Pro Flair Bartender Feature: Gianluigi Bosco

The new Italian on the U.S. flair scene, Gianluigi Bosco, is certainly making a name for himself this year. We sat down with Gianluigi in Las Vegas to learn more about his secret to flair success.

Newest Gig: Becoming a Flair Bartender at Rock ‘N Ritas
Selected as one of the few flair bartenders to work at Las Vegas’ newest flair bar, Rock ‘n Ritas inside Circus Circus casino, Gianluigi is excited to work full time in the U.S.

“My dad is not very happy about it, because I’ll be far away from the family. But my mother is very happy as are my brothers and sister,” he said, smiling.

When asked about making the cut after auditions, you could see the pride and excitement in his face as he described what we all know as true career success. “I was very happy,” he said. “You know, as a flair bartender, you always think, what’s my goal? This was it for me…to be able to work in the U.S. and for a bar that is going to change the scene for flair bartenders.”

Rock ‘n Ritas is scheduled to open June 2010 with some of the best flair bartenders known in the industry. To learn more or to schedule your visit, go to http://www.circuscircus.com/dining/rock-rita.aspx.

Getting Started, “Bosco” Style
Gianluigi’s story of how he got into flair bartending is a fairly typical one if judged from the average flair fan. However, the success he’s had in such a short amount of time is nothing short of spectacular.

“I started out in the service industry as a waiter in Lecco, Italy in 2002,” he said. “It was a second job, actually, that I took to earn some extra money. I saw the bartenders working and I had become a bit bored with what I was doing, so I started training to become a bartender.”

Shortly after he completed his training, an opportunity opened up in Spain for a season. However, he ended up staying for a year and a half. This was his first experience working in a flair bar. “I then took a job in a restaurant, where I became the head bartender and after a short stay there, I decided to move to another country to learn another language.”

By the way, he’s fluent in four languages.

“In 2006, I moved to Paris, a much larger city, where I learned French and met Rafael Arce (better known in the flair world as Rafa),” he said. “This is really where I started to practice properly by going to the Bar Academy every Wednesday. They open a really nice space to practice flair for anyone who’d like to come and do that.”

This is really where Gianluigi became serious about flair bartending. “I learned that I had some raw talent for flair, so I started to learn how to compete and practiced every day,” he said. “That year, I did three competitions, and although they weren’t very good, I continued to work hard and in 2007, I went to Roadhouse and made the finals for the first time.”

Since then, Gianluigi’s momentum has continued to flourish. Not only did he win the IBA World Championship, he also tacked on first place at all of the following: Warsaw Flair Challenge (Warsaw), Roadhouse UK Challenge (London), Que Pasa Flair Challenge (Chelmsford), Bols Master Battle (Berlin), Underground Flair League (Amsterdam), Elite Flair Comp (Orlando, FL), and World Online Flair Contest. At Legends XII, he took second place, just after Danilo Oribe and was honored with the FBA’s 2009 “World Traveler” award. This award was given to him for attending and competing in 35 competitions last year in 12 countries.

Now that’s a dedicated (and successful) flair bartender!

We wondered if the increase in competitions is what created some of his success. “Yeah, of course,” he admitted. “Because my biggest problem was stage presence and being in front of so many people while competing. I always felt uncomfortable. So, the amount of competitions have allowed me to get used to that and overcome that fear.”

Gianluigi is well known on the European scene, but he’s recently become more active in the U.S. We wondered if he favored one country over the other as far as competitions are concerned.

“Flair is really different in America,” he said. “The FBA Pro Tour is very good and very professional. They care about the drinks, how you make them, your show, etc. In Europe, it’s all about flair…not so much about the drinks, but I like both styles equally well. They’re just different.”

What he really likes about Europe is the variety of talent and skill across all flair bartender levels. “There’s closer skill levels in the top competitors in Europe along with a wider variety of styles and flair moves,” he said. “In the U.S., there are some well known guys, but a big gap exists between the Pro and Amateur levels..I think mainly because right now there are more flair bartenders in Europe.”

Where is Flair Headed?
It’s always important to look at the trends of any up and coming sport. Flair bartending is no exception and we were curious if Gianluigi felt the same. So we asked him where he thought flair might be going in the future.

