Butterscotch drinks can generally be divided into two types: alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Butterscotch has been used to flavor everything from tea and coffee to schnapps and cocktails. Even milkshakes and malts can be butterscotch-flavored. It is also used to flavor pastries and other desserts and as an ice cream topping. Made primarily with brown sugar and butter, the taste is similar to toffee, although when making the latter the brown sugar is generally boiled longer.
One of the most popular types of butterscotch drinks is butterscotch schnapps. In the United States, schnapps are flavored liqueurs as opposed to German schnapps, a clear distilled alcoholic drink. American schnapps are a mix of fruit or other flavors with pure grain alcohol. Butterscotch schnapps are often mixed with other liqueurs in shot-drink or shooter recipes.
Butterscotch schnapps can also be used in cocktails with vodka, whiskey, or brandy. For example, the butterball cocktail is usually made with cream, vodka, and butterscotch schnapps. A butterball brandy substitutes brandy and whiskey for the vodka. Butterscotch schnapps can also be added to a baked apple vodka martini.
As an alternative to alcoholic butterscotch drinks, there are many brands of tea and coffee imbued with this sweet flavoring. Butterscotch tea and coffee generally has a lighter butterscotch flavor than schnapps, but is still sweet enough to be considered dessert drinks. Adding milk and sugar can add a creamy and sweet taste.
Other common types of butterscotch drinks include malts and milkshakes. The sweetness of butterscotch complements the texture of ice cream and lends a golden color to these drinkable treats. Milkshakes are generally made with vanilla ice cream and a little milk while malts add malted milk powder. This powder is distinctly sour tasting. Malt and milkshake ingredients are blended with butterscotch syrup to produce these types of butterscotch drinks.
Given the amount of calories and sugar in a typical milkshake or malt, some people may opt for a butterscotch smoothie. This type of butterscotch drink may not actually use real butterscotch but rather try to imitate the flavor without the sugar and butter. Agave nectar and dates are often used to mock the butterscotch flavor. When blended with a ripe banana and some milk or water, the result is often healthier than a regular milkshake made with ice cream.
Although theories and disputes about the origin of butterscotch abound, it is generally agreed that the flavor is made with butter and brown sugar. The brown sugar is caramelized slowly with the butter. Some recipes also add cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Butterscotch likely originated in the Yorkshire region of England.