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.

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What in the World is Flair Bartending?

What does your husband do?

This is a common question I’m constantly presented with. I normally respond with: “He’s a competitive flair bartender.”

The person asking usually offers a strange smile, a furrowed brow and even a tilted head. My good friend, Amanda Ashcraft, another flair enthusiast said, “When people ask me, I usually say something like: It’s when they “flip the bottles” while they make your drink (accompanied by a fast up and down hand motion to illustrate for the person visually).”

Both of us agree on what usually happens next: The person will say…”Ohhhhh, like that movie, Cocktail!

We then force a smile, because in the world of flair, this is like a bad joke that people keep telling over and over. You’ll understand why after reading this article.

According to Wikipedia, “flair bartending” is the practice of bartenders entertaining guests, clientele or audiences with the manipulation of bar tools (e.g. cocktail shakers) and liquor bottles in tricky, dazzling ways. Used occasionally in cocktail bars, the action requires skills commonly associated with jugglers.

Flair is a visual activity…you don’t really get it until you watch it. We’ve included plenty of videos and photographic references on the site, but while you’re here reading this article, it’s easier to break this topic up into three parts:

1) Flair is a sport

2) Flair is Entertainment

3) Flair Creates Efficient Bartenders

Flair is a Sport
Believe it or not, but thousands of bartenders all over the world take part in professionally judged competitions where thousands of dollars in prize money is awarded to winners. Some of the main organizing bodies for this sport are the Flair Bartending Association (FBA), the World Flair Association and the Independent Flair League (IFL).

Amanda told me about her first experience going to a competition. “I was with my cousin Cara, who was a bartender in Orlando at the time and knew of this competition in Las Vegas she wanted me to attend with her,” she said. “As soon as I walked into the Rio to this event called “Legends of Bartending” in 2007, I caught the enthusiasm and immediately wanted to start helping with the event so I could be more involved.”

And, she did just that. Amanda has helped the FBA by putting together gift bags, organizing the competitor registration process and assisting with all the little details at each event. Amanda is now Executive Assistant to both Ken Hall, President of High Spirits Enterprises and Jim Allison, FBA President and CEO.

My husband, Dan Seitz, introduced me to my first competition called “Nations” in 2006. It was held in Las Vegas, and after those three days, I was amazed at what I saw! Hundreds of bartenders from places like Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, Austria, UK, Canada, and Japan are all competing for prize money, trophies and bragging rights.

The energy at the event was intense. Professional photographers and videographers were documenting every move as the competitors flipped, mixed and poured their way through each qualifying round. The highly skilled judges (most of them former competitors) took notes and tallied the scores for those who made finals. This is the small few (around 8 or 9 competitors) who go on to compete for the real prize money. This particular event offered over $20,000 in cash & prizes to those who went on to the finals round!

The finals stage…wow. It could’ve been on ESPN with all the sponsor banners, high-end theatre lighting and 8-person judging panel down front. Similar to Amanda’s experience, I also wanted to get involved. At first I thought it might be through garnering more sponsors due to my marketing background. However, I decided my time would be best spent educating people, like yourself, about this amazing sport.

Flair is Entertainment
Earlier this year, Dan & I were in Louisville, KY for the 3rd Annual MyBar Flair Showcase. Once at the airport, we learned a few of our flair friends were flying in just behind us, so we decided to wait for them so we could all share a cab to the hotel. As each bartender arrived, the Flaircos started coming out of the bottle bags and a large corner of the airport became the stage. Dan, Joe Dormani and Nick Olliney became temporary entertainment for anyone wanting to watch. They were in their own world, smiling and laughing with each other as they juggled, tossed and flipped the indestructible practice bottles.

A small crowd soon gathered, and people began offering smiles and cheers as they continued to walk by. This is a small example of the entertainment power of what flair can do for a venue…even an airport. It was yet another confirmation for me that this sport needed to be out there MORE than it had been in the past.

Some of the most popular bars in the world are tourist destinations because they offer a complete staff of full-time flair bartenders (link to each):

Carnival Court – Las Vegas, NV
Kahunaville – Inside Treasure Island, Las Vegas, NV
Salty Dog Saloon – Springfield and Worcester, MA
Roadhouse – London, UK
Cohibar – Munich, Germany
Kahunaville Kalahari Resorts – Sandusky, OH and Wisconsin Dells, WI
Maloney’s – Southport, UK
Aura Ultra Lounge – Reno, NV
Luxy Nightclub – Tapei, Taiwan
LAB – Montreal, Quebec
Glacier – Omaha, NE
MyBar – New Albany, IN

If you’ve been to another flair bar, not listed here, let us know in the comments section!

Flair Creates Efficient Bartenders
What does “efficient” mean in regards to a bartender? In simple terms it means they make drinks faster and waste less inventory (i.e. spill less alcohol while pouring drinks).

I spoke with Mike McLean, Flairco’s Director of Sales and Marketing, about this theory of comparing flair bartenders to regular bartenders, and his response summarizes it best:

“Flair bartenders specifically train and practice in their free time to improve their efficiencies and accuracy for the skills they use on the job. By going above and beyond their fellow bartenders, flair bartenders learn how to accurately pour, multitask and, of course, provide entertainment to guests. As a result flair bartenders will consistently outsell their co-workers while maintaining a higher level of efficiency.”

Furthermore, the flair bartenders who compete on a regular basis are more adept at these efficiencies simply because they are regularly judged on categories like pouring, accuracy and speed. These skills obviously spill over (no pun intended) to their regular jobs.

As you can see, flair is many things to many people. So whether you’re interested in the sport, the entertainment or efficiency aspect of flair, there’s plenty of room for you to jump in and get involved.

I’d like to end this post with one of my favorite flair videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as3uPiI6ycg