The term 'nightcap' has permeated popular culture, frequently heard in US and UK sitcoms and films as an invitation for a post-date drink. However, its origins date back to the 19th century, as we explore its historical journey and how it has evolved through time.
January 31, 2024
Tracing its roots to the 19th century, the term 'nightcap' gained popularity with the publication of 'Oxford Night Caps' in 1827, emphasizing its significance in drinking culture. Initially believed to aid in a good night's sleep, modern science refutes the notion that alcoholic beverages contribute to better sleep.
According to Charles Mackay's 1877 book, 'The Gaelic Etymology of the Languages of Western Europe,' nightcap introduced another term to the drinking lexicon - 'quaff,' meaning to drink heartily. Nightcap, in this context, became a personal drink associated with relaxation before bedtime.
Over time, nightcap transformed from a commonly used drinking term to a euphemism for 'an alcoholic beverage before bed,' finding its place in romance novels and rom-coms.
While traditionally composed of brown spirits inducing slumber, modern preferences vary. Even figures like Queen Elizabeth II, known for her evening Champagne, demonstrate the evolving nature of nightcaps.
A contemporary nightcap recipe includes Captain Morgan Dark Rum, cold-brew coffee, grade-A maple syrup, orange zest, Angostura bitters, and tonic water, offering a delightful twist to this classic concept.
While exploring spirits and cocktails is enjoyable, it's crucial to consume alcohol moderately. Responsible serving and drinking are essential for maintaining health and avoiding harm. If someone struggles to control their alcohol consumption, professional help should be sought.