Photo: Universal Studios
DrinkeryDrinkery is The Takeout's celebration of beer, liquor, coffee, and other potent potables.  

This summer, I did something that I still can’t really believe was a real thing I did for work, for which I was paid in actual money. I went to the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, to eat and drink my way through Hogwarts and rate it all according to relative magical qualities.

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It was a real “how is this real life?” moment, and not just because I was surrounded by people in head-to-toe black robes in the middle of summer in California. I love those books, that place is a trip, and the experience overall was oddly thrilling and surprisingly emotional. Yet over and over again, both in the comments of the article and among my friends, I was told the same thing: “If you didn’t have the hot butterbeer, you did it wrong and you have to go back.”

Oh, if you insist.

Reader, I did go back, and everyone who demanded I did so was absolutely correct. There is no comparison: The hot butterbeer is, without a doubt, the best butterbeer.

Now available year-round (per a Universal Studios representative), the coziest version of the drink is also the easiest to drink. While as sweet, or nearly so, as its cold and frozen counterparts, it lacks the syrupy quality that makes the others somewhat (or very, depending on your palate) overwhelming. It’s also creamy—while the others are topped with a hearty inch-and-change of foam, here that creaminess is just a part of the experience, because whatever fits on top also melts. Perhaps that’s what makes the taste so much pleasanter, or maybe it’s just that it calls different reference points to mind (much more like drinking a cocoa or latte than a slushee or soda). Whatever the cause, the flavors are a bit subtle and way more interesting.

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Hot butterbeer is, again, like drinking hot cocoa—the good kind, made with milk—but instead of chocolate, the base tastes like butterscotch, with a hint of something like shortbread. It smells like heaven, too. You can also, assuming you’re a grown person, add liquor at one of the Wizarding World bars (though you have to pour the shot in yourself). My bartender recommended Ogden’s Old Firewhisky, but I’d already done that:

It’s something you have to ask for at the bar, so that felt magical. The label is beautiful and kind of sparkly. And it’s a cinnamon whiskey I didn’t totally hate, which is definitely an otherworldly feat.

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So I went with Maker’s Mark instead. It added a woodiness and note of caramel that made it even better. Thanks, commenters, you were right: Hot butterbeer is the best butterbeer, and once you add real whiskey, it’s also the best thing you can eat or drink at the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. It is (not sorry) magical.