Confession! I was SUPER late to the Harry Potter party. When the movies first came out, I was actually kind of annoyed by all the hype. I refused to see them in theaters and avoided family movie nights once they were out on DVD. I couldn’t even put my finger on why I was so against HP because I had no idea what the story was even about. But after all the buzz died down, I watched the first one…and was hooked.
All of my siblings love Harry Potter, so watching with them was a lot of fun. There’s so much to love about the story, the characters, the entire world they created. Before I digress into all the spiritual and philosophical parallels that really get me going, I’ll skip to the part where I got to visit Universal Orlando’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter“, and experienced the BUTTERBEER. Cue heavens opening, angels singing…
The Harry Potter movies send your imagination into overdrive. The plots and visuals are intense, so re-creating any of that in the real world was going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. I knew there was a park going up in Orlando, but I didn’t have super high expectations simply because the nature of HP is so fantastic.
I was truly blown away by what I found…
When you first enter, you would think you were actually in Diagon Alley. It looked as close to what you see in the movies as it could have possibly been. What I loved most about it was that you could enter all the shops. Facades are fun, and sometimes it’s necessary that they’re only fronts — but this was immersive. You could walk into Ollivander’s and pick through ceiling-high stacks of boxed wands. You could go into Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and buy chocolate frogs and Fever Fudge. We wandered with jaws dropped until we saw it — The Fountain of Fair Fortune, and they were selling Butterbeer.
I couldn’t wait to try it. When Butterbeer appears in the movie, all you do is wonder what in the world it must taste like. In my mind, it was sweet, salty and rich with some kind of kick. I imagined the kick to be a warm whiskey or spiced rum. The richness had to be salted butter and creamy butterscotch. The sweet had to be bubbly. It met nearly every one of my expectations. What they served was definitely a cream soda topped with butterscotch whipped cream. It was available in both regular and frozen versions. I preferred the frozen because it felt thicker, and mixed with the cream better. The body of the drink was a bit too thin and sweet. I thought it needed some salt, or some buttery richness. It was also missing alcohol, but I could definitely appreciate the deliciousness of the kid-friendly version, and was happy to save the boozy experimentation for my own recipe.
More on the Butterbeer later, because next we took the train. We were on the 9 3/4 platform, bound for Hogsmeade and equipped with chocolate frogs. The train station was insane. I couldn’t believe how well they designed it. There’s a mirror/brick wall situation when you’re crossing over from an authentic London train station to 9 3/4 where it actually looks like you’re walking through the brick wall. SO cool.
The train ride itself was a tiny bit of a let down, only because you weren’t actually looking out a train window, but watching a simulation on a screen that looked like a window. But even that was awesome. Of course, I would have preferred that they actually took us to Hogwarts — across the lake and everything. And I would have been thrilled with real Dementors. But, budgets…I get it.
When we arrived at Hogsmeade, we went straight to Three Broomsticks for lunch. Great food, more Butterbeer. Magnificent. The decor was spot on.
Then we wandered some more. Hogsmeade was a little different from Diagon Alley, as more of the shops were just facades — but some of them were open. Like Honeydukes Candy!
A few of the iconic places like Gringott’s and Hogwarts Castle were actually rides. I didn’t go on any of them, but loved the exteriors. I mean, seriously.
All in all, if you’re any kind of Harry Potter fan, you have got to visit The Wizarding World in Universal, Orlando. It was surreal, and utterly magical.
When I got home, I had already decided on a recipe for my own version of Butterbeer. I’m the most excited to share that with you, so without further delay…
For The Butter Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. salted butter
2 tbsp + 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
For The “Beer”
Chill your mugs for about 15 minutes in the freezer. While they’re chilling, make the Butterbeer!
Melt butter and 2 tbsp. maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add heavy cream, salt and remaining tbsp. of maple syrup to a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer until a smooth cream forms. Slowly add the heated maple butter mixture to the whipped cream while continuing to mix until fully combined.
Grab your mugs from the freezer and add 1/4 cup of maple butter cream (and the whiskey if you’re going all out) to the bottom of each, then stir in enough cream soda to almost fill each glass. Skim off the soda bubbles and top with a generous dollop of maple butter cream. I topped mine off with about 1/4 cup of cream.