How to Properly Execute a Nightcap

Categories: Drinking

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A story in the New York Times Magazine over the weekend examined the practice of cramming in one more drink before the evening ends. According to "Rules for an Honorable Nightcap," there are, it turns out, many rules.

A nightcap should be a one-off, not "one more" of whatever you're drinking. As much as I love a good cocktail, that's how to start a night, not how to end it. Your last drink should be set apart, so pick something special, something to sip slowly; one serving of one spirit, neat. When possible, I like to make a separate space for my nightcap: if I've whiled away a few perfectly pleasant hours at one restaurant or bar, I'll switch to another or drink that last one at home. A change of venue facilitates a change of pace and signals that the night is shifting down.

Sounds honorable enough to me. It turns out that this is what I've already been doing with many of my nights, although I follow the rules more loosely and purely by accident.

I had the story in mind on Sunday night when I stopped in at the bar at Hotel Zaza and ordered a scotch at the bar, after a warm fall evening of beer-swilling at Lee Harvey's. It was almost perfect. Dragonfly has a swanky feel, and everyone was dressed for a night out, but a football game played loudly on a flat-screen TV. The noise muddled the vibe.

Perhaps I broke rules in not chasing beers with a finer version of the same beverage, but I didn't care. I like whiskey; we get along nicely. Unlike the author, I prefer my spirits rustic and rugged, with a peaty, smoky burn that envelops my senses like a campfire on a cool fall evening. Talisker's a favorite; Lagavulin will do in a pinch.

When it's cold or late, I prefer to indulge a late evening drink at home for the greatest of nightcaps: a snifter of whiskey on comfortable couch, perhaps with a close friend -- with music from my own collection, and my bed nearby.

And you? What's your nightcap?

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26 comments
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@theburbanist
@theburbanist

I don't know why Zaza insists on that TV- you aren't the first I've heard complain about it. It just doesn't fit the vibe. Also, JW Gold. Or Blue if I'm feeling peaty.

todd
todd

Barley House.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Almost any of the 30 single malts sitting on my bar, including your aforementioned Lagavulin and Talisker (my brother named his dog Talisker after she put her nose in his nightcap glass of same and took a couple laps of it).   I usually prefer the darker and heavier ones to end the evening with. The Macallan cask strength has real nice lately.Served in Waterford half size brandy snifter, with about a half teaspoon of water to activate the flavors.  Or, if I really want to treat myself I’ll breakout the bottle of Audry cognac I bought several years ago in Paris. There are several good memories associated with that bottle.      

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

I use about an inch of water from the end of a bar straw.

Steve
Steve

Buffalo Trace and the rest of that joint.

Jim
Jim

I usually just go for "the rest of that joint".

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I would spring for a fresh one and enjoy the finer aroma.

Flied Lice
Flied Lice

Redbreast or jameson, 2 cubes

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Jameson 1780. Neat.

Ice? In Jameson's?

Blasphemy!

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

This reminds of the whole issue of ice in general and bar ice in particular.  Bar ice is rarely represented any more by the one and one-half to two inch square ice cube.  There are now every variety of circles and rectangles, all irreparably ruined with some form of hollowness.  These ice hollows dramatically increase the ice surface area exposed to the whiskey, resulting in premature and over dilution.  Another good reason to have those martinis stirred and not shaken.  The perfect cube is almost extinct unless you craft your own ice tray.

The other problem with bar ice is slime in the ice machine.  How often are these machines emptied and properly cleaned, and how many times do barkeeps antiseptically wash and dry their hands before reaching onto the machine?  Which reminds me of keg line detritus and the advantage of bottled and canned beer.

Clean glass, good whiskey, no ice or water.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I've always imagined the perfect sphere ice cube.  That is very cool.  I'm not so much of a germaphobe--just spent some time in Houston watching local newscasts of investigative reporters exposing "slime in the ice machine."

Gmit
Gmit

Huh germophobe much ? No Im in ice snob to some degree and if I was a fan of the hard stuff Id be that way too.

Craft has the classic cocktail cube and I recentley had a drink in Las Vegas with a perfect sphere

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

A good two fingers of single malt, clean whiskey tumbler, no ice, no water, no soda.  I save the snifter for the French distilled liquors (cognac, brandy, calvados, etc.).  A properly lit fire is nice.  So is some Miles, Coltrane or Cooder's Chicken Skin Music.  Add a little female company and it just doesn't get any better.

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

Or Ry Cooder's 'Paradise & Lunch'

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

My all time favorite RC album; love his version of I Used to Love Her.  Chicken Skin is a close second but much mellower, especially with that slack string steel guitar.

TLS
TLS

I need to learn to say NO to the nightcap as I usually am regretting that one last drink the next morning.  

Gmit
Gmit

So you went to Zaza smelling of hickory and mesquite from lh

just sayin'
just sayin'

Judging by what I usually find on my bathroom countertop, I would have to say that my favorite nightcap is usually 1/3 of a beer.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

patron (I dont like the dark stuff at the end of the night), not chilled, no salt, just a lime, and not as shot but rather a drink.....followed by mrs. merkin, nude, in bed...its the perfect nightcap

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

kind of embrassring, but a white russian makes for a good "nightcap"...not that it fits the definition above, but the dairy settles your stomach, gives you some calories and you feel better the next morning.

therrick
therrick

Whatever I find in my apartment when i get home.

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