A nightcap is an alcoholic beverage consumed right before going to bed. The alcohol content is higher than a wine or beer drink; usually, a liqueur or spirit is used. Traditional nightcaps are brandy, bourbon, or cream-based liqueurs such as Irish cream. However, wine or beer can often be considered a beverage of choice before bed as well.
The origin of the word "nightcap" is not fully known, but there are two theories. One theory is that the warming and dizzying sense of alcohol before bedtime may help some sleep, thus putting a "cap" on the night. Another theory is related to the actual article of clothing, the "nightcap", which was worn to keep the head warm at night in times when there may not have been sufficient heating. Like the garment keeping the wearer's head warm, the high alcohol content of the "nightcap" beverage has a perceived similar effect.
- Rules for an Honorable Nightcap, The New York Times 
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