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Welcome to the Flair Bartending Guide

This is an introduction to flair bartending. We discuss tips and advice for flair bartending. We also explain a number of flair bartending moves and provide links to useful resources

Flair bartending (or ‘extreme’ or ‘performance’ bartending) is about entertaining your guests and clients and mixing drinks with style. It should be fun so don’t take it (or yourself) too seriously. By providing your customers with high quality entertainment, client satisfaction will increase dramatically (and so will your tips if you are a professional bartender).

Many professional bartenders do it and at some bars it’s actually a required skill to be employed there. It is not commonplace for leisure bartenders to do flair bartending, but if you know a few moves, why not show them off?


There are a number of basic ‘rules’ for flairing:

Ø Decide upfront if flair bartending is something you will be able to master. It requires good hand and eye coordination. If you lack this, think twice if you want to put yourself through the pain and struggling to become good. However, most people will be able to learn at least some basic moves, but for that you need to …

Ø Practice often and persistently. As with many things, flair bartending takes a lot of practice to become good at. Try to practice at least 3 times a week for an hour at a time. You want to flair neatly and cleanly without spilling.

Ø Practice at home and perform at work. Few things can irritate people as much as a wannabe flair bartender that clearly hasn’t mastered the moves he/she is attempting. Before you cannot consistently perform a move 10 times in a row without making a mistake, you are not ready to do it in public.

Ø Remember your primary job as bartender is that of mixing cocktails and serving drinks. Therefore, any flair bartending should complement your job and not distract you from it or slow it down.

Ø Don’t spill and don’t break anything.

Ø Don’t flip or spin bottles close by or at your clients/guests/audience.

Ø Be extra cautious when working with fire.

There are many flair bartending books and DVD’s available on the internet and elsewhere. You might want to look around in your area for bartending schools or classes. If you do not find any, perhaps ask around at the local bar.


What you need for practicing flair bartending

Ø Empty bottles of various shapes, sizes and weight. You should be able to find this in the trash of most bars or pubs – ask the manager and tell him/her what you want to use it for. Most of them will be willing to help you.

Ø Duct tape. Use this to tape up the bottles across their whole surface. This will help prevent them from breaking if they fall and prevent glass shattering all over the place if they do break. You are bound to drop a number of bottles in your quest for greatness.

Ø A Boston cocktail shaker. Not only will you flair with bottles, but also with shakers.

Ø Glasses, made of thick glass. Not only will you flair with bottles and shakers, but also with glasses. USe duct tape for glasses as well.

Ø Any other bartending equipment you want to flair with.

Ø Appropriate space, where you will not bother people or put them in danger. There should not be any breakable items (vases, TV’s, etc) standing around. It is advisable to practice on a thick carpet or surface which will minimize the chances of bottles breaking if they fall. It will also help reduce the noise.

Ø You might want a mirror in front of you to judge your technique. But do not pay so much attention to the mirror that you mess up your moves. An alternative is to have a friend or partner watch and help you.


Flair bartending moves

The rest of this page explains some free flair bartending moves. It is intended as an introduction to flair bartending to explain the basic moves that involve throwing objects. You will need to do further research and perhaps buy a DVD or attend a class once you move onto a more advanced level. The best way to learn is to see it done and then do it yourself until you get it right.

It is important that you eventually become comfortable flipping and throwing bottles of all shapes and sizes. Therefore you need to have various bottles to practice with. However, start off with a “normal” round bottle that’s empty (like a J&B whiskey bottle for example).

As you become better and comfortable you can start experimenting with other bottles and filling the bottles with water to various levels. Remember, in practice you flair with different bottles with different levels of fullness.


TIP: The smaller the bottle the easier it is to spin and flip. So, if you struggle with a bigger bottle at first, start with a smaller beer bottle for example.

