DVD Review #3 & A History of Nations

As we continue our series on flair bartending DVD reviews, we thought it would be appropriate to feature the 2008 Nations International Flair Challenge this month. After all, the 2010 Nations is scheduled for August 15-17, at the newly opened Rock & Ritas flair bar inside Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Because we’re always encouraging fans to attend a live competition, this is definitely one to put on your calendar. July and August flights to Las Vegas (within the U.S.) are generally less expensive…and with it being held at Circus Circus, hotel rooms should also be affordable. You’ll likely see some of the most talented flair bartenders in the world at this competition, because of the lineup now working at Rock & Rita’s. To stay up to speed on which competitors will be there (and by division), keep checking the Nations official website.

Mark your calendars and get the plane tickets and hotels booked…it’s looking to be a fantastic competition! We can’t wait to see you there!

A History of Nations
Nations is an internationally known event, organized and run by Jim Allison, President of the Flair Bartending Association (FBA) and Ken Hall, President and Owner of High Spirits Enterprises. Started in 2003 as a smaller budget event at Las Vegas’ Ice House Lounge, this flair bartending competition offers a variety of qualifying rounds such as exhibition flair, speed and pour-testing rounds. This, however, is a unique competition that offers competitors the chance to really showcase their flair bartending skills. Three divisions (or levels) are offered to bartenders, consisting of Amateur (those just getting started), Advanced (those with a few competitions under their belt) and Professional (world famous bartenders).

“The long term goal was to always make Nations an international powerhouse competition focusing only on raw flair,” said Allison.  “This is in contrast to other events like Legends, Quest, and Blue Blazer which all focus on more aspects of bartending than just flair.”

2005 – Nations took place at the trendy Cro-Bar in South Beach Miami. Top bartenders from around the world showed up for the second year of this competition, and had a serious throw down of skill. Christian Delpech took home the grand championship.

2006 – Nations moved back to Las Vegas, but this time at the Club Rio to a capacity crowd.  At this point, Nations became famous for upsets where the underdogs began to step it up and did the unthinkable to become World Champions…Rodrigo Cao was the first to shock the world by achieving this status with his amazing finals round.

2007 – the then unpolished Vladymyr Buryanov came to the main stage on finals night and threw down just enough to topple the unbeatable Christian Delpech.

2008 – the talent showcased at this year’s event was so great that several world champions literally did not make the finals, and yet again another new comer stormed the stage…

Review of The 2008 Nations DVD
Which brings us to our review of the 2008 Nations competition DVD. To sum it up quickly, Poland ruled this particular competition, as they’d been doing that same year in the European scene. Tomek Malek was definitely our favorite round on this video…and the judges agreed. We also enjoyed Justin Keane, who went on to take 3rd overall.

Nations Summary (on back of DVD):
Nine of the greatest flair bartenders on the planet went head to head for over $40,000 in cash and prizes in, what turned out to be one of the most incredible Grand Finals the flair bartending world has ever seen! Round after round, competitors blew the roof off the Ovation Showroom inside the Green Valley Ranch Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Strap in for the most exciting flair DVD ever!!!

Other rounds to watch at the Professional level were Danilo Oribe, Rodrigo Cao, Tom Dyer and Rodrigo Delpech. The lighting on this DVD is awesome, which allows those of us flair groupies to use our “slow” buttons for each of these professionals to see how their moves are being accomplished. Too bad they don’t offer an on-the-screen white marker so we could draw play-by-play diagrams like they do in the NFL.

Some drawbacks to this DVD, though, are that the finals results are not listed anywhere, so after watching each round, it was a bit disappointing in that we couldn’t see who won for each division. We know you want this for your records, so we’ve listed them below for your convenience! You can also find them listed on the FBA website for as long as they archive them. Another annoying issue is not having the flair bartenders’ names listed on each screen. You can hear JD and Chico announcing most of them, but it would be nice to have them on screen during each round. Call us nitpicky, but we also don’t enjoy the opening lime green font on a tie dye background…makes it very difficult to read. The menu options are also pretty limited to: Pros, Advanced & Amateur and Credits. No bloopers, finals results or behind the scenes footage.