“It’s getting really big,” he said. “In the states, it used to be very big, but last year there weren’t as many competitions. Europe hasn’t seen the recession, so last year Europe was better for competitions than here…which is why I had some doubts about moving here.”

He also mentioned one of our favorite flair media outlets, FlairLive TV. “It’s new and something good for our sport,” he said. “Finally, we have some high quality footage of the professional guys doing flair. You know, there are loads of flair videos out there, but most are not high quality. I would love to see FlairLive TV explode and give the sport the more professional look it deserves.”

We couldn’t agree more, and certainly think Oscar Perez and his team are well on their way to making this happen.

Flair is a Way of Life
Gianluigi is one of the more passionate flair bartenders we’ve met. It’s obvious that combining his talent and dedication to working hard, he’s going to go even further in 2010. “Flair has been a way of life for me for the last two years. I love the traveling and meeting new people from all over the world,” he said. “Truthfully, If it wasn’t for flair, I’d probably still be in a crappy bar in Italy. It’s added passion, it’s life for me now.”

To learn more about Gianluigi Bosco, you can visit him on his Facebook page, become a fan of his group “Flair Competition Results” or see him at the next big flair competition.

Be sure to subscribe to the Generation Flair alerts (enter your email address in the Subscription box at the top of this page) to receive our blog posts via e-mail each month.

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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!

Flair Bartending in the Media: From the Food Network to Jimmy Buffet

bartenderontv

Although the movie Cocktail is a dirty word within the world of flair bartending, it gave this underground sport a jump start into the mainstream consciousness. One of our goals with Generation Flair is to continue that momentum by exposing more of this sport to the media. Therefore, we thought it would be appropriate to list a few of the exceptional pieces done by major networks, and TV shows to give you an idea of the strides that have already been made for this ever-growing, international sport.

Food Network Features Flair Bartending
The Food Network has been a big supporter by featuring several specials about flair bartending.

Special “World Bartender Championships,” – Legends VI, Las Vegas (2004)
(To view this video, you must become a member of the FBA, but it’s free. Once you’re a member, select “Flair on TV” and follow the links.)

Special “World Bartending Championships” – Legends VII, Las Vegas (2005)
(To view this video, you must become a member of the FBA, but it’s free. Once you’re a member, select “Flair on TV” and follow the links.)

“Throwdown with Bobby Flay” Bobby vs. Toby Ellis, Las Vegas (2006)
(To view this video, you must become a member of the FBA, but it’s free. Once you’re a member, select “Flair on TV” and follow the links.)

Bartending Battle (2006)
This challenge took six amazing bartenders out of the bar and put them on the beach. South Beach, that is. This show highlighted the best of bartending–the best recipes, the fastest pours and the most incredible routines. Bartenders flipped, twirled, poured and spun their way to $10,000. Winner: Christian Delpech.

Rachel Ray Show Features Dave Simpson and Michah Dew (2007)
Although she starts off with the Cocktail reference (sigh), this is an excellent piece and gained some new exposure for the Canadian bartenders with “Extreme Bartending.”

Glutton for Punishment – Flair Bartending (2007)
Who can forget Bob Blummer with the TV show Glutton for Punishment? Dan & I were at Nations 2006 when he showed up to film part of this episode. Toby Ellis taught him a basic routine and he performed it in front of the same judges all amateur competitors had that day. No video yet on this one, but there’s a small write-up.

Travel Channel Goes Flair Crazy
Special “Battle of the Bartenders,” Orlando (2002)
(To view this video, you must become a member of the FBA, but it’s free. Once you’re a member, select “Flair on TV” and follow the links.)

ESPN
Levi Donaldson was the first to perform flair on ESPN for the morning show “Cold Pizza” (2003). We hope the exposure with ESPN will increase greatly in the near future…after all the National Spelling Bee and World Poker Series are currently in their lineup!

Other TV Shows With Flair
How I Met Your Mother – “Three Days of Snow” – Barney & Ted take over McLaren’s Bar and do an amateur spoof of Cocktail – doing their best to juggle a few tins and bottles.

We’re also told a flair bartender was one of the supporting characters in a CSI-type show a year or two ago. If you have more information on this, please forward it on and we’ll update this part of the post!

Flair Bartending TV Commercials
Abbey Clancy Lynx Campaign featuring Jay du Toit (2009) – Watch as Jay uses flair to sell something other than alcohol…men’s deoderant!

