“What exactly is a nightcap, anyway?” I get asked this all the time. As the author of a new book on the topic, my standard response is that it’s your last drink of the evening — it’s the pour that caps off your night. But that’s a little flip. The longer answer, if you have a drink in hand and want to hear it, is to first explain what a nightcap isn’t. It isn’t an aperitivo, designed to rev up your appetite for a meal; it isn’t a drink that’s overly stimulating, which is why I usually put perky gin martinis in the not-a-nightcap column; it isn’t a drink that’s too fussy and distracting. And it sure isn’t multiple drinks — that’s called having another round, not a singular, final nightcap. A proper nightcap can be a cocktail or straight pour of a spirit. But beyond that, what you’re drinking isn’t the point. As I found by talking with bartenders, the nightcap is defined by when you’re drinking it — end of night, of course, although I have a friend who argues in favour of the pre-nap ...

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