I'm fairly certain that some of the first words I learned to say were "Jack Daniels manhattan, up."
And no, I was not raised in a bar.
For as long as I can recall, a manhattan made with Jack Daniels whiskey and served straight up has been my dad's cocktail of choice. He never drinks them at home, only in restaurants at the beginning of a meal. When my dad orders a manhattan, it is a sign that he is ready to call it a day and ease into a nice long dinner. Menus are set aside without so much as a glance at the appetizers, and the server is usually told "no hurry", which I'm sure they just love.
And dad is very particular about the quality of his manhattans. We watch with baited breath as he takes that fateful first sip. I always try to gauge from the depth of the drink's amber color whether or not the composition is up to par. An incorrect vermouth to whiskey ratio will find that sucker on its way back to bar, while a properly concocted drink is granted dad's signature slight nod of satisfied approval.
Once, in Aruba, after several failed attempts from the bartender, my dad actually ventured behind the bar and made his own manhattan. Oh yeah, he'll go there if need be.
I can't remember exactly how old I was, but at some point I decided that I needed to see what all of this manhattan hype was about. Surely this must be one incredibly smooth cocktail, right? I've never been one for strong "it'll put hair on your chest" drinks, but if my dad enjoys it that much.....
Blech! Gack! Wincing from burning throat caused by what might be the most awful thing that I have ever tasted.
The word "vile" immediately came to mind.
This is what all of the hoopla has been about? Are you freaking serious? Why would you subject me, your only adoring daughter, to such torture? Why-eeeeeeee???
And P.S., I don't want hair on my chest. Why would I want hair on my chest? That should have been my first clue right there.
While my dad and I are alike in many ways, preference of cocktail is clearly not one of them. I should have considered the fact that I have never seen my dad drink a chocolate martini before I abused all of those taste buds.
So, no, you will never see me sporting a tee that says "Whiskey's #1 Fan." It's just not my thing.
Except of course when it comes to ganache (there's always an exception, and it usually involves chocolate.) Whiskey in ganache is a very good thing, and it is most definitely my thing. Especially when that ganache is resting on top of a super-fudgy, guaranteed-to-get-your-hands-dirty, rich brownie made with reduced stout beer. Beer in a brownie might seem unconventional, I know, but it actually adds depth by intensifying the chocolate flavor. Trust me, it doesn't taste like your are biting into a chocolate Coors Light.
For the record, I don't like beer either, unless of course you put it into a brownie.
Here are some extra tips for making these double-spiked sweets:
- Feel free to either substitute walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts for the pecans or omit them altogether.
- Grand Marnier, Chambord, Kahlua, or cherry brandy (kirsch) would all be good substitutes for the whiskey in the ganache
- This brownies will keep well, tightly wrapped and chilled, for several days. They may also be wrapped and frozen.
- If you want to omit the ganache altogether, you can simply dust the chilled brownies with some powdered sugar.
Chocolate Stout Brownies with Whiskey Ganache
16 ounces stout beer (such as Sam Adams Cream Stout or Guinness)
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks (8 oz) butter, in pieces
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
For the ganache
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons Irish whiskey
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter a 13X9-inch baking pan. Line the pan with foil or parchment paper so that there is a 2-inch overhang. Butter the foil/parchment.
Pour the stout into a medium saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. Bring the stout to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and allow the stout to reduce down to 3/4 cup, 10-15 minutes. Allow the stout to cool slightly.
Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter in a large metal bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and gradually add the eggs, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like texture. Whisk in the sugar until fully incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla.
Sift together the cake flour, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 2 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the reduced stout, stirring until fully blended. Mix in the pecans.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is set and a toothpick inserted emerges with a few moist crumbs attached, 24-30 minutes. Place the pan on a rack to cool.
Prepare the ganache: Melt the chocolate, cream, and butter in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the whiskey, depending on personal taste. Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, then spread it over the brownies in the pan, smoothing the top. Chill the brownies for at least 2 hours before cutting.