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Meet the Muggle Behind the Most Popular Treats at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Go behind the scenes with one of the only chefs on the planet who knows the Butterbeer recipe.

<p>Dotdash Meredith / Deanne Revel</p>

Dotdash Meredith / Deanne Revel

The books gave us a brief mention. The movies gave us a quick glimpse. But in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, Butterbeer is real.

From pumpkin juice to sugar quills, food is a main attraction at the Harry Potter-themed, immersive lands at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks, and these curious confections bring the franchise to life in ways other storytelling cannot. What’s more fascinating, you’ll find eats that are referenced but never described in taste in the books or films. There’s a whole team of muggles dedicated to developing backstories and flavor profiles for canon food as well as inventing brand-new bites only found in the parks.

While former executive chef Steve Jayson is credited as the man who invented Butterbeer and led the original food and beverage team responsible for wizarding fare in the parks (you can thank him for ginger newts and coconut ice, too), he retired last year and passed the cauldron to other research and development chefs—chiefly chef Robert Martinez Jr., the executive chef of shared services, who’s had a hand in these fantasy menus from the land’s first opening. And more than a decade later, he’s still whipping up new culinary magic.

Chef Martinez, who has been at Universal Orlando for nearly 25 years, says a lot of thought and creativity goes into every food item developed for the parks, from Vegan Shepherd’s Pie Pasty to riffing on the source material for Cauldron Cakes. He says it’s hard to choose, but frozen Butterbeer is his favorite, must-try at Universal–he’s proud of that signature amber swirl. Here, Martinez shares the secrets of Butterbeer, along with other behind-the-scenes culinary wizardry.

How long did it take to come up with the perfect Butterbeer? What was it like creating that first official batch?

Here at Universal Orlando, we strive to create the most authentic experience possible for our guests and we partner closely with filmmakers and creators along every step of the way. With The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we really wanted to make sure that Butterbeer was something that would truly be special for our guests and live up to their expectations. All said and done, from the time our research and development team was tasked with creating the iconic Butterbeer from the Harry Potter series, it took us about two years of development and internal tastings before we knew we had something great to present to Warner Brothers for final approval.

When Butterbeer made its official debut with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Hogsmeade in 2010, it was breathtaking to see how excited the guests were to have the chance to taste a beverage they’d only read about in books and seen in films up until that point. I’ll never forget how amazing it was to see the energy and passion from our guests. I think Butterbeer was the number one trending topic on every social channel at some point during opening week. 

Now that Chef Jayson has retired, who holds the top-secret Butterbeer recipe? Do you have a Gringotts vault for it? Or do only a handful of people know the full recipe like with Coca-Cola?

Chef Jayson leaves a legacy here at Universal Orlando Resort and he will forever be remembered for what he helped bring to life here. The Butterbeer recipe is truly one of our most secretive–only a few people know the full recipe.

What are some treats you've created for Wizarding World that aren't in the books and movies and are just special to the theme parks?

While some of the food and beverage offerings in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are in the Harry Potter series, we have also created menu items that are inspired by the series along with delicious British fare. One original treat that I’m very happy about is Butterbeer Ice Cream. It has such a cool look, and it makes me happy to see how much our guests are enjoying it—complete with amber swirls.

How did you come up with all the different ways to enjoy Butterbeer and what's your favorite?

We started with cold and frozen beverage versions just for the simple nature of the Florida heat and we wanted to offer something refreshing that guests of all ages could enjoy all year long. We also knew there were some references to hot Butterbeer in the books, so we decided to roll that out during the cooler months as a limited time offer. Hot Butterbeer became so popular that we now offer it year-round. Guests can also enjoy Butterbeer fudge in our merchandise locations, which represents key notes of shortbread cookies and has the signature look of a white foam top with an amber base, and even enjoy Butterbeer Ice Cream. It’s very tough for me to choose a favorite—I think it changes depending on what I’m in the mood for. They’re all so delicious!

What are other Wizarding World treats you brought to life? And how did you come up with the exact flavors and textures?

We’ve created a really cool selection of beverages in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that are inspired by the Harry Potter series. One example is Pumpkin Juice, which is quite popular with our guests. The beverages inside The Leaky Cauldron at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Diagon Alley—like Fishy Green Ale, Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, Peachtree Fizzing Tea and Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice—are all incredible and have different flavor profiles and textures that play into the unique names they have. When creating exact flavors and textures, we typically take consumer trends into consideration while also ensuring our creations are authentic, taste amazing, and seamlessly fit into the guest experience and the story we want to immerse them into.

Fishy Green Ale is such an experience. It's got so much going on, from texture to taste to color. Tell me why this drink was invented and how you determined the wacky flavors? What are those flavors exactly? Because it kind of morphs from cinnamon to mint to blueberry! Is that right?!

Fishy Green Ale is such a fun beverage! As with all our signature beverages in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we wanted to create something that could be enjoyed by guests of all ages. During the development of the beverage, which was in 2014, I got the idea to add some mint-flavored ginger ale to it–I tasted it and I loved it!  At this point, we knew we had something special–we just needed to find a creative way to make it green and add a fish element to it. At the time boba was popular, so I added boba pearls to the beverage to make it look like fish eggs at the base of the drink and I was able to make the drink green. I ran down the hallway to present it to my boss at the time and he took one sip and said, ‘mm this is good! What is it?’ and that’s when I said, ‘That’s Fishy Green Ale!’ The rest is history.

In the books, it's said that Harry Potter's favorite dessert is treacle tart. Have you ever experimented with treacle in the test kitchens or do you have any plans to bring a treacle tart to the Wizarding World parks?

We have many amazing treats across our entire resort, and you just never know what we’ll create next. We truly listen to our guests and make sure we are always adapting to trends, flavor profiles, and giving them new items to keep them immersed in their favorite stories. So, you’ll have to wait and see what we have up our sleeves next…

Are you currently experimenting with new flavors and eats for the Wizarding World? Can we expect to see anything new on the menu in 2024?

Food and beverage at Universal Orlando Resort has grown into a vital part of the immersive storytelling we offer our guests–our menu offerings have become attractions in and of themselves. We do have some things coming very soon, and although I can’t share details about them quite yet, I can tell you that they are very delicious and exciting.

Read the original article on All Recipes.