Pro Finalists (In Order of Placing):
Grand Champion ($10,000): Tomek Malek (Poland)
2nd Place: Rodrigo Delpech (Argentina)
3rd Place: Justin Keane (U.S.) – also won the Finest Call Stall for $500
4th Place: Tom Dyer (England)
5th Place: Danilo Oribe (Uruguay)
6th Place: Marek Posluszny (Poland)
7th Place: Rodrigo Cao (Argentina)
8th Place: Eiji Narita (Japan)
9th Place: Katsumi Ushiki (Japan)

Advanced Finalists (In Order of Placing):
1st Place ($1,000): Ryan Clark (Canada)
2nd Place: Jacob Mitchetti (U.S.)
3rd Place: Takanori Masuda (Japan)
4th Place: Cruz Gutierrez (U.S.)
5th Place: Masaya Suzuki (Japan)

Amateur Division:
1st Place: Rob Gagne

Add Nations 2008 to Your Library
Overall, we highly recommend having this is your flair DVD collection. Some of Marek’s sequences are plain sick and Tomek has an awesome bump sequence you won’t want to miss! If you’re interested in purchasing this important year of flair history, you can visit the FBA’s online store.

If you like Generation Flair, be sure to subscribe to the RSS alerts (enter your email address in the Subscription box at the top of this page) to receive our blog posts via e-mail.

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Legends XII: The Super Bowl of U.S. Flair Competitions

One of the best things you can do to support the flair bartending scene as a fan is to attend a flair bartending competition. This week we hopped a jet plane to Las Vegas to attend the largest U.S. flair bartending competition called Legends of Bartending. This year was its 12th year and has been described as the Super Bowl of flair bartending competitions. Therefore, we knew we’d be witnessing some of the best flair bartenders in the world competing for a $10,000 first place prize and bragging rights.

Sunday Night: Competitor Registration
The first night at a competition of this type is the beginning of it all. The Sunday night meet and greet is where all competitors (both advanced and professional levels) gather to see each other and finalize their registrations in the competition. Registration is simply the time when competitors sign their liability forms, give the organizers their music and pick up their swag bag (which normally contains a commemorative bottle, tin and bottle opener, a few t-shirts, and any other sponsor gifts).

The evening is normally open to only competitors and their guests. Sponsors are invited and there’s usually a free, open bar for all attendees. At Legends, this is also the time when the FBA announces its year-end awards from the prior year. The FBA’s 2009 awards are voted upon by the membership at large several months before Legends happens. You can see the 2009 winners by visiting the FBA’s Awards page.

LAX Nightclub - LuxorCompetitive Atmosphere
If you’ve never been to a professional flair competition, it’s a lot like a normal sporting event…only it’s held in a bar. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of fans attend. This year Legends XII took place in LAX nightclub inside the Luxor hotel & casino.

After the first night of meet and greet, it’s a full day of qualifying events. Competitors at Legends are expected to pass a Pour Round, a Speed Round and an Exhibition Flair Round. Because Legends is one of the only competitions that requires all three rounds, it is considered one of the most difficult and challenging competitions in existence today.

Spill-Stop Pour Off

Eric Parker competes with Behnam Gerami for the Spill-Stop Pour Off

Pour Round – In this round bartenders pour ten drinks as fast and as accurately as they can. Bartenders are given eight glasses and two tins. Bartenders then pour liquors only (actually they use water in all competitions) into the empty glasses. No ice or mixers are used. Bartenders must pour the proper bottles into the proper glasses with the proper amounts that follow the provided recipes. This round is worth 200 points out of their total qualifying score.

