In Praise of the Nightcap: The Best Cocktail Recipes to Make Before Bed

nightcap cocktail recipes
Antonis Achilleos

Since the early 1800s, drinkers have affectionately referred to the evening’s last tipple as a nightcap—a soothing dram or mixture, like a hot toddy, usually consumed directly before crawling into bed. Today’s bartenders have expanded that definition drastically, including everything from amaro-based digestifs to boozy lowballs made with mezcal. And that’s a good thing: The last drink of the night should be a show-stopper that satiates your late-night whims, whatever they may be.

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“It’s an undersung category. It’s not really a kind of drink, like a martini is,” says Kara Newman, author of the new recipe book Nightcap. “It’s more about the situation—when you’re having it and who you’re having it with—than about the actual drink itself.”

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So whether your tastes run to the rich and liqueur-based or the more bourbon-heavy, here are four ideal cocktails to cap the night off right.


Pizzicato Passage

Rob Roy, Seattle (from Nightcap)

  • 1 oz amontillado sherry
  • 1 oz Meletti amaro
  • 1⁄2 oz ancho chili liqueur
  • 1⁄2 oz London dry gin
  • Candied ginger

In a mixing glass, stir together first four ingredients with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with candied ginger.



Jaguar Sun, Miami

  • 1 oz Rhum Barbancourt 3 star
  • 1 oz Suntory Toki Japanese whiskey
  • 1 oz Russell’s Reserve bourbon
  • 1⁄2 oz simple syrup
  • Orange twist

Infuse a bottle of rum with eight ounces of coffee beans overnight. Combine rum, whiskey, bourbon, and simple syrup in a rocks glass on ice. Stir and garnish with an orange twist.


Rusty Nail

NoMad, Las Vegas

  • 1 1⁄2 oz Chivas 12-year-old Scotch
  • 3⁄4 oz Drambuie
  • Lemon peel

Combine ingredients in a rocks glass and add ice. Stir, then wipe the lemon peel over the glass’s rim and drop it in.


Brandy Alexander

From Nightcap

  • 1 1⁄4 oz brandy
  • 1 oz crème de cacao
  • 3⁄4 oz heavy cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with nutmeg.


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