The custom of ending the day with an alcoholic nightcap might not be as common as it once was, but many of us do so every so often. A nightcap might be as simple as a small glass of brandy, Irish Cream liqueur, or even some wine. Still, why not go for an evening cocktail instead?
Cocktails often taste better than straight spirits anyway. They end up having a more complex flavor profile and the alcohol often isn’t so overpowering.
Plus, a cocktail doesn’t need to be strong. Some of them are, of course, while others heavily rely on mixers to create a more relaxing drink. We’re covering a variety of styles in this list to give you options to choose from.
If you’re looking for something different for the end of the day, our list of drinks to drink in the evening might be helpful. Those drinks tend to be non-alcoholic and are healthy ways to end the day.
You might also consider milk cocktails. The focus on milk often makes these creamier than other types of cocktails. While some milk cocktails mightn’t be good in the evening, many of them are.
Let’s begin with a classic. The term hot toddy is a general one. Most hot toddies rely on hot water, along with ingredients like lemon juice, honey, and various spices. A splash of alcohol is added in too, with whiskey being a popular choice.
For the most part, you can make a hot toddy however you would like, as the recipes vary so much from one another. You might want to make the lemon flavor more prominent or add more than just a splash of whiskey in there.
It’s also worth thinking about how sweet to make the drink. Some hot toddies are cloyingly sweet, using sugar or apple cider to obtain this sweetness. This high sugar content is a serious problem if you’re making a nightcap. The last thing you want is a sugar rush from the drink that’s meant to help you wind down.
Keeping the sweetness to a minimum will create a more delicious drink – one that is better for you too.
Hot Chai Toddy
Not surprisingly, this cocktail is a variation on a hot toddy. The main difference is that you’re using chai tea in the mix as well. Chai tea uses a combination of black tea and spices, so you’re getting a strong flavor of tea as part of the cocktail.
While you can use whiskey, this cocktail often calls for gin instead. The botanicals in gin are an ideal combination with the flavors of chai tea, especially if you find a spiced gin.
Some versions of the cocktail use apple juice or apple cider too. This makes the drink sweeter and can be appealing. But, don’t go overboard with the apple juice. Once again, hot toddies aren’t nearly as good when they’re too sweet.
Mulled wine is another classic choice. This time, you’re heating wine with a selection of spices. The heating process infuses the flavor of the spices into your wine.
While you can make mulled wine with white wine, most versions use red instead. Red wine naturally complements the spices and you don’t need to be picky about the wine you use. Any red will be fine. Only some types of white wine will work for mulled wine and the wrong selection can taste horrible once heated.
You might need to add some type of sweetener to the wine too. Brown sugar is often used. You could also choose a fruit syrup.
If you want to make the process easy, try preparing your mulled wine in a slow cooker. The slow cooker keeps your wine warm without bringing it to a boil. This minimizes the alcohol that is lost during the heating process.
Lavender Honey Cream
This modern cocktail feels ideal for the end of the night. It uses lavender honey syrup and heavy cream as key ingredients.
Oddly, the original version uses a botanical vodka as the base ingredient. You could experiment with the drink to see if another spirit tastes better.
The negroni is a classic cocktail that shows up in many places. It is particularly appealing, as it has a complex flavor profile and vibrant coloring. Despite this, a negroni isn’t difficult to make at all.
You just need three ingredients to make the cocktail – gin, sweet red vermouth and Campari. Combine equal measures of each of these in a glass with ice. Give it a stir, then you’re good to go.
The cocktail has a slight bitter edge to it, which is surprisingly appealing late at night. This bitterness can help to settle your stomach, especially if you’ve just had a heavy meal.
A boulevardier cocktail is similar to a negroni, relying on bourbon or rye whiskey, rather than gin. The rest of the cocktail is exactly the same.
Yet, a boulevardier is also very different than a negroni. The use of gin creates a more complex drink with interesting flavors.
Both cocktails are flexible. You can make them using equal measures of all three ingredients or increase the amount of spirit and decrease the other ingredients. The ratios of ingredients will affect the flavor of the finished drink, but the end result is appealing regardless.
New York Sour
The New York sour is a delightful variation on a whiskey sour, one that uses red wine to finish the drink off. The red wine helps to mellow out the sharpness of a whiskey sour, creating a nightcap that goes down a treat.
