Butterbeer? Not quite. We tried those Harry Potter secret menu drinks from Starbucks

By now you’ve probably seen the so-called Harry Potter Starbucks drinks making the rounds online. The “secret menu” consists of two drinks, a butterbeer latte and a butterbeer frappucino.  The drinks are meant to mimic the flavor of butterbeer, which in the Harry Potter novels a popular drink that tastes “a little bit like less sickly butterscotch” (at least according to a 2002 interview with author J.K. Rowling in “Bon Appetit” magazine).

There are variations of the drink recipes floating around in various corners of the internet, but here are the recipes I used:

Butterbeer latte

  • A whole milk latte with two shots of espresso
  • Two shots of caramel syrup
  • Three shots of toffee nut syrup
  • Three shots of cinnamon dolce syrup
  • Whipped cream
  • Caramel flakes (although the Starbucks I went to in Austin was out of these)

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Butterbeer frappucino

  • A creme frappucino, blended
  • Three pumps of caramel syrup
  • Three pumps of toffee nut syrup
  • Cinnamon on top

When I ordered the drinks at a Starbucks on South Lamar in Austin, I felt so overwhelmed by my high-maintenance drink request that I simply handed the barista my written notes with the ingredients on them instead of trying to read them out to her (easier to punch into the register, I figured). I explained that this was a Harry Potter secret menu that had been making the rounds on the internet, and I’d been tasked with tasting them out for work (full disclosure: I’m on day four of a Whole30, but I’ve done a few rounds of the program before, so this time I’m taking a little more of a laid-back approach to the strict dietary rules -- so a few sips of Butterbeer didn’t totally derail my progress). The barista told me she’d never had anybody order these drinks before, so my assumption that these items had gone massively viral was soon debunked.

RELATED: A reflection on 20 years of “Harry Potter” 

The butterbeer frappucino (left) and the butterbeer latte (right) from Starbucks. Also, they spelled my name "Katty," which I must say, is a first. Katey Psencik / Austin American-Statesman

I went back to the newsroom and convinced some unwitting coworkers to try the concotions (which I was hoping tasted exactly like the delicious, sugary butterbeer drinks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks at Universal Studios), with mixed results. There were exclamations of “wow!” and “I can feel the sugar caking on my teeth.” My coworkers were pretty split down the middle regarding which one they preferred: the two drinks really didn’t taste similar in flavor at all, despite both claiming to mimic butterbeer. 

The overall verdict? These drinks are way too sweet. Apparently Starbucks didn’t get the “less sickly” memo from Rowling. The hot latte tasted better, but the cold frappucino tasted more like butterbeer. Those of us who have made the pilgrimage to the theme parks in Orlando and Los Angeles agreed, though: neither came close to the real thing.

RELATED: Wizarding school offers magic all year long for ‘Harry Potter’ fans

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