It’s honestly the main feature I’m looking for in an eggnog. Mediocre flavor I can excuse, but if it doesn’t have that thick, creamy texture a glass of milk could never achieve, what is the point of anything?
So I was disappointed when I followed a recipe to make eggnog myself for the first time and found that… it was thin. It was lacking. It may as well have been water. I swore off making eggnog and stuck to buying my brand of choice, Southern Comfort.
But one day last year, I was feeling a little experimental. If cooking the egg and milk mixture to 160 degrees F as the recipe instructed didn’t thicken it to my liking, why not just… cook it for longer?
I discarded the thermometer and cooked it for a few minutes longer until it seemed like it had thickened some. And the result, after it had cooled and I’d beaten in the whipped egg whites, was something magical. It had the thickness of a milkshake, and yet the beaten egg whites added a frothy lightness that kept the mixture from being too heavy. It was perfect. Except… I had no idea what temperature I’d cooked the eggnog mixture to.
Over the course of three years, I have tried several different butterbeer recipes in an attempt to taste something somewhat close to the official, Rowling-approved version sold at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I didn’t visit the park until October 2014, when I volunteered myself for a work conference upon discovering it would be held near the park in Orlando. So in those three years of darkness, I couldn’t really say whether the recipes I tried were close to the real thing.
But I’d read enough descriptions to know what it should be–like cream soda but with a butterscotch-like flavor. And the versions I tried didn’t quite match up. I’ve tried or read about a few different methods to get that mysterious butterbeer flavor. Methods started with the cream soda base but differed in what they added from there. From a specific flavoring called vanilla butter emulsion to butterscotch syrup to butterscotch schnapps to actual butter heated with brown sugar, none of them seemed ideal. (Especially the last one. I’d rather not drink melted butter in my soda.)
When I finally tried the Rowling-approved butterbeer at the Wizarding World park, I found it tasted almost exactly as the internet had described. I had the frozen version, which was almost slushy-like in consistency. During that day at the park, I ended up buying two mugs of that frozen butterbeer and finishing them both (I shared them with my friend, of course, but I think the split was closer to 90/10 than 50/50. Sorry, Halley. It was totally for science).