Flair bartending is a highly sought-after skill for companies hoping to promote a new bar or liquor product with a unique demonstration. It is an organized sport, with more than 16,000 registered members of the Flair Bartending Association. If the spectacular world of flair bartending interests you, read on to learn more about its history and how you can get started learning the basics:
What Is Flair?
Flair bartending traces its origins back to the 19th century and the invention of the American cocktail. American bartender and showman “Professor” Jerry Thomas was a saloon owner who wrote the first mixed drink book ever published in America, “The Bartender's Guide.” While working as a bartender in a gambling saloon in San Francisco, Thomas created his signature drink, the “Blue Blazer,” which consisted of flaming whiskey poured between two silver mugs to create a column of blue fire. Thomas' legacy has not been forgotten, and the Village Voice reports a wax figure of him stands in the American Cocktail Museum in New Orleans. He also has more than 1,000 friends on his unofficial Facebook page.
During the last 40 years, flair bartending has expanded from the simple TGI Fridays competition to a worldwide sport, with innovations in design and performance. FlairBartending.com notes Toby Ellis, the founder of Bar Magic, is responsible for not only the Flair Bartenders' Association, but was the first to perform flair on the Food Network and has done much for the spread of this art.
Rules of Flair
If you are interested in seeing flair without leaving home, you can check out YouTube or the new phone application from Break for inspirational videos. There are a few rules you should always follow as you enter the world of flair bartending, for your own safety and to help develop your skills.
- Practice makes perfect. Like anything worth learning, it will take a long time before you are effortlessly tossing bottles around with a grin on your face. Don't be discouraged.
- Practice at home, not at work. When you're on the job, you should rely on tricks and techniques you have developed through rigorous practice, and leave experimentation for when you get back home.
- Be safe. Slip mats on the floor are a must-have, as you will probably spill a little of everything as you work. If your co-workers don't know how to maneuver the space you are working in, scale it back, or stop. You should never drink and flair.
- Practice tricks with empty bottles. Empty Malibu Rum bottles are a good weighted practice bottle, since if you drop or break one, the plastic wrap holds them together. Many flair sites also offer practice bottles designed for this use.
- Be ambidextrous. Practice with both hands, and learn tricks in both directions.
- Enjoy yourself, but don't forget yourself. Service should always come first, your flair second, and your sense of enjoyment and competition third. In the end, the customer is still what it is all about.