowling's books several times, but with a flavor that's never described. What Jayson and Florell eventually came up with is a two-part beverage: sweet flavored soda on the bottom with a creamy whipped flavored topping. When sipped, the flavors combine for a taste that could be described as caramel butter cookies.

Here is my way to hack the delicious, once-imaginary drink at home.

Servings: 10
By: Todd Wilbur
Get This
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 cup marshmallow creme
  • 1 envelope Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon caramel extract or flavoring (Watkins is best)
  • 10 12-ounce cans cold A&W Cream Soda
You will also need:
  • Immersion hand blender
Do This
  1. Combine the marshmallow creme with the water in a medium bowl and microwave it on high for 30 seconds. If you don't want to use the microwave, use warm water from your tap. Stir until the marshmallow creme dissolves, then cool uncovered in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until cold.
  2. Add the Dream Whip to the bowl and mix with an immersion hand blender for about 30 seconds. If you don't have a hand blender you can use an electric mixer, but only mix for about 15 seconds.
  3. Add the powdered sugar and salt and mix for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter, vanilla and caramel flavorings and mix just until combined. Store covered in your refrigerator until needed.
  5. When you are ready to serve the drinks, pour a can of cream soda into a 12-ounce glass or mug. Be sure to leave about 1/2-inch of room at the top.
  6. Use the blender to mix the foam for 5 seconds, or until some large bubbles form in the topping. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of topping onto each drink and serve.

HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. © 2018 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

27 Comments

  1. Reply

    Maggie

    November 1, 2018

    Do you know the weight measurement of the marshmallow creme? I tried using a measuring cup, but the topping came out watery. I imagine it’s because I had too many air pockets in the creme when I tried to measure it.

  2. Reply

    kyle lynn

    October 29, 2018

    Do you have any suggestions for using a whipped cream dispenser?

    I’m recreating this for a work potluck and using a mixer and a bowl isn’t really viable.

    Do you think mixing this up before hand and using a whipped cream dispenser with nitrogen chargers would work well?

  3. Reply

    SF

    October 2, 2018

    Your pic shows “Spice Islands” brand vanilla extract (which is decidedly harder to find than Watkins or McCormick vanilla). Is Spice Islands vanilla preferred, in order to get the final result closer to the real thing served in the parks, or will other brands of pure vanilla give exactly the same result? -Our die-hard potter-fan family just returned from the parks and are already hankering for more (authentic) Butterbeer. (no sloppy imitations will do :). -Thanks for the hack!

    • Reply

      Todd Wilbur

      October 2, 2018

      Both of those will work fine. Just make sure it’s real vanilla extract and not imitation. Never use fake vanilla in anything. Yuck.

    • Reply

      Kyle

      October 30, 2018

      I’ve managed to make the foam in the whipped cream dispenser and it turned out fantastic. The problem, though, is that it start curdling pretty quickly. This doesn’t change the taste but it looks very unappetizing.

      Any suggestions?

      • Reply

        Todd Wilbur

        October 30, 2018

        Try a little cream of tartar to stabilize it

  4. Reply

    Angela

    September 24, 2018

    I made this yesterday for our gaming group and everyone loved it. For some the foam was a bit sweet, but I think it’s perfect. I couldn’t find caramel extract so I substituted caramel syrup and it worked perfectly. I also added a bit more vanilla than I intended and then just balanced it with an equal amount of the butter extract. The foam refrigerates well, and is perfect even the day after. I was surprised by how easy this was to make which for me is huge bonus. This is definitely something I can whip up quick for game night or holidays or just any day. I will definitely be making this for Thanksgiving and Halloween.

  5. Reply

    R. Vashko

    September 15, 2018

    I, too, found the foam to be too thin. I think I will cut the water back to 1 cup next time and see how that goes. I don’t want whipped cream thickness; maybe somewhere in-between the two.