Start by holding the bottle by its neck with your dominant hand with the palm facing inward. The axis of rotation is where the neck and body of the bottle meet. Spin (throw and rotate) the bottle one rotation until you feel comfortable with it. Then, spin it from one hand to the other.


TIP: Take off all jewellery like rings, watches and arm bands from your hands and arms to start with. Once you are comfortable flairing without it, you can practice with it on again.

Add an additional rotation once you are comfortable with one. Move on to using 2 bottles at a time and spinning them from left to right and right to left simultaneously. Constantly keep your eyes on the bottles at first.

Flipping is a technique whereby you flip a glass from behind your back with one hand and catching it in front of you with the other. This is a fairly simple move that looks quite impressive if done correctly.


The following are other basic flair bartending moves:

HEAD CATCH

A relatively simple move, so maybe one of the first you should practice and perfect. Use a lowball glass or shaker for this one.

Start by holding the object in one hand and holding the other hand above or on the side of your head (on the same side as the object). Basically pass the object from the one hand to the other (by your head).

THROWING ICE

Throw a few cubes of ice in the air and catch them (all) in the glass or shaker you are using to mix the cocktail.

THE BASIC SPIN

Hold the object by its neck (e.g. a bottle’s neck), spin it 360 degrees and catch it by its neck or body. This is a fairly simple technique. If you struggle with this one, well, think again if flair bartending is for you!

THE PALM FLIP

The aim is to spin the object (start with the metal part of the Boston cocktail shaker and progress to a bottle and a highball glass) 360 degrees on the palm of your hand.

Hold it in your hand and flip it clockwise with your right hand (or anti-clockwise with your left hand) by opening your hand wide enough so that it does not touch the pads of your hand or your fingers.

Move on to flipping it twice (720 degrees).

THUMB ROLL

Spin the object around your thumb, clockwise with your right hand or anti-clockwise with your left. Again, the easiest object to start with is the metal part of a Boston cocktail shaker. Start by holding it at the base and flicking it away from you.

This is not an easy move, but comes quite naturally once you have the hang of it.

THE SHADOW PASS

Not an easy move to master, but quite impressive if you do it well. Throw the object from one hand to the other behind your head in an arch-like trajectory over your shoulders. Your throwing hand needs to project the object from the side of that side’s shoulder to the other side. Do not try to spin the object at first. Once you are comfortable, you can attempt to combine a spin with the move.

STALLS

The aim is to stall the object on top of the back of your hand (with your palm facing downward). Start by letting the object hang by holding it by its neck between your thumb and index fingers. Flip and rotate it upward and stall it on top of your hand.

This move requires supple movement of the hand and a lot of balance. This is a typical move that is used as part of a repertoire of moves by many flair bartenders.

STALL TO FLIP TO STALL

This move follows from the STALL. Once the object is stalled on your hand, rotate it by flipping it upward and stall it on the top of your hand again.

AROUND THE WORLD

A classic and very popular move amongst flair bartenders. The aim is to flip the object from behind you over your shoulder and catch it in front of you.

Start by holding a bottle by its neck with your arm held up in front of you parallel to the ground The opening of the bottle should face you. Swing your arm downward and once it has passed your body, flick and spin the bottle upward over your shoulder. Catch it with the same hand in front of you.

Difficult one, but worth the effort of getting it right.

Once you master this, the next step is to flip and rotate the object from the one hand to the other.


Video clips of some of the moves described above and more can be found at The Flair Bartending School

Once you are comfortable with these moves, start combining them in different sequences, thereby creating your own style. As with most things in bartending and mixology, flair bartending is about experimentation and creating a unique style. Your own style will develop naturally as you progress.

Remember, you do not have to have the most difficult moves to look impressive. As one bartender said: “Learn the fundamentals and the rest comes easy.” Rather master a few basic moves, be creative and combine them in various sequences and you will be impressive and entertaining.

The most important thing to remember? PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. It makes perfect.


For more information and kick-ass flair bartending DVD's please visit our Bar Store.

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