To make a New York sour, start off with a whiskey sour, then pour a little red wine gently on top, over the back of a spoon. If done carefully, the red wine should float on top, creating a layered effect.
The biggest advantage of this cocktail is that it is simple. An old fashioned uses whiskey as the base spirit, then adds in a sugar cube and bitters. You’ll need to muddle the sugar cube with the other ingredients, but the process can be surprisingly relaxing.
An old fashioned is also perfect as a nightcap, as you’re basically creating a mellower version of whiskey on the rocks. This is also one of the classic manly cocktails, which is another reason to try it for yourself.
If you’re looking for a milder drink, a bamboo could be the perfect choice. This cocktail uses equal measures of sherry and dry vermouth. A few splashes of orange bitters and Angostura bitters are added as well.
With no heavy spirit in sight, the bamboo has a lower alcohol concentration than most other cocktails. As such, the drink can easily help you wind down, without making you tipsy in the process.
The refined flavors of a Manhattan make this an easy choice for evenings. This time, the base ingredient is bourbon or rye whiskey. Sweet vermouth is used as well. A common ratio is two parts bourbon to one part sweet vermouth.
A dash or two of Angostura bitters finishes the cocktail off nicely.
Some versions add a little orange bitters as well to make the flavor profile more interesting. Whether you use the orange bitters is up to you. This cocktail goes down easily either way.
Don Lockwood Whiskey Cocktail
Whiskey often makes its way into a nightcap and Don Lockwood whiskey cocktail highlights the idea perfectly. The drink is more complex than most, as it uses bourbon and Scotch, along with chocolate bitters, Angostura bitters, and a little maple syrup.
The flavor profile ends up being smoky and sweet. Because you’re not using much mixer in the cocktail, it does end up being strong.
Using both bourbon and Scotch isn’t essential for the cocktail. While the combination of the two spirits provides nuance to the flavor, you could use a double serving of either bourbon or Scotch if you only have one on hand.
A rum flip can be simple or complex depending on how you make it. The simplest version uses nutmeg, rum, and a whole egg.
The egg and rum are shaken together on their own to create a frothy texture, then shaken a second time over ice. A little water is added, then the cocktail is strained into a glass and sprinkled with nutmeg
The combination of egg and rum creates a surprisingly hearty texture, while the flavor combination naturally complements the end of the day.
Some versions of the recipe add extra spices in. Cinnamon is a common choice. You could play around with other spices too.
A brandy Alexander is a classic dessert cocktail. It uses three main ingredients: cognac, dark crème de cacao, and heavy cream. These are shaken together over ice, then strained into a glass. Grated nutmeg is used as a garnish and complements the flavors nicely.
While recipes vary, a classic ratio of ingredients is two parts cognac to one part crème de cacao and one part heavy cream.
Not much is known about the history behind the green ghost cocktail. In one sense, this hardly matters, as the cocktail is well worth making. It’s also one of the few cocktails that tastes as good as it looks. In contrast, many other colored cocktails have a less-than-ideal flavor profile.
The cocktail mostly consists of gin, with a little green chartreuse and lime juice added in. The green chartreuse provides most of the color for the drink, while the lime juice adds in some extra flavor complexity.
Coffee in the evening? Surprising as it may seem, some people do enjoy coffee-based cocktails after dinner, particularly if they’re not very sensitive to caffeine.
One reason is the flavor, as coffee cocktails are often creamy and somewhat bitter. This makes them perfect after a heavy meal. An espresso martini is a great example of this pattern. It’s also an easy cocktail to order, as any bartender worth his salt will be able to make one.
You could even drop the caffeine content down by relying on decaf coffee rather than regular coffee. You might still get some caffeine from Kahlua, if you’re using this as an ingredient, but the caffeine content here isn’t incredibly high.
A kir cocktail is simple and beautiful. It just relies on sparkling wine and creme de cassis, which is a berry-flavored liqueur. The cassis provides the deep red color of the cocktail, plus some sweet berry notes that aren’t too overwhelming.
You can even make this with still white wine if you don’t have anything bubbly in the house.