    I also noticed that the foam reacts with the soda and expands, so be sure not to add too much, or your mug will overflow like one of those baking soda volcanoes. Even with the expansion, I still found the foam too light.

  6. Reply

    Lee

    September 10, 2018

    Hi! Thanks for all your research! I could not find caramel extract on quick notice so I just omitted it and i substituted A&W for a generic cream soda. I did not have an immersion blender so used my electric mixer. Foam turned out thin and too sweet. Still, a fun thing to make at a 9yo Potter themed birthday! Thanks again.

  7. Reply

    Jennifer

    August 15, 2018

    Be careful if you have a dairy allergy. Dream Whip does contain Sodium Caseinate Solids which is derived from one of the milk proteins that triggers allergic reactions.

  8. Reply

    Elon

    June 16, 2018

    So I was in Orlando Harry Potter world last Saturday. And this Saturday I made this recipe. And it is amazing. It was perfect in every way. I played with the butter extract and scots extract everyone tastes it different and you nailed it so well thank you this help make a perfect fathersday with my kids drinking butter beer and watching Harry Potter thank you

  9. Reply

    Ciara Collins

    June 6, 2018

    Can we refrigerate

  10. Reply

    Don

    May 29, 2018

    Got home to realize we had no caramel extract and the nearest store had none. Instead I whipped up some caramel on my stovetop and blended some into the foamy mix as I added the butter extract. Tasted great! I spooned some hot caramel over the top before it was served and the caramel crystalized in the cool foamy mix so it added a great texture.

    Also couldn’t find DreamWhip, so I used coolwhip and it held up great. Thanks for the recipe. My kids loved it.

  11. Reply

    Ariel

    May 25, 2018

    Will this come out okay without a powered mixer? I don’t have one and usually just mix by hand.

  12. Reply

    Alyssa Sturm

    April 29, 2018

    Hey Todd,
    We just returned from Orlando and the first thing we did when we came home was attempt a butterbeer recipe. I found yours because I could tell there was marshmallow in Universal’s recipe and everyone else was saying cream. I knew this couldn’t be right! But, I wonder if maybe the 1 1/3 cups of water is a typo or maybe your Dream whip packets are bigger than what I had? The foam was much too thin and watery when I made it. Next time I’ll cut the water and I think it will be perfect.

  13. Reply

    Wolf

    April 1, 2018

    How long of a shelf life does this have?
    Would making it and storing for maybe up to a week cause it to lose its texture and/or flavor?

    • Reply

      Todd Wilbur

      April 3, 2018

      I have kept the foam for a week and it was fine, but you can probably keep it longer since there is no dairy in it.

  14. Reply

    Jenny

    February 11, 2018

    Thanks! But how do they make the hot version? That one must have dairy… right??

    • Reply

      Todd Wilbur

      February 12, 2018

      I haven’t had that version, but I’m assuming there’s no dairy in that one as well. Anybody else try the hot version and want to give us the scoop?

  15. Reply

    Jac

    February 10, 2018

    The read was so much fun that I don’t care that I have to wait to acquire all the stuff to make this.

  16. Reply

    Christina Lengyel

    February 10, 2018

    I’d love to see you hack the frozen and hot versions of HP World Butterbeer! Your copycats are always a joy to read and test out in my own kitchen!

    Thanks for doing what you do!

  17. Reply

    DB

    February 10, 2018

    Thanks Todd. Any suggestions for making the “frozen” Butterbeer? It seems like it might take more effort than just freezing the root beer to get the proper consistency.

    • Reply

      Todd Wilbur

      February 11, 2018

      The park uses a slush machine to make the frozen version of the drink. If you are a muggle and cannot cast the Glacius spell upon your hack, you can re-create the frozen Butterbeer by partially freezing a couple cans of creme soda in a blender pitcher in your freezer (2-3 hours), then blending it up until slushy. Make the foam the same way and spoon it over the frozen drink before serving.

      • Reply

        DB

        February 13, 2018

        I’ll do that. Thanks so much!

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