The holiday season is full of great foods and drinks, but when it comes to making some sort of hierarchy, it’s really difficult to beat the sweet treats that come directly after the main meal. Sure, seasonal dinners are hearty and delicious, but the real winners are the sugar cookies, Rice Krispy treats, rum balls, and — in the “way underrated” column — super fudgy brownies.
Seriously, brownies deserve way more love than they get. At their best, they’re rich, moist, fudgy, and full of chocolate chunks. Add some salt on top and you’ve got pretty much the perfect dessert. But besides a giant glass of milk, what drink should you pair them with? Like with most holiday foods, we prefer whiskey.
Christa Csoka, owner and mixologist at The Artisan’s Palate in Charlotte, North Carolina has very specific parameters when it comes to pairing brownies and whiskey.
“First, I would make sure the fudgy brownie is made with dark chocolate because the underlying sweetness and bite of whiskey is offset well with the more bitter flavor of dark chocolate,” she says. “A robust Scotch whisky would match and balance the high cocoa content of a dark chocolate brownie.”
Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire in the Cayman Islands likes a whiskey that compliments the fudge-forward flavors.
“A complimentary whiskey for fudge, sweet, chocolate and gooey cake is the Suntory Hibiki Harmony,” he says. “The age statement versions of this unique blended malt from Japan are unavailable — except to those with deep pockets on auction sites — due to the current boom in the Japanese whisky market, so they released this ultra-smooth, lightly toffee, cinnamon and chocolate-scented whisky for everyone to enjoy. Perfect with a brownie or two.”
With the holidays ramping up, we asked more of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite brownie and whiskey pairings. Check their answers below.
Woodford Reserve Rye
Cole Newton, bartender and owner at Twelve Mile Limit in New Orleans
I can’t think of a better whiskey to drink with a rich, gooey brownie than a nice rye. There are a lot of good ones, but if you’re celebrating, Woodford Reserve Rye is hard to beat, and being on the sweeter, more approachable side of a category that is known for being a little prickly, should allow it to complement a brownie perfectly.
Knob Creek Bourbon
Jay Oakley, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore
This one is easy, Knob Creek’s darker design — based around burnt caramel and chocolate — make it my favorite whiskey to pair with a fudgy brownie.
Slayde Martin, bar operations Manager at Pescado in Rosemary Beach, Florida
I’m going with Willett Rye. Specifically, any of the 8-year single barrel bottles I’ve had. Almost viscose, loaded with Rye spice and almost a hint of sweetness. That on a cube with a fudge brownie: yes, please.
Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Single Malt Scotch
Michelle Hamo, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia
Fudge brownies are luxurious, rich and decadent. Depending on the whiskey you choose, the intensity of this dessert could easily outshine the spirit and your poor overwhelmed palate will be left with the bite of alcohol without any substantial flavor. You need a hefty, robust whiskey to match and go toe-to-toe with the dessert. My choice is Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Single Malt Scotch. Smoky peat, nutty caramel, baking spices, and vanilla alongside a full body make this a whiskey that can stand up to rich desserts.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Erick Arce Martín, bartender at Bosque Bar at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa in Costa Rica
The perfect pairing is sometimes your favorite drink with the right dessert! I would choose Maker’s Mark, which is a bourbon with sweet and Woodie characteristics and complex aromas like vanilla. Goes great with a fudgy brownie!
Angel’s Envy Rye
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
Angel’s Envy Rye is one of my favorites to drink with anything sweet. Using Plantation Rum Barrels to mature, it has such a nice palate of caramel and honey with a great rye bite that pairs so well with fudge.
Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Irish Whiskey
Jim Wrigley, beverage director at Kimpton Seafire in the Cayman Islands
I love Connemara 12-year-old peated Irish Single Malt whiskey, a far cry from the ever-popular Jame-o. The riot of flavors in this densely packed dram includes oily peat, citrus, poached pears and custard, buttery earthy burnt wood, and a hint of oat biscuit. Sip and chew and back again to release the best of both the brownie and this Irish gem of a dram.
George Dickel Bottled In Bond Whiskey
Benjamin Rouse, head bartender at Henley in Nashville
The new Bottled in Bond from George Dickel is the spot-on choice for this situation. The nose reminds me of crushed black walnuts and caramel. Not to mention it’s 13 years old and under $50. Such a steal.
Highwest Double Rye
Zarko Stankovik, beverage manager at Time Out Market in Miami
When it comes to pairing whiskey and brownies, that would be Highwest Double Rye. With its flavors of toffee, rye spice and caramel make it a perfect pairing.
Virginia Distillery Company Port Cask Virginia Highland Whisky
Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia
I really enjoy the Virginia Distillery Company Port Cask Virginia Highland Whisky. At Live Oak, I recommend this to anyone ordering a chocolate dessert. On our menu, we pair it with dark chocolate pieces as well.
Auchentoshan 25-year-old 1988 Wine Cask Finished Single Malt Scotch
Jose Medina Camacho, lead bartender at Automatic Seafood & Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama
In a perfect world, I would pair it with, Auchentoshan 25-year-old 1988 Wine Cask Finished Single Malt Scotch, being finished in a wine cask helps play with chocolate. Or if we are talking bourbon, Willett Family Estate Bourbon (I’ve never been disappointed with Willett’s Single Barrel Bourbon) it’s bold flavors due to the high proof doesn’t get lost when eating brownies.
Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Year Sherry Cask Finish
Rebecca Edwards, bar manager at Tavola in Charlottesville, Virginia
Tullamore Dew 12 Year Sherry Cask Finish. I love the pairing of sherry and chocolate, so a whiskey finished in sherry casks is the perfect nutty pairing for a good brownie.