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Mr Porter Drinks

The World’s Best Nightcaps

It’s your last tipple of the night so order wisely (or use our recipes to fix at home)

The perfect cocktail, I have discovered after years of laborious research for my book The Spirits, rarely rests on the particulars of how it was made. Of course, it’s important how much ice you use, how à la mode your utensils are and which brand of rye you stock. But the “how” of the cocktail is not nearly as important as the “when” and the “where”. The tipples you remember are all about the moment – not whether you used the correct amount of vermouth.

There’s a particular point at the end of the night when good, strong liquor comes into its own, when the evening has taken its course and you’re in need of consolation or celebration (delete as appropriate). The nightcap can be the perfect aid to a deep sleep – or it can be a fork in the path. It can be a demure bedtime treat (a shot of rye with a little splash of apricot liqueur is the perfect choice) or something with a bit more thwack (I like neat aquavit in a sherry glass myself). And if you match the drink to the setting – say, a Rum Old Fashioned as the wind shakes the palms outside a Caribbean beach bar – then you will pretty much reach cocktailing transcendence.

Below are the nightcaps I have enjoyed most during my travels, and where to order them. If you are entertaining guests (or simply want to fix yourself a drink before bed), I have adapted them loosely for the home drinker. Chin chin.

THE BAR

Duck & Waffle, London

  • Open 24 hours a day and 40 floors up, greet the sunrise with a cocktail at the Duck & Waffle in London’s Heron Tower

Duck & Waffle in London’s Heron Tower has many unique qualities. There’s the super-fast transparent elevator – sorry, lift – that runs up the outside of the building giving you a 40th-floor rush for free. There’s the scene that greets you when you’re up there: a sort of crazy, controlled chaos. There are the creations of the head bartender, Mr Rich Woods, one of the most madly inventive in London. And there is – joy of joys – a 24-hour license, making this the ill-advised 5am destination du choix among night owls.

THE NIGHTCAP

Snapper

Mr Rich Woods’ ingenious gin-based Bloody Mary comes served Martini-style – and thus reinvents the classic morning cocktail for night-time drinking, allowing your nightcap to take you full circle.

Ingredients:
35ml (1.2fl oz) gin (Bombay Sapphire)
15ml (½fl oz) French vermouth
60ml (2fl oz) Bloody Mary consommé (this needs to be prepped a day in advance)

For the Bloody Mary consommé:
400ml (13.5fl oz) good-quality tomato juice
3g (0.11oz) ground black pepper
5g (0.18oz) crushed pink peppercorns
3g (0.11oz) sea salt
2g (0.07oz) celery salt
10 dashes red Tabasco
15 dashes green Tabasco
Juice of one lemon
15 dashes Worcester sauce

Method:
To make the consommé, pour the tomato juice into a non-reactive, sealable container. Add the other consommé ingredients and stir everything – leave to rest for an hour. Secure the lid and place in the freezer. The following morning, remove from the freezer (your mix should now be solid). Prepare your filter by placing a coffee filter in a funnel, over a bottle or deep container. Put the frozen tomato mix into the funnel, then allow the mix to drip-thaw naturally (this takes several hours). Bottle and chill the clarified juice. When you are ready to make the cocktail, stir the gin, vermouth and consommé together and serve in a cold cocktail glass. Garnish with a sun-dried tomato and basil, parsley or celery leaves.

What to wear

  • Paul Smith Light-Blue Soho Travel Slim-Fit Wool-Twill Suit Jacket

  • George Cleverley Archie Cordovan Leather Derby Shoes


        

THE BAR

The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, New York

  • An Irish whiskey cocktail makes a perfect nightcap at Manhattan’s Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to nightcaps in Manhattan – but bartender at the redoubtable Dead Rabbit, Mr Jesse Vida, makes a compelling case for his own recent invention: “A nightcap is your last drink of the night, so you need to make it count,” he counsels. “By the time you get home, you should be ready to hit the hay. That being said, a boozy tipple including something calming or settling is a route I often take for nightcaps.” He steers you in the direction of this bittersweet Irish whiskey cocktail.

