It’s a familiar scenario: You’ve just settled into your seat at the bar, when your happy-hour companion calls in a rain check. Suddenly, you’re faced with drinking alone. We’ve all been there (those of us who spend weeks surveying the city’s top bars perhaps more than others). Don’t panic. Sipping solo can actually be a rewarding experience, a chance to sit back and quietly absorb the events of the day. Make the most of it with these tips for the next time you find yourself with an empty seat by your side.

Order liquor. Both a bar stool and solitude can start to wear in the time it takes to finish a pint.

Ditch the distractions. Cell phones, magazines, and newspapers are obvious security blankets. It’s best to own your aloneness. Sit up straight. Look around. Make eye contact. If people stare, stare back. Smile.

If you must do something, make it the crossword. Not only will you be staving off Alzheimer’s, but it invites intelligent—key word—conversation (if companionship is something you seek). Besides, the flutist from the North Carolina Symphony next to you is likely to know a seven-letter word for fast (allegro).

Be nice to the bartender. He’ll be the one bailing you out when some McChatterson three drinks deep barges in on your introspection.

Appreciate the aesthetic. Especially in this town, people put a lot of thought into designing watering holes. Note the prints on the wall, the craftsmanship of the bar, the slow slide of natural light as evening closes in.