I approached my version in three parts: the foam (whipped cream with nutmeg), the butter (homemade butterscotch, recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen), and the beer (three testers, doctored with butter and spice). The end goal was a drink with a touch of alcohol, something warming and creamy and definitely a special treat. To my mind, the ginger beer was the clear winner. It was flavorful and rich, and stood its ground against the other ingredients. The pear apple cider tasted thin and weak by compassion, and the Nut Brown Ale overly bitter, but then again, I’m not a big beer drinker. If ales are your thing, you might enjoy that option better than I did. If you decide to use the pear apple cider, I would reduce the light brown sugar to 3/4-1 tablespoon, and if you use the ale, I would increase it to 2.5-3 tablespoons. —Cristina Sciarra
1/2 stick unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
a heaping 1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1.5 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/3 a vanilla bean
up to 1 ounce dark rum (it will boozy)
1.5 cups ginger beer (or pear apple cider, or nut brown ale)
Make the "butter": Add 1/2 stick of the unsalted butter to a medium pot. Turn the heat to medium, and let the butter melt. Whisk in: the dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, and the flaky sea salt. Let the mixture come to a mild boil for about 5 minutes, whisking as you go. When the butterscotch is thick enough to really coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. If you like, add a bit more sea salt and vanilla to taste.
Make the "foam": Pour 1 cup of the heavy cream into a bowl. If you have an electric mixture, break it out now. Mix the cream until it’s whipped to your liking.
Put the drink together: Melt the remaining butter in a medium pot, over medium-low heat. Add the grated ginger, the nutmeg, the light brown sugar, and the vanilla bean. Stir to combine. Wait until the butter is bubbling gently, and then add the rum and stir again. Let the rum come to a little bubble, 1 minute.
Add the ginger beer to the pot, and lower the heat a tad. Keep the pot on the stove just long enough for the ginger beer to heat through, and to impart the flavor of the ginger and vanilla, about 3-4 minutes.
Prepare your glasses. Add a spoonful of butterscotch to the bottom of each glass (adjust depending on personal sweetness preferences).
Run the butterbeer through a fine seive or cheesecloth, to remove any ginger bits, and the vanilla bean.
Fill each glass 2/3 full with the strained butterbeer. Top with the whipped cream, and a gentle dusting of nutmeg. Serve warm. (If left to cool, the butterbeer will separate a little; you can fix this by reheating and stirring.)
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.