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Style & Living Food and Drinks

Sleep Tight: 5 Perfect Nightcap Cocktails to Take the Edge Off

A shot of brandy is so three centuries ago. Check out the latest cocktails for late nights.

By Marcy de Luna

Need a little help dialing down the energy level at the end of a frantic day? There’s no reason to limit yourself to predictable nightcaps like brandy and bourbon. From a banana julep to a mezcal-based drink, here are five new cocktails guaranteed to help you hit the sack in peace.

Coconut Grove, Spare Key, Houston 

Low-key cocktail spot Spare Key has a short but bona fide cocktail roster, as well as a solid playlist and twinkling view of downtown Houston’s skyscraper lights via a window above the bar. Here, you'll want to order the tiki-inspired Coconut Grove. The knockout combination of white rum, orange curacao, fresh lime juice, coconut cream and orgeat syrup is shaken, poured over ice and served with a fiery garnish: a marshmallow topped with coconut flakes, doused with 151 proof rum, and set on fire. But despite the heart-racing finish, the potent drink is actually just the thing to help you kick back. That flaming marshmallow will make you feel like you're sitting by a campfire, staring up at the stars and nodding off slowly...

Big Banana Julep, Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company, Miami

At Sweet Liberty in Miami, indulge in creative American dishes (think beet deviled eggs and cauliflower nachos) and cocktails from the classic to the newfangled. The soothing Big Banana Julep, served in a silver julep cup, is made with house-crafted sous vide banana rum, bonded bourbon, banana syrup and mint. The stiff drink instantly relaxes you from the first sip—thanks in part to the banana, considered a natural muscle relaxant. Not to mention the alcohol content: "There's a lot of booze in it; you won't need many more drinks after," points out co-owner John Lermayer.

The Finnish Nail, The Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, Portland, Maine

The Finnish ski-lodge-inspired Portland Hunt + Alpine Club in Portland, Maine's Old Port District was a 2015 James Beard semi-finalist for Outstanding Bar Program. The accolade comes as no surprise if you've had their ingenious cocktails, like The Finnish Nail. The nuanced drink will make your eyes heavy as the drambuie, blended Scotch and cardamom-coriander syrup join together in a liquid lullaby. It’s all poured over a large ice cube and presented with a lemon-twist garnish. 

Dr. Who, GreenRiver, Chicago

The team behind the famed Dead Rabbit bar in New York, along with restaurateur Danny Meyer of iconic spots like Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, launched GreenRiver in Chicago. Here, expect seasonal American food and a cocktail list influenced by the city’s historic Irish ties. Before you hit the hay, chill out with the Dr. Who cocktail. Wheat whiskey, black cardamom and the Italian digestif amaro are joined by pecan, coffee, an American Stout-style beer, Himalayan Pink Salt and a frothy whole egg. Sure, there's a little coffee in there, but the amaro helps mellow your whole system. You'll hit the sack in no time. Photo by  Anthony Tahlier.

Cigar Box, The Roosevelt Room, Austin

The Roosevelt Room is a cocktail lounge, event space and live music venue in one, and its bar has a cocktail board that lists a whopping 53 drink options, ranging from the traditional to the imaginative. Try the Cigar Box, a mix of smoky mezcal and Chinese pinewood-smoked black tea syrup, specked with dashes of tobacco bitters and calming lavender bitters. A flamed cinnamon stick, meant to mimic a lit cigar, adds the finishing touch. Luckily the "cigar" isn't actually burning, so feel free to doze off as you take some deliciously sleep-inducing sips. 


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