THE NIGHTCAP

Stealth Bomber

Irish whiskey fell out of favour after Prohibition and has never quite recovered its popularity, which is a shame – its rich, savoury qualities lend serious heft to this bitter banana-chocolate sipper that, as Mr Vida suggests, above, is an upgrade on a humble mug of cocoa.

Ingredients:
30ml (1fl oz) Irish whiskey
30ml (1fl oz) dark amaro (Amaro di Montenegro)
15ml (½fl oz) Madeira wine
7.5ml (¼fl oz) crème de cacao
Pinch of salt
Dash of absinthe
½tsp banana liqueur 

Method:
Dissolve the salt in the alcohol and then stir everything with a large cube of ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a fat orange peel twist.

What to wear

  • TOM FORD Shearling-Trimmed Suede Jacket

  • Berluti Slim-Fit Washed-Denim Jeans


        

THE BAR

Ruby, Copenhagen

  • Ruby is a jewel of Copenhagen’s late-night drinking scene

Thanks to Mr René Redzepi’s Noma and the new wave of Danish chefs, Copenhagen is now firmly established as a destination for gourmands. So, after an extensive tasting menu, you’ll want something to settle your stomach. Ruby, housed in an old apartment building behind an unmarked door, has a particularly good selection of aquavit and Scotch as well as a secretive, gentleman’s-club feel very well suited to a late-night drink or two.

THE NIGHTCAP

Rapscallion

This is a variation of the comforting Manhattan. Created by the bar’s resident Scotsman, Mr Steven Hill, it is smokier and sweeter than the classic cocktail, but no less delightful.

Ingredients:
45ml (1½fl oz) scotch whisky (Talisker 10 – or a similar smoky scotch)
22.5ml (¾fl oz) sherry (Pedro Ximénez)
1tsp pastis

Method:
Stir all the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled coupette glass. Garnish with a lemon-zest twist.

What to wear

  • CMMN SWDN Boris Denim Jacket

  • Gucci Camp-Collar Printed Silk-Twill Shirt


          

THE BAR

Bar Marmont, LA

  • Old-school Hollywood glamour awaits at the Bar Marmont in LA

The after-hours allure of Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood is no secret: Mr André Balazs’ reinvention of the grand old hotel faintly drips with louche Sunset Boulevard glamour. What is less well known are the hidden cocktails in its nearby bar. The regular menu mainly consists of pricy versions of the classics – but if you ask the bartenders nicely, they might just knock you up an off-menu creation, such as the house take on the classic Angostura Fizz.

THE NIGHTCAP

Forbidden Fizz

Back in the late 19th-century glory days of the cocktail, fizzes were generally regarded as morning drinks, while Angostura bitters were seen as medicine. Therefore, this is the sort of nightcap you should go for if you intend to roll into the following day daisy fresh and arrow straight.

Ingredients:
30ml (1fl oz) rye whiskey
30ml (1fl oz) Angostura bitters
22.5ml (¾fl oz) lime juice
15ml (½fl oz) grenadine (made of 2 parts sugar, 1 part pomegranate juice)
Half an egg white
Fizzy water

Method:
Shake everything, except the fizzy water, hard with plenty of ice. Strain into a spare vessel, discard the ice, and shake hard again to froth up the egg white. Pour into an ice-filled tall glass, top with the fizzy water and garnish with a mint sprig.

What to wear

  • SAINT LAURENT Slim-Fit Burnished-Leather Biker Jacket

  • Lanvin Nubuck Chelsea Boots


           

THE BAR

The Jerry Thomas Project, Rome

  • Named after the author of the first cocktail recipe book, Rome’s The Jerry Thomas Project is a speakeasy with style

Mr Jerry Thomas was the author of the first true cocktail book (the Bartenders Guide in 1862). I’m not sure he ever made it to Rome on his dazzling European tours, but that hasn’t stopped the owners of this bar imagining what might have happened if he did. The bartenders here are assiduously Italian about things: on a recent visit, I attempted to order an El Presidente cocktail for my wife, only to be informed that it couldn’t be done, since pomegranates were not in season. But what makes this place so special is the elegantly seedy vibe. It feels like a speakeasy, with groups of could-be Mafiosi who somehow make sweatpants look quite cool, elegant old Bohemians in cravats and the sort of blatant flirting you rarely see outside Italy.