Speed Round – The speed round requires the competitor to make six drinks and open one beer as accurately and quickly as possible. The six drinks are derived from the Master Drink List which is drawn randomly by the competitor. One of the judges then announces those drinks to the competitor and officially calls “Go” to start the clock. Point deductions can happen for spills, missed or wrong ingredients, under-pours and drops or breaks. This round is worth 300 points toward their overall qualifying score.

Eric Parker in his Exhibition Round finals night.

Exhibition Flair Round – Each bartender in all divisions has four minutes to make two drinks. The first drink is made using Working Flair while the second drink showcases Exhibition Flair. Unlike the Speed Round, the competitors know the two drinks they will be making before the competition begins. This allows them to create a full routine (with music). Bartenders are judged on things like Difficulty, Flow of Routine, Creative Flair and Overall Performance. The most valuable of all three rounds, Exhibition Flair is worth 450 points toward the competitor’s overall score.

Tuesday is solely dedicated to finalist rounds. The Advanced Division this year announced five qualifiers: Santiago Gomez, Mike Mills, Ezequiel Abergo, Richard Ramirez and Kevin McCormack. The Pro Division accepted nine qualifiers: Dario Doimo, Danilo Oribe, Gianluigi Bosco, Steven Jarmuz, Behnam Gerami, Riccardo Mastromatteo, Eric Parker, Miyuki Kamimura and Nick Olliney.

These gentlemen (and lady) then competed in another day’s worth of flair to see who would win the ultimate title of Legends XII Champion and $10,000 in prize money. An additional round called Working Flair is added on finals day. This round is worth 300 points and consists of a competitor making 4-5 drinks in three minutes while being judged.

Another unique thing about Legends is the Tandem event. This is where two flair bartenders come together with a routine and are judged similarly to the other rounds. Below is the video of Colin Griffiths and Vladymyr Buryanov of “Team Bar Flies,” who took this year’s Tandem Championship title.

Commentating with Christian Delpech For Thousands of Worldwide Fans

Christian Delpech & Kacy Seitz Commentating for FlairLive TV

Christian & Kacy Commentating on FlairLive TV

The last part of finals day is considered the “big show.” This is where all finalists compete in the Exhibition Flair Round (worth 475 points) on the main stage. Generation Flair was asked to co-host FlairLive TV’s coverage of the main event with Christian Delpech, a well-known legend in this sport. Since this was our se

cond experience with FlairLive TV (first being at Quest 2009), Kacy gladly accepted the challenge once again.

As each competitor took the stage, Christian and Kacy were commentating for fans all over the world (3,500 computers logged on from over 25 different countries)! For the first time, FlairLive TV offered viewers various sponsor commercials and product plugs during the broadcast. The energy was high and the results were anxiously anticipated as each judge reviewed the overall list of finalists to determine who would be crowned Legends XII Champion.

Legends XII Results: 2010 Finalists
Flair bartending competitions like Legends not only offer the prestige and bragging rights of each flair bartender who earns his/her trophy, they also offer some amazing prize money! Below are the final results and their cash prizes won for this event.

1st: Danilo Oribe (Uruguay) – $10,000
2nd: Gianluigi Bosco (Italy) – $2,500
3rd: Dario Doimo (Italy) – $2,000
4th: Miyuki Kamimura (Japan) – $2,000
5th: Nick Olliney (USA) – $1,500
6th: Steve Jarmuz (USA) – $1,500
7th: Eric Parker (USA) – $1,500
8th: Riccardo Mastramatteo (Italy) – $1,500
9th: Behnam Gerami (USA) – $1,000

Attend Your First Competition
If you’re interested in attending a flair competition, check the Flair Bartenders’ Association or the World Flair Association to find a professional competition near you. We’ll be writing a detailed list of upcoming spring/summer competitions next week, so be sure to subscribe to GenF alerts (enter your email address in the Subscription box at the top of this page). Even if you’ve never been to a flair competition before, but you’re curious, give it a try! Everyone is welcome and it’s an opportunity for you to watch the sport as its meant to be seen: LIVE!

