It seems every bar you go to these days, you will see someone throwing bottles in the air, jumping up on the bar, or lighting something on fire. Flair bartending is the term used to describe these actions. It is showmanship mixed with bartending to enhance the guest’s overall experience.
The earliest record of a flair bartender comes from the mid 1800’s. Legendary barman Jerry “The Professor” Thomas, who would pour fiery streams of boiling water and scotch into his own unique cocktail called the Blue Blazer. Most people will recognize flair from the movie “Cocktail”, starring Tom Cruise. It has come a very long way since those days and if you want to stay on the bartender’s good side…don’t call him Tom.
These days the FBA (Flair Bartenders Association), and the WFA (World Flair Association), are the recognized governing bodies on the sport, with memberships of over 12,000 bartenders in more than 100 countries. I am a member of the FBA and have been flairing for almost 8 years now. In that time, I have been able to pick where I want to work, I am the senior Flair instructor at BartenderOne.com, made various T.V. appearances, and even landed a Mike’s Hard Lemonade commercial!
The sport of Flair bartending has changed me in many ways. I am thankful for the opportunities that have come my way because of it. If you are thinking about getting into flair, I will warn you. It is highly addictive.
For those of you who are just starting out, there are a few things you may need to know. There are two types of flair. Working and exhibition. Working flair is high impact, low risk moves that can be performed quickly, not to slow down service. Where as exhibition flair has a much higher risk factor, and is usually only performed in competition.
A lot of people spend too much time practicing exhibition moves and not enough on working flair, when working flair, is what is going to make you the money. It’s the little moves that keep your guests hovering around your bar with anticipation and money in hand. I’ll put it this way, if a guest walks into the bar and sees you juggling four bottles, what can you possibly do for an encore? It’s like walking into a movie at its climax. You need to start with small moves, and once you’ve mastered them, then move on to more difficult ones.