Let's talk about the Nightcap - it's our best seller at Sunday Punch (and one of my personal favourites in our range of cocktails) and I believe it's because it's really what a good cocktail is all about. A welcoming nose, layers of nuanced flavours with a great balance that make for a tasty, tasty beverage. (Yes, it's so nice, you've got to say it twice.)
Though many who've tried the Nightcap have told us how it makes for a good digestif after a hearty meal or even the drink they'd start the night off with, the inspiration behind the cocktail's name was to bring people a cocktail that would be the perfect drink to cap off a good night. Hence Nightcap. (Yes, extremely innovative. We know.)
So what goes into this wondrous Nightcap brew?
Cognac is a variety of brandy that's distilled from white grapes and takes its name from the Cognac region in France, where it's produced. Just like how only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called champagne, only brandy that's made around Cognac with certain production requirements, can be called cognac. The spirit is well known for being strong in flavour and offers up a wide range of aromas. Which is probably why it's so widely used classic cocktail bar** and why it's perfect as the base of the Nightcap. For our current edition of this cocktail, we chose Martell VSOP, a Very Superior Old Pale from one of the oldest cognac houses in France.
**Why it's also a popular spirit in certain other nightlife establishments, is a story for another day.
Probably the most discussed ingredient with our fans at our pop-up events is Cynar (pronounced ‘Chee-Nar’. Feel free to chuckle), which is key to the Nightcap. It certainly isn’t the most common liqueur out there and at first glance, it can seem a little strange. Cynar is an Italian bitter liqueur that gets its distinct flavour primarily from artichokes among other herbs and plants. Yes, artichokes! And that’s where the name of the liqueur comes from- the botanical name for artichokes is Cynara scolymus (a real tongue-twister that one, and even more so after you've had a few. #truestory).
Cynar has a refreshing and yet herbal bittersweet taste and that’s why it pairs up nicely with our next ingredient...
A liqueur made from fresh, handpicked elderflowers grown on the hillsides of the French Alps, St Germain is described by its creators as having “hints of pear, peach and grapefruit, yet none of them exactly” (Descriptions like these just do not get old, I tell ya'). It has a light, summery, refreshing taste with just enough sweetness that balances the cognac and Cynar in the Nightcap.
Vermouth is basically a souped-up version of wine. It’s wine fortified with more alcohol, more flavour and more aromatics. It's a key ingredient in loads of classic cocktails like the Americano, Gibson, Manhattan, Negroni and of course, the Martini.
Fun fact bout vermouth- It has its origins as a medicinal wine and the name is actually the French pronunciation of the word Wermut, a German word for wormwood which has been used as a ingredient in the history of vermouth. (Imagine Gerard Depardieu saying Wermut. Yup.)
There are basically two kinds of vermouth, dry or sweet. For the Nightcap, we’ve used Cinzano Rosso, a sweet vermouth that we've specially infused with coffee beans. The coffee infusion is done using sous vide, a method of cooking at precise temperatures. This method means we get to infuse the flavours into the vermouth without having the alcohol boil off.
We love that the distinctive coffee flavour of the Nightcap is only apparent at the end of every sip, almost like a aftertaste. It's because the infused notes are only released when the vermouth warms up slightly when you drink, and it's a pleasant surprise to anyone who hasn't tried a Nightcap before (we ought to shoot a video of their reactions).
So that’s the Nightcap distilled. I hope you enjoyed the article but more importantly, I hope you enjoy your next sip.