Hellman’s Mayonnaise “Squeezy Skills” Campaign featuring Neil Garner and Neil Lowry from BarWizards – (Click on the “Hellman’s link just below the video screen) – The two Neil’s get flair crazy with mayo. These guys also made the finals on Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.

Flair Bartenders in Music Video
Five O’Clock Somewhere
Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet take us to one of their favorite beach hangouts in this video where flair bartenders are busy entertaining and mixing the drinks!

While all of the media described above is mainly in the U.S., plenty of international coverage has also been done. If you’re a reporter, broadcaster or journalist, interested in doing a flair bartending piece, please contact us. We’ll put you in touch with professional flair bartenders experienced in doing media interviews.

We also realize the list above is quite short, so if you have additional links you’d like to post, we welcome those in the comment section. Here’s to building the fan base for flair bartending!

Anatomy of A Flair Competition

Legends of Bartending 2009 - Rodrigo Delpech

When I first started going to competitions, the excitement was overwhelming, but most importantly I really wanted to know what was going on. How were bartenders being judged? What determined who won first place? Is there a difference between two different competitions’ rules? This post should give you an idea of how the judges determine who wins first place, and who goes back to their garage for more practice.

Above all, it’s important to know which organization, or group of people are planning the competition. This determines the set of rules and format the competition will follow. In this post, we’ll outline two different organizing bodies and how they each judge various flair competitions. NOTE: These are not the only groups that promote and judge flair competitions, but they are the most popular and accepted on the competitive circuit.

Flair Bartending Association (FBA)
Following the FBA’s standardized rules, there are three divisions a bartender can enter to compete. Those effectively are Amateur, Advanced and Professional.

Amateur – A flair bartender who has never competed, or has been competing for less than a year. It is expected that once a bartender places in the top three of any Amateur division, they move up to the Advanced division.

Advanced – A flair bartender who has been competing for over a year. It is expected that once a bartender places in the top three of any Advanced division, they move up to the Professional division. Some prize money can be awarded at this level, but it is minimal and depends on the competition.

Professional – A flair bartender who has been competing for many years and shows exceptional scoring abilities when competing against all other bartenders in the industry. This is the division where the majority of the large prize money is earned.

FBA Judging Criteria
1. Difficulty – The degree measuring how hard a bartender’s moves are to perform. A bartender’s routine is measured as a whole for difficulty, therefore, only moves that are successful will be taken into account. For example, if a bartender attempts a trick, doesn’t complete it, and doesn’t attempt it again, the trick will not count toward the bartender’s overall difficulty score. Difficulty can come in several forms. It can be seen in one individual move, the combination of a series of moves, or even the way a bartender incorporates music with their routine. Coordinating a routine on cue, or on beat, with the music demonstrates a higher level of difficulty.

2. Originality – Judges measure a bartender’s ability to perform with fresh moves and a truly creative performance. Bartenders are awarded more points for original moves and routines that have never been seen before.

3. Balance – Refers to the way a competitor organizes their routine using the specific requirements for that competition combined with their own style and creative moves. For example, if a bartender performs for five minutes and four of it is spent on one particular style, such as using one bottle and one tin, while the remaining minute is used only to finish their required drinks, this would not be considered good “balance.”

4. Execution – Refers mainly to the bartender’s control over their entire routine. This includes bottles, tins, tools and/or tricks they attempt. Judges may consider the following questions when evaluating this category: Is the bartender demonstrating good overall bartending skills? Does a bartender successfully complete his/her stalls when intended? Is the bartender performing good flair pours and cuts? Does the bartender step back and flip bottles, then walk up to the bar and make a normal pour? By the way, all bottles should be flipped into pours.

5. Smoothness – In the basic sense is the bartender’s ability to make his/her routine look easy. To score well in this category, the bartender’s “flow,” or sequence of moves should look uniform and polished. Flair moves should blend together and not have breaks or readjustments. If a bartender drops many items they’re working with (i.e. bottles, tins, strainers, openers, etc) they lose points in smoothness.

6. Variety – Is the number of different types of moves performed and the different types of objects (strainers, muddlers, glassware, ice scoop, etc) flair bartenders use to complete moves during a routine. Obviously, the more objects used and the different styles of flair performed results in a higher overall Variety score. If the bartender is repetitive, they will score lower.

