Dating back to a time before the white glow of our screens lulled us to sleep, the nightcap is a centuries-old tradition that comes in many forms, but generally adheres to a few simple guidelines:
A nightcap is always almost served at night. How you define “night” is up to you.
The base of a nightcap is typically brown, dark, or aged — think bourbon, añejo tequila, cognacs, or mulled wine.
A proper nightcap should be the very last drink of the evening.
A proper nightcap should be sipped slowly and thoughtfully. Don’t be afraid to gaze out a window while soft jazz plays in the background.
A nightcap can be anything, but it should always be something you like.
While nightcaps are older than all your grandparents combined, the concept of a “professional cuddler” is relatively new. According to Jean Franzblau, founder of Cuddle Sanctuary, it’s a movement that started about 17 years ago and continues to thrive today. Her organization’s mission is to “shift the culture to a more compassionate world that’s safe for affection and connection for everyone.”
And before you start thinking those thoughts, know that professional cuddling is consistently structured and safe with lots of verbal (and even written) consent between “cuddle buddies.” It’s as platonic as physical intimacy can get, with lots of perks like a boost of oxytocin and improved sleep.
“Cuddling one hour after dinner is a great way to wind down,” says Jean. “Also, a long hug standing up is a good ‘pregame cuddle’ option.”
Versed in the art of eviscerating anxiety through physical touch, cuddlers are a rare breed that comes in all shapes, sizes, and genders – walking among us like anthropomorphic stress dolls.
Cuddlers offer people tranquility, ease of mind, and comfort; qualities you’ll find go hand-in-hand (or big spoon/little spoon) with the perfect nightcap.
Here are some cocktail ’n’ cuddle pairings that will reinvigorate your ideas of companionship and affection.
HOT TODDY x Baby Bear
A Hot Toddy is like a warm hug, almost as if you were draped in velvet. This pairing is at its core calming and approachable, as both the cocktail and the cuddle are. Really, any bourbon will do, but if you like it sweeter, go for a bourbon with a higher percentage of corn mash, like Four Roses or Maker’s Mark. If you really want to bring on the Zzz’s, swap out plain hot water with brewed chamomile or lavender tea.
Hot Toddy Recipe
Fill a mug halfway full (or empty depending on your outlook) with near-boiling water.
Add 2 oz. bourbon, lemon juice, and honey simple syrup.
Stir with a cinnamon stick
How to Baby Bear
The Cuddler sits on the ground with their legs parted and their back against a sturdy surface, like a couch.
The Cuddlee reclines with their back towards the Cuddler, allowing their weight to fall into the Cuddler.
The Cuddler gently wraps their arms around the Cuddlee, and could gently apply pressure with their legs. If desired, a pillow can be placed between cuddlers for extra comfort.
SCOTCH & SODA x Mouse
Mouse is a cuddle position that matches this cocktail in terms of simplicity and effectiveness. The scotch provides soothing warmth, the club soda settles the tum-tum, while this affectionate position allows for maximum upper body contact and ample caressing. Hot cold tip: ditch the ice to keep your drink room-temp.
Scotch & Soda
How to Mouse
The person above is the “mouse” and the person lying on their back is the “cheese.”
Experiment with laying your head on their chest, belly, or even burrowing into their neck/shoulders
Invite your cuddle buddy to hug you or caress your head or back
Hot Buttered Rum x Hug Boat
When you think of boats, what liquor comes to mind? That’s right, rum. This is a drink that grabs onto you with a secure grip, like “the hug” does in this position. This pairing will rock you gently into chill-dom, but before you get there, make a point to prep some “rum batter” beforehand to avoid any greasy blobs of floating butter that the Pirates of the Caribbean used to drink. Trust us, that small amount of prep work will yield many delicious, rum-alicious nightcaps in your future.
Hot Buttered Rum
Pour 2 oz. of gold rum over a chunk of butter
Fill with boiling water and stir.
Garnish with nutmeg or a cinnamon stick.
How to Hug Boat
In this position, the Cuddler is the “Hug” and the Cuddlee is the “Boat.”
The Hug positions themself upright on the ground against a surface, legs apart.
The Boat then lies down on top of The Hug on their side, with their closest arm wrapped behind the Hug.
Then, the Hug wraps their arms around the Boat; there’s also the option for the Hug to wrap one leg around the Boat for extra support.
Sketches of Spain x Lap of Luxury
This luxurious nightcap is deserving of an equally luxurious position, wherein you lay down and the cuddle buddy essentially does all the work. While it looks like it has a lot of alcohol, it’s actually a less boozy beverage because the base spirits, sherry, and sweet vermouth, each have a low ABV. If you make a little effort to find all Spanish-made ingredients, then you’ll really feel like you’re lying in the shade during a Barcelona summer.
Sketches of Spain
In a mixing glass, combine one ounce of Sherry, half-and-ounce brandy de Jerez, ¼ ounce of honey
Stir, chill, and strain into a cocktail glass
How to Lap of Luxury
The Cuddler positions themself upright on the ground against a surface.
They then slightly raise one of their knees, so that the Cuddlee may thread their arm underneath upon laying down between their legs.
The Cuddlee rests their head on the upper leg of the Cuddler (thus becoming “the lap”).
The Cuddler can gently apply pressure with their opposite leg against the Cuddlee and stroke the hair, face, and back of the Cuddlee.
Maple Walnut Old Fashioned x Pancake & Syrup
Just as the Pancake and the Syrup are slight variations of each other, so is this maple walnut-y variation on a classic cocktail (plus, we would be remiss not to include a cocktail made with literal maple syrup to pair with this one!). If the Pancake cuddle is too intense for you, you can tweak it slightly with the Syrup. If there’s too much maple flavor for your liking, you can use as much or as little as your heart desires. Who knew so much freedom could be found in so much comfort?
Maple Walnut Old Fashioned
Add 2 oz. bourbon, ½ oz. maple syrup, and a few dashes of walnut bitters into a mixing glass.
Stir to combine
Strain over ice
How to Pancake & Syrup
In this position, the Cuddlee is the Lower Pancake and the Cuddler is the Upper Pancake.
The Lower Pancake lies face-down stomach on a comfortable surface, with their arms placed in a natural position above their head; no pillows are necessary.
Then, the Upper Pancake mirrors this position as they place their body directly on top of the Lower Pancake, resting their head between the Lower’s shoulder blades.
The Upper can also thread their arms underneath the Lower’s arms, or place their arms on top.
TIP: For less body weight, the Upper Pancake can become the Syrup by shifting their knees upward against the Lower Pancake, or by “oozing” off to the side with only one leg and one arm remaining draped atop the Lower.
Brandy Alexander x Gummy Bear
The Gummy Bear is the most intimate cuddle position, meant to comfort to the max. The heavy sighing matches the heavy cream in this classic nightcap; that, paired with the cognac and nutmeg, is enough to make you want to ditch your Ambien for the evening. Some people even like to warm up the drink on the stove, which would also be apropos for the body heat generated by the Gummy Bear.
Combine 1.5 oz. cognac, an ounce creme de cacao, and one-ounce heavy cream
Shake with ice and strain into a glass and enjoy
How to Gummy Bear
This is a full-body hug while lying down.
Both cuddlers lie down on their sides and embrace with both their arms and legs intertwined.
The cuddler on top will lightly stack their face on top of their partner’s face, with their ears close together.
Both cuddlers breathe deeply, and could also attempt to sync their breathing for deeper relaxation.