THE NIGHTCAP

Monsieur Negroni

The JTP Negroni is made with house gin, vermouth and amaro, and comes out darker than the regular version, much more like a digestif. If you’re looking to have one more drink at 4am, just before the bar closes, this is the perfect choice: rich, evocative and lingering enough to see you through the journey home.

Ingredients:
30ml (1fl oz) gin
30ml (1fl oz) vermouth (Punt e Mes)
30ml (1fl oz) dark amaro (Averna)

Method:
Stir everything in a tumbler with plenty of ice and garnish with a length of orange peel.

What to wear

  • Prada Printed Angora-Blend Sweater

  • Church's Shannon Whole-Cut Polished-Leather Derby Shoes


        

THE BAR

Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires

  • Buenos Aires’ basement bar Floreria Atlantico is a sophisticated drinking destination

There are few more elegant destinations for a late-night drink in BA than Floreria Atlantico in the Retiro district. You can tell that the head bartender, Mr Tato Giovannoni, has serious taste from the store upstairs, which sells fresh-cut flowers, good vinyl and excellent gin. What more could a man need? Downstairs, the curved bar has a cosmopolitan feel reminiscent of Mr Jorge Luis Borges’ story, The Aleph, in which a secret portal to the entire universe is discovered in a basement. Only, the girls are so much sexier.

THE NIGHTCAP

La Ruche

Here’s a deliciously honeyed sipper for sultry nights, because, hey, it’s spring in Argentina right now. It draws out the acidity of Sauvignon blanc with a tart squirt of lemon and a floral suggestion from passion fruit and elderflower. You should be able to find pollen in health food shops – try honey if you can’t.

Ingredients:
15ml (½fl oz) elderflower liqueur
15ml (½fl oz) passion fruit pulp 
60ml (2fl oz) lemon juice 
30ml (1fl oz) sugar syrup 
A pinch of cinnamon
1tsp pollen (optional)
60ml (2fl oz) Sauvignon blanc

Method:
Place everything, except the wine, in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake hard. Strain into a wine glass and top with the Sauvignon blanc.

What to wear

  • Maison Margiela Camp-Collar Cotton-Poplin Shirt

  • Golden Goose Superstar Distressed Leather and Suede Sneakers


           

THE BAR

New York Bar, Tokyo

  • Sip a whisky as you survey Tokyo from the stunning New York Bar at the Park Hyatt

The Park Hyatt in Tokyo is a hotel so exquisitely chic that film director Ms Sofia Coppola set Lost in Translation here. As her leading man Mr Bill Murray finds in the film, the American-style bar on the top floor is the perfect venue for a woozy whisky, as you survey the megalopolis and take advantage of the fact that you can smoke indoors in Japan (they have remarkably efficient extraction systems). It’s handy too that, in my view, Japanese bartenders are the best in the world – taking exquisite pains over the classics.

THE NIGHTCAP

Mizuwari

Your tastebuds change throughout the day, and I’ve always found that the moment just before bed is peak whisky time. It even goes with toothpaste. A gentler way of whiskying before turning in is the Mizuwari – literally translated as “mixed with water”.

Ingredients:
60ml (2fl oz) Japanese whisky
120ml (4fl oz) still spring water

Method:
Fill a glass with large ice cubes, ideally spherical. Pour in the whisky. Stir no fewer than 13-and-a-half times in a clockwise direction. Stop. Add another ice cube and the water. Stir no more than three-and-a-half times in an anticlockwise direction, and serve.

What to wear

  • Comme des Garçons SHIRT Contrast-Stitched Cotton-Drill Jacket

  • Wacko Maria Printed Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt


          

Mr Richard Godwin writes for Vogue, The Times and the London Evening Standard. His cocktail book The Spirits is out now