Economy’s Impact on Flair Bartending Competitions

Sponsor photoIf you haven’t been affected by the economy (either directly or know someone who has), it’s likely you’re living in a very remote location. Dan & I have seen some negative things happen to some of our closest friends this past year.

It seems as though everywhere you turn, there’s bad news. Several major flair bartending competitions have been canceled. Bar sales are down. Companies have announced large-scale layoffs. And, major flair cities like Vegas and Orlando are seeing some of the worst home foreclosure rates in the country. One of our  friends’ home value plummeted so much that it would cost them money if they sold their Las Vegas home.

These issues not only take a direct effect on our personal lives, but also professionally, which is why we chose to address the topic in today’s post.

Has the economy diminished flair competition sponsorship money?
According to a recent article from Reuters, the sports industry’s sponsorship spending growth rate is projected to have the smallest increase in 2009 (when last year it was almost double the next-closest category).

Granted this research is focused primarily on mainstream sports like the NBA, MLB, NFL and Nascar. However, flair bartending sponsorships would fall within this category as well. So how has the economy affected competitions, bartenders and flair in general?

We talked with several flair bartending competitors and organizers to find out.

Mike McLean“There has always been a concern about getting sponsorship and support of flair competitions, not just this year,” said Mike McLean, Director of Sales and Marketing for Flairco and Vice President of the FBA. “There were several high profile events canceled this year, but others were able to make it through. I’m hoping that the global economy bounces back in 2010 and we can potentially go after some new sponsors, maybe even mainstream lifestyle brands, to inject life back into the competitive
scene.”

Colin Griffiths, professional flair bartender and event organizer in Las Vegas was more direct. “The state of the economy has effected flair because sponsor companies are under more pressure to justify results for the money they contribute,” he said. “This combined with their pressure to meet their own sales goals makes it harder to find those willing to support our sport.”

The recession, although affecting everyone, is primarily a U.S. symptom. We were curious if the economic ails traveled across the Atlantic to our flair friends in Europe.

Tom DyerTom Dyer, professional flair bartender in London and key organizer with the World Flair Association, said he didn’t really have any concerns about flair competitions not happening due to lack of sponsorship money. “No concerns at all,” he said. “I actually think this is a good thing for flair. Flair is growing so fast that it needs a break.”

Dyer went on to point out that life balance is a good thing and that with so many competitions happening all the time there’s not a lot of time for everything like getting enough practice in on top of a full-time bartending job and a regular life.

“We had very few comps canceled due to the credit crunch and instead saw a lot of new independent comps mushrooming all over the place which is great,” said Tug van den Bergh, professional judge and founding member of the World Flair Association. “Bartenders in Europe are still willing to travel to flair competitions for little money, which is helping to keep our scene very much alive!!”

To further amplify the positive sentiments from the European flair community, Christian Delpech did a recent FlairLive TV interview with Finest Call’s European Sales Representative Bob Jones. Jones reported that as a company, Finest Call is actually spending more on sales and marketing this year than they did last year. He went on to describe his gratitude, knowing that not all companies are in a position to increase spending during these tough times. Although Finest Call is the number one mixer in the U.S., their interest in deepening the brand in Europe is evident.

Griffiths was right. Companies will foot the sponsorship bill when it is justifiable to their corporate goals, no matter the state of the economy. Finest Call is one of the largest flair bartending supporters and has been for many years. They understand that to increase sales of their product they go to those who are the “cheerleaders” or pushers of that product…flair bartenders.

As long as flair organizers, bartenders and supporters understand the connection to corporate goals, approaching potential sponsors for flair competitions is still a viable funding avenue. This isn’t to infer sponsorships will be easy to secure. As McLean stated, 2010 is a new year, and new sponsorship avenues will need to be considered. Overall, though, expectations are positive when looking at the future of flair bartending. With its international presence, mass following and current sponsor support, flair bartending can only grow from here.