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Ah yes.  The nightcap.  The Gentleman’s way to end the night.  This beverage is becoming a lost art in today’s culture of ciders and cocktails.  Most people end a night by taking a one off on the mai tai with the cute little umbrella.  But that’s not how a gentleman (or lady) finishes the night.  So what exactly is a nightcap?  Let’s start with the opposite question.

What A Nightcap ISN’T

A nightcap isn’t a beer or cocktail.  There are no fruit juices or mixers involved.  They are never served cold or on ice, since the point is to warm you up before bed.  They are not clear alcohol, wine, or schnapps.  Nightcaps are not, I repeat, are NOT shots.

What A Nightcap IS

Nightcaps are typically made at home, or at least at a different location than where you’ve been drinking.  The nightcap should be a signal to the brain that the party is over, and it’s time to settle down.  These are either single drinks or blended alcohol.  The only mixers allowed are flavored alcohol, milk, or bitters.  For example, you can mix brandy and Bénédictine, but never whiskey and soda.  Nightcaps are typically primarily brown liquor – brandy, bourbon, cognac, spiced rum, etc.  Those of you going for a straight drink can take a double pour of any of these, neat.  My personal suggestion?  Maker’s 46.

For those of you who prefer to mix, I’ve listed 5 of my favorite recipes below.

How To Drink A Nightcap

If you are mixing your nightcap, do so in a tumbler without ice, strain, and pour.  The traditional nightcap glass is called a snifter, and it looks like a short-stemmed (<1″) red wine glass.  They usually hold around 6-8 oz, but should not be filled up all the way.  Only fill it up about 2 oz, or until the widest part of the glass.  Once poured, allow to sit momentarily.  Then hold part your lips around the lip of the glass as if you were about to drink.  This is the proper way to test the aroma of the drink.  After you savor the smell, sip the drink.  Nightcaps are meant to be sipped, not chugged.

Best Nightcap Recipes

If you’re not into straight alcohol, here are some great drinks for you to try for your next nightcap!

The Baton Rouge –

  • 1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • .66 oz Sweet vermouth
  • .66 oz Xanté Liqueur
  • .66 oz VSOP cognac
  • .66 oz Gold rum

The B&B

  • 1 oz. brandy
  • 1 oz. Bénédictine

Ce Soir – Tasting Table

  • 2 ounces Cognac
  • ¾ ounce Cynar
  • ½ ounce yellowChartreuse
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Milk and Honey

  • 1.5 oz. Bénédictine
  • .5 oz warm milk


    • 1.5 oz. Spiced Rum
    • .5 oz. Laird’s Applejack