Why is this an evening cocktail? Well, partly because as a wine cocktail it isn’t too alcoholic. It’s also an elegant cocktail, which is the perfect way to round off an evening. Of course, you could easily have this one as a morning cocktail too.
Red Wine Hot Chocolate
Most versions of spiked hot chocolate rely on spirits, like rum or whiskey. Why not try something different? Using red wine instead gives you a mellower drink, one that’s easy to enjoy and doesn’t contain too much alcohol. You also get to use your favorite bottle of red for the cocktail.
How you make the hot chocolate is up to you. You might focus on a very simple version that relies on a powdered chocolate mix and hot water. Or, you might create a much more decadent drink, perhaps one that uses cream and real chocolate.
Hot Buttered Rum
Adding butter to rum sounds like an odd idea in many ways. Yet, hot buttered rum is a delicious treat in the evening or the middle of winter.
The recipe is simple. It just relies on rum, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and water. It’s fantastic, creamy, and well worth trying. There are also plenty of recipes, so it’s easy to make the cocktail for yourself at home.
Scotch & Soda
What could be simpler than this? A Scotch and soda is exactly what the name suggests – a shot or two of scotch, then plenty of soda water.
The style is perfect in the evening, as the soda dilutes the Scotch and gives you a much less intense drink.
The sidecar is one of the classic cocktails and is a perfect slow sipper for the evenings. It relies on cognac as the main spirit, complemented by lemon juice, angostura bitters, and an orange liqueur like triple sec or Cointreau.
Not only is this a delicious cocktail, but it is also easy to make at home and looks incredibly elegant.
Here’s another milky coffee-based cocktail that works surprisingly well in the evening. It relies on just a few ingredients – Kahlua, vodka, and cream. The cream makes this cocktail mellow and gives it an amazing mouthfeel.
Cream isn’t your only option. Some people make this with half and half instead, which reduces the calorie content. You can also make a vegan version by relying on plant-based milk instead.
There’s something special about drinking milk in the evening, so why not try a milk punch cocktail? This is traditionally a brandy cocktail that uses milk to make it creamy, plus sugar and sometimes a few spices (although other spirits can be used instead of brandy).
For that matter, most milk cocktails could be easily served as evening drinks. Why not experiment with a few of them and see which you enjoy the best?
Speaking of creamy cocktails, the coquito is another delicious option to try. It’s a little different though, as this cocktail relies on cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, plus spices and rum.
Those three creamy ingredients create a nuanced cocktail that’s easy to enjoy. You can also experiment with the amount of rum. Some people add just a little for flavor, while others increase the alcohol content considerably. The best approach varies depending on what you’re looking for.
Almond Milk Chai Cocktail
This one isn’t a traditional cocktail at all. Instead, it’s a hot mug of chai, made with almond milk and spiked with alcohol. Whiskey or rum would be fantastic additions here, providing warmth and rich flavors.
What Is An Evening Cocktail Called?
There are two main names for evening cocktails. The first is digestifs, which are the cocktails that you drink soon after a meal. As the name suggests, they’re meant to help with digestion (similarly, aperitifs are served before dinner to stimulate appetite).
Then there’s the nightcap. A nightcap is typically consumed later in the night, often right before bed. These will often be lower in alcohol than digestifs, as you don’t want the alcohol to impede your sleep.
Still, some people can drink a shot or two of alcohol before bed without any issues. It’s simply important to know what works for you.
And, of course, the coffee-based drinks on this list will work best as a digestif, not as a nightcap.
What Alcohol Is Best For A Nightcap?
If you’re drinking your alcohol straight, then dark liquors tend to make the best nightcaps. Whiskey, brandy, and spiced rum are all classic examples. This also means that cocktails that rely on these spirits can often work well as nightcaps too.
If you’re making a mixed drink, then you can go with whatever alcohol the recipe calls for.
Which Evening Cocktails Can You Order At A Bar?
Many of the cocktails on this list are easy to make at home and tough to order at a bar. There are exceptions though. The old fashioned, Manhattan, Scotch and soda, negroni, and espresso martini are all classic cocktails served at most bars.
You’ll also find that many bars have their own in-house cocktails, including some that are designed for slow evening sipping. If you’re stuck, why not ask what the bartender recommends?
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