Tales Of The Cocktail Festival

Dealing with bartender-abandonment issues

If you are anywhere but New Orleans this weekend, it will be a bleak few days to be a cocktail lover.

Wednesday marked the beginning of Tales of the Cocktail, the five-day booze fest that draws the country's top mixing masters to the Big Easy. Trouble is, while they host seminars and consume ungodly amounts of Fernet-Branca, we wait sadly at their bars, feeling lonely with thirsts unquenched.

Some spots–such as The Columbia Room in Washington, D.C.–are closed altogether during Tales's duration. Others simply change their approach: The owner of Dram, in Brooklyn, New York, couldn't find anyone to cover shifts, so he's offering only low-brow favorites like White Russians and Coors Light.

Rather than wallow in disappointment, we asked several bar folk to share some coping mechanisms. Their unanimous advice: Keep it simple.

• Justin Noel, proprietor of 1534 in New York, pointed us to the Southside cocktail, ideal for sticky summer weather. And if you want to play it really safe, "ask for a Guinness and enjoy a city devoid of bartenders."

• Portland, Oregon bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler suggests sticking to the classics, like an old-fashioned or a Manhattan, and shelving the geeky requests until the management returns.

• Boston bartender Misty Kalkofen recommends the epically simple gin and tonic. Her hint: Pick a bar that uses bottled tonic water.