Going so soon? I wouldn’t hear of it. Why, my little party’s just beginning.
“In Spain, it’s called ‘la ultima,’ and it’s for when you don’t want to let go of the night,” says Maria Trabocchi, co-owner, with husband, Fabio, of celebrated Washington, D.C. restaurants, Fiola, Casa Luca and Fiola Mare. “It is a way of extending the evening before you get back into your Uber or taxi and immerse yourself in looking at your phone.”
Arnaud Dissais of Daniel in New York
Arnaud Dissais, head bartender at Daniel, agrees, “Everyone is always working so hard all the time. To enjoy a nice meal and afterwards go to a place for a drink is an important moment. It gives you an excuse to change the environment and get into another conversation.”
We’re talking, of course, about the nightcap, that most seductive of moments when the crowd departs and it is just you and a close friend or two setting the world to rights. It’s back and in a big way.
Once upon a time, this little evening delight was strictly reserved for chic hotel bars and groovy Mad Men-era pieds-a-terre, but lately it feels more accessible: fresh and cool rather than just retro chic.
We asked Jeremy Buck, who bartends at the aptly named and recently opened Nitecap, a Lower East Side cocktail bar with the requisite seductive low lighting and squeeze-in red banquettes, if it’s another case of everything old being new again. “It never really went away,” he said.” It’s just that there’s more of a focus on it now.”
Jeremy Buck sent along this fabulous photo from The Gentleman’s Table Guide by E. Ricket and C. Thomas for historical reference.
Trabocchi and Dissais say that they often see diners from earlier in the evening return to their restaurants for the last drink. And Buck compares the bar Nitecap to a friend’s basement. The venue is less important than the vibe. “It’s a matter of striking the right balance between having some energy and being relaxing. No one wants it to be too stuffy,” he says.
Nitecap captures the intimacy of the chic-all-over-again nightcap
In fact, the at-home nightcap can be the most intimate of all. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got stocked in the bar. From a classic B&B to a Mexican beer with a shot of whiskey. Whatever your poison, darlin’, the contents of the glass are secondary to what’s all around it: the music, the conversation, the lighting. In fact, that goes double for lighting.
“Everyone needs a real life Instagram filter,” says Amanda McCrossin, sommelier at Rotisserie Georgette and host of the web series UnWined with Amanda, who likes to end her night with a moody drink, like Amaro, in a moody room. “Dark lighting, with a flicker of candlelight is the perfect way to achieve that slightly haphazard ambience that proclaims, ‘I don’t know why I’m still here, but I’m surely not leaving before last call.’”
Santé, doll we’ll be right there with you. Read on for our three favorite fall nightcaps and a playlist that will ensure your soirée ends on the perfect note.
The Salonniere’s Favorite Nightcaps for Fall
1 ounce of your favorite brandy
1 ounce Benedictine
Pour the liquors into a brandy snifter and stir. Twist a lemon peel over the drink to release its oils then discard the peel.
The Brandy Alexander
2 ounces cognac or other fine aged brandy
1 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 ounce cream
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
The Night Cap
2 ounces white rum
4 ounces warm milk
1 dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon of sugar
Mix the rum, milk and sugar in a mug. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
The Salonniere’s Nightcap Playlist
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning – Frank Sinatra
Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye – Lady Gaga
Cognac Blues – Dizzy Gillespie
It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight – Ella Fitzgerald
Night Cap – Charlie Parker
One for My Baby – Billie Holiday (photo above)
Au Revoir – One Republic
Straight, No Chaser – Thelonious Monk
Closing Time – Tom Waits
I’ll Be Seeing You – Tony Bennett
Introductory photo: Conrad Veidt and Vivien Leigh in Dark Journey, 1937
Introductory quote: The Wizard of Oz, 1939
Photo credits: Daniel, Jeremu Buck, Nitecap, Amanda McCrossin, The Hawthorne, Getty
Not ready for the party to end, doll? Join us for a nightcap on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.