Muggles and squibs. Horcruxes and Hallows. Snitches and quaffles. Over the course of the seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling introduced the world to dozens of fictional items, species, and other things, the vast majority of which are unfortunately never going to be made real. (That said, if anyone has a lead on an invisibility cloak, I’ll take one.) But there’s one notable exception to that rule: butterbeer, pictured above from a screen shot from one of the movies. Due to the creation of Harry Potter theme parks, fans around the world can get a mugful, hot or frozen.
But don’t ask what’s in it, because they’re not telling.
“They” are Steven Jayson and his team at Universal Parks and Resorts. Jayson, now the Corporate Executive Chef for the company, is in charge of all the restaurants at the Universal’s theme parks around the world — including, recently, the Three Broomsticks, the restaurant within “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” theme parks. In the Harry Potter universe, the Three Broomsticks is the place to get butterbeer — in the books, it’s a slightly-alcoholic drink which is, basically, non-intoxicating (unless you’re a house elf, in which case, watch out!). In the imagination of Ms. Rowling, it tastes “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch” — and Jayson and company wanted the theme park to deliver on that same promise and create a true-to-imagination drink. Their version isn’t alcoholic, but it did pass the J.K. Rowling taste test.
The drink is said to taste like butterscotch, as expected, with a hint of cream soda or shortbread, depending on who you ask. And it’s an incredibly successful concoction. Universal introduced the drink in June of 2010 to soaring success, announcing the 1 millionth mug sold in January of 2011 and mug #5,000,000 less than a year and a half later. But to drink one, you have to go to the theme park. Universal isn’t bottling it up and selling it at other retail outlets and, similarly, isn’t telling how to make one at home. The Huffington Post went into more detail about this lack of details:
“So what exactly is the Universal’s version of Butterbeer?,” you ask. That information — as they say in the military — is classified. On a need-to-know basis. What I can tell you is that this popular beverage is prepared on property. Beyond that, [Universal] officials are determined to do whatever they have to in order to keep the precise ingredients of this super-popular ale a secret. In direct response to a series of questions that I submitted to Chef Jayson about Butterbeer earlier this year, he admitted that Universal has already “…implanted special security procedures (in order) to protect the recipe.”
(The “special security procedures” similarly are not detailed, but they probably do not involve protective charms, three-headed dogs, or anything resembling Gringotts.)
So unless you have a plane ticket in hand, you’ll have a hard time trying this Harry Potter special. That said, there have been many attempts to reverse-engineer the recipe — or, at least, the taste. There are dozens floating around the Internet which are just an accio away (or a Google search for us Muggles) and if you’re willing to wait until December, there’s a Starbucks-ready instruction set you can give to your local barista.
From the Archives: Worthy of Gryffindor: The secret behind a minor character in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
Related: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.