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How to Properly Execute a Nightcap

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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