Smooth and soothing, the classic nightcap cocktail is a great way to end the day. The recipe is a fun find from W.C. Whitfield's 1939 "Just Cocktails" bartending guide.
It is very simple to remember: equal parts brandy, anisette, and curaçao with an egg yolk. The mix of flavors is quite intriguing and very fitting for a cocktail from that era. If you find the drink's not quite ideal, there are a few ways to improve it. In the least, you'll find out what drinkers back in the early 20th century enjoyed before falling asleep.
Gather the ingredients.
In a cocktail shaker, add the brandy, anisette, curaçao, and egg yolk.
Dry shake (without ice) vigorously.
Add ice and shake again, until the outside of the shaker is ice-cold and frosty.
Serve and enjoy!
Raw Egg Warning
Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.
- The dry shake followed by a shake with ice will ensure that the egg yolk is properly mixed with the other ingredients. It takes some force to break it up, so shake it like you mean it!
- The key to safely drinking cocktails with eggs is to ensure your egg is fresh. There's a quick test that you should every time before you add an egg to the shaker: Fill a glass with water and place the egg inside. If it sinks, your egg is good; eggs that float to the top are too old, even for cooking, and should be discarded.
- Serving the nightcap in a chilled glass definitely makes a difference. If you forgot to pre-chill it, place a few ice cubes and cold soda water (optional, but helpful) in the glass while you mix the drink. Dump it out before straining.
- Anisette is called for in the original recipe, though that's not a common liqueur in many of today's bars. You can use any of the other anise-flavored liqueurs such as absinthe, Herbsaint, or sambuca in its place.
- Anise is a strong flavor, so you may want to back off on that ingredient a little. Try it with just 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce of the liqueur instead.
- The egg yolk does add an eggy flavor to cocktails—similar to eggnog—though an egg white does not. Try the nightcap with just an egg white instead and you'll get a drink with a luscious texture and foam on top with a barely indistinguishable egg taste.
- You can also skip the egg entirely.
How Strong Is a Nightcap Cocktail?
Besides being sweeter, anisette is nearly half the strength of spirits like absinthe. If you stick with the anisette (or another liqueur in the 30 proof range), the nightcap shakes up to 20 percent ABV (40 proof). That's half the strength of the brandy, so it's a potent little cocktail.