7. Overall Entertainment – In this category, flair bartenders are judged on their interaction with the crowd, choreography with the music, and their ability to break the imaginary wall between themselves and the crowd. To score well, the flair bartender’s routine should match the style of music and, above all, their energy should be high.

8. Showmanship – Refers to the flair bartender’s demeanor, or attitude, behind the bar. The flair bartender should be confident and in command of their tools and the stage. The competitor should not seem flustered by mistakes and should be able to keep a smooth flow to their routine, even if they drop something.

Now that you have a good idea of the categories in which flair bartenders are judged, let’s take a look at the different rounds offered at various FBA competitions. Not all rounds are offered at every competition. In fact, most competitions feature only two or three of the rounds described below. Check the rules and regulations for each competition to know what exactly will be taking place at that event.

FBA Competitive Rounds

Flair Round – This includes two sub-categories: Exhibition Flair and Working Flair.

Exhibition Flair is the classic idea of flair bartending, the performance aspect. Exhibition flair is flair performed for entertainment and competition purposes and generally involves longer, choreographed routines, usually without liquid in the bottle(s). It is a style of flair that generally does not lend itself to every day bar shifts. However, there are a growing number of flair bars around the world that showcase exhibition flair as part of their operation’s entertainment. Exhibition flair often involves multi-object flair including 2,3,4 and 5 bottle/tin tricks and routines. Exhibition flair can involve moves and routines performed while not in the drink making process. Working Flair is the opposite of Exhibition Flair and refers to the moves that are used with bottles containing liquid combined with moves that contribute to the drink making process. Working flair is the type of flair the FBA encourages on day-to-day bar shifts: quick, light, and realistic moves that can be performed without slowing service. Most working flair involves glassware, one bottle, bottle and tin, garnish, or occasionally, two bottle moves. This sub-category of flair is always performed while making a cocktail or drink.

Speed Round – Some competitions offer a speed round where bartenders are challenged with making six random drinks in the shortest amount of time possible. Drinks are announced over a microphone just before the bartender begins their round, which is closely timed and watched by the judging panel. The speed round is not won usually on making the fastest time, but instead won with the bartender who has the fewest deductions. Deductions can happen when improper amounts are poured, wrong ingredients are used, drops, breaks, spills, etc. The speed round can be very exciting to watch, especially as competitors get close to beating the best time for that day.

Specialty Round – This round is currently only offered at the Legends of Bartending competition. It is the “fun and crazy” round where flair competitors are allowed to create a full-blown theatre-style routine using extravagant props, outlandish costumes and crazy choreography. Bartenders such as Dario Doimo have been known to dress up as Spiderman and jump onto the stage with silly string shooting from his hands. Other bartenders have worn masks, wigs and extravagant makeup while flipping bottles, tins and other items on the bar. Scoring is mainly based on overall creativity and the entertainment value.

Pour Test Round – Refers to the competitive round where bartenders are challenged with pouring approximately 10 drinks consecutively. While this round isn’t timed, it is mainly judged on accuracy, and competitors use water instead of alcohol or mixers. Using an Exact-O-Pour, a popular industry tool to measure the proper amount of liquid that goes into a drink, the bartenders carefully pour the assigned amounts in each glass. Deductions can include spills, drops and inaccurate amounts in each glass. Amounts are measured down to the hundredth of an ounce. This can be one of the most nerve wracking rounds at a competition due to the sheer concentration it takes for a bartender to complete.

Tandem Round – When two bartenders perform together in an organized, and often synchronized routine to music. Much like the Flair round, bartenders are judged on the FBA’s standardized criteria. However, adding a second bartender to the mix with twice as many objects not only adds to the difficulty, but is a true crowd pleaser with its entertainment value.

World Flair Association (WFA)
The WFA is a much newer organization, and is a little different in the fact that they don’t have divisions. All bartenders compete against everyone else no matter the level of skill. Most of the WFA competitions are held in Europe, and has become widely known there. In addition, all competitions are judged on only two categories: Flair and Entertainment. There are four sub-sections in both categories with a combined total of 300 points at any competition, each of which are described below.

Flair (200 points – 50 points per sub section)
1. Variety – To score well in this section competitors should flair everything they touch. For example, if they pick up their juice container and only pour it, they will be scored on this as a missed opportunity to flair. A wide variety of moves is also encouraged: Flash, grabs, pours, bumps, rolls, stalls, etc.

