The team behind Universal's butterbeer talks through the drink-making process

By Ale Russian
March 02, 2017 03:50 PM
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Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

Butterbeer flows throughout the magical world of Harry Potter, but author J.K. Rowling gives surprisingly few details on how it tastes — or how it’s brewed.

The drink that has become synonymous with the Potter universe makes its first appearance in the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In it, Harry takes a drink for the first time and describes it as “the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.”

Beyond that, “there’s no real description of what it tastes like,” says Universal Orlando‘s Ric Florell, who helped develop the drink for the theme park alongside executive chef Steve Jayson.

When they started workshopping the idea back in 2007, “we looked at where butterbeer shows up and if you read the books, it always shows up around a comfortable time — around camaraderie and parties and events. So it’s always kind of a warm and good feeling,” says Florell.

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Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

The partners then came up with a motto — smooth like shortbread and reminiscent of butterscotch — and started to experiment with different flavors until they found a mix that worked and tasted best. But after the task of coming up with a recipe came the real test — did Rowling approve?

“We flew over to Scotland and we made a presentation to J.K. Rowling and got her to give us the thumbs up,” Jayson says. “[She was] very happy and pleased with what we created. She said, ‘I didn’t really know what it would taste like but I guess this would be it! This is wonderful.’ ”

“The rallying cry has always been authenticity to the fiction,” says Florell. “Right from the start we never had a meeting that we didn’t have an entire set of the books available to go and reference if we needed to, which we did quite a bit.”