Midnight Special: A Perfect Nightcap

It’s never too late to enjoy a nightcap

Photo: Cedric Angeles

Here’s a moment no one warns you about when you write a cookbook: being finished with the cookbook. After the idea, the proposal, the contract, the gathering and testing of recipes, and the heart-eating agony that the writing world merrily calls “editing,” there is the End.

At some point, ink will be pressed against paper and your ability to change, add, or subtract will halt. Other than the rare event of a blockbuster that is hailed with revised editions, you’re done. No more thinking. No more testing.

So what am I supposed to do with this last cocktail?

Bourbon, my second book, was already printed when I had a recipe epiphany. One night between sending off the galleys and waiting for the box of shiny new books to land on my porch, my husband and I got in the mood for an after-dinner drink. (A slice of chocolate almond cake may have been involved.) I requested something sweet but not sickly, nuanced but not too challenging. My mixology-hobbyist husband, Wayne, started paging and pondering, casting around for something that fit my description.

He started in the Alexander category with amaretto, brandy, crème de cacao, and half-and-half. (Yes, we keep all that on hand. We have that kind of house.) But it needed more spirit, more oomph. He looked at variations that usually included vodka, with racy names like “orgasms” and “climaxes.” (After dinner is also before bed, isn’t it?) He put together a combination, shook, strained, and poured. I sipped and judged. The flavors were going in the right direction, but it was missing something. Vodka was too light, too insubstantial. The drink needed an anchor, a base note with more depth.

It needed bourbon.

Wayne shook up a second version, replacing vodka with bourbon and tweaking the amounts. I took a sip and knew: It was the perfect nightcap. And we had discovered it too late to include it in the book.

What to do with the recipe? It was too good not to share. I named the cocktail After Midnight in honor of its belated arrival and resolved to set it free into the world.

Just don’t stay up too late, kids.


  • After Midnight

    • 1 oz. bourbon (preferably Weller Special Reserve)

    • 1/2 oz. amaretto

    • 1/2 oz. dark crème de cacao

    • 1/2 oz. half-and-half


  1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Serve cold.