2. Creativity – To score highly in this category, bartenders must exhibit their own style, moves and choreography throughout their routine. This is not just about the moves, it also takes into consideration the presentation of the routine, the music and how creative a bartender is when he/she performs.

3. Difficulty – Judges look for difficult moves and skillful sequences. Linking together multiple bumps, rolls, taps, reverse catches, etc can help a bartender score points.

4. Smoothness – Some of the questions the WFA judges will ask before scoring a bartender are: Did the bartender have a set routine, or were they just making it up as they went along? If the bartender dropped did they recover or did they let it affect their performance? Judges want to see a routine that is well-balanced and smooth.

Entertainment (100 points –  25 points per sub section)
1. Balance – Refers to the criteria of a routine being weighted correctly. WFA judges look for a well thought out performance and not something that is poorly planned.

2. Showmanship – Flair is all about entertaining people. Bartenders are putting on a show for the people that are in the venue, so judges want to see the competitor interact with them. One tip: A smile can make a big difference.

3. Music Interaction – WFA judges look for moves being in sync with the music, a bartender’s interaction with the lyrics and choreography.

4. Composure – Is a bartender calm and relaxed on stage? Do they land all moves with confidence, and recover well from any drops or mistakes? To score well in composure, a bartender must posses these abilities.

Deductions
Deductions can happen in any category listed above. We briefly describe the possible point deductions below. These are specific to the WFA only.

1. Drop (-3 points) – A drop is when a bartender is flairing an object, loses control and the object falls to the floor or onto the bar. Drops do not count with a beverage napkins, straw, garnish or ice. If a bartender is flairing three bottles and they drop two of them, then it is effectively counted as two drops.

2. Spill (-2 points) – is when a bartender loses control of a pour into a glass, or drops a tin or bottle holding liquid and the liquid falls outside of its container. Generally two judges count spills and the average is taken from their results.

3. Break (-10 points) – Whenever a glass object is smashed (either in mid-air or on the floor), this deduction is applied.

4. Misc (-5 points) – May include a missing ingredient, a wrong ingredient and/or wrong procedure. Some items judges watch for include the correct procedures when bartenders use beverage napkins, straws, garnishes and proper amounts of ice.

5. Missing Drink (-40 points) – Quite simply, if a bartender doesn’t have the two drinks on the bar by the end of their routine, then it is considered missing. If the bartender has a glass on the bar with ice, but no alcohol or mixer then that is also considered a missing drink. If a drink is considered as missing the competitor is not then deducted for the missing ingredients as well.

Whew! That was a long post…but the next time you’re at a flair competition, now you’ll know more about what you’ll be watching and experiencing. Always remember to applaud and cheer for every bartender during, and after their round. It not only takes dedicated flair practice, but a large amount of courage to get up on that stage to compete.

Our Favorite Flair Bartending Websites

Doing a search on Google for “flair” or “flair bartending” can bring you a variety of link results. We get a lot of questions like:

“Which sites are best to view if you’re new to flair bartending?”
“Who should I contact if I’m interested in learning more about the sport?”
“Where do most of the competitive flair bartenders hang out online or where do they go to get advice, tips and inspiration?”

With this list, we hope to give you a good summary that might help guide you in the general direction of where to start. By no means is this a complete list, and feel free to e-mail or comment on any we’ve forgotten or not represented.

Flair Bartending Association

Flair Bartending Association

Flair Bartending Association (FBA) – With the slogan, “Service First | Flair Second | Competition Always” the FBA was created in 1997 by a small group of extremely passionate and talented bartenders who decided to work together to organize and unite the 800 various competitions throughout the world. With that effort the Flair Bartenders’ Association (FBA) was born and immediately became the fastest growing global membership association in the industry. Since then, the FBA has grown to become the largest and most respected flair-based organization in the world. The FBA is the global sanctioning body and the undisputed authority on the sport of flair bartending. The site is free to join, although premium membership gets you certain perks and upgrades. The FBA forums are a great place to go to learn about the upcoming flair competitions, who’s hiring flair bartenders and general chatter/banter between the guys and gals behind this sport.

World Flair Association

World Flair Association

World Flair Association (WFA) – This a complementary association focusing more on the European scene and promoting the global network of flair bartending. It was created in 2008 by four high-profile flair bartenders, who felt there was