This is the best solution I've encountered to the bartender exodus that occurs every July during Tales of the Cocktail.
Dram to Temporarily Ditch the Cocktail
By Robert Simonson
Dram, the cocktail bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is celebrated for its rotating murderer’s row of star mixologists. But its owner, Tom Chadwick, was confronted with a personnel crisis.
Most of his bartenders were planning to take the same week off to attendTales of the Cocktail, the drinks convention that attracts the country’s top bar talent to New Orleans each summer.
“I really couldn’t find reliable coverage for the week of Tales,” Mr. Chadwick said. “I didn’t want to have too many outside bartenders, since the execution and operation of a bar like this has a lot of moving parts. And closing the bar seemed like a rather severe solution.”
The fix? From July 20 to 23 — nearly the exact run of Tales — Dram will be supplanted by a pop-up dive bar called 86’d, which is to be run by two of Dram’s lesser-known staff members.
“Our door guy, Reggie Cunningham, and I used to work at the Bushwick Country Club together,” said Mr. Chadwick, mentioning the Brooklyn bar known as one of the wellsprings of the pickleback phenomenon. “We’ve been reminiscing about our dive bar experiences. My server, Reba Thomas, who has been at Dram since Day 1, is also a dive bar vet.”
Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Thomas will play hosts at 86’d. Artisanal cocktails will be 86’d from the menu. Replacing them will be some some of the bêtes noires of modern mixologists: noncraft domestic beer (Coors, Miller High Life), Jägermeister, shooters and the aforementioned picklebacks. If you must have a cocktail, you may avail yourself of a déclassé White Russian or Salty Dog. Prices take a dive, too. Drinks start at $4 and top off at $8. As for food, there are two choices: Reggie’s Boiled Peanuts ($2) and Reba’s Homemade Pimento Cheese.
Patrons might also get friendly chit-chat, something that is often missing at the city’s fanciest cocktail joints. “Reba and I had a chance to work together behind the bar one weekend night,” Mr. Chadwick said. “I really liked her skills as a bartender — a sincere interest in engaging them in conversation and making sure they were having a good time. I would make the drinks and she would interact with the guests in a geniality and charm I miss in cocktail bars, mostly because we’re always heads down focusing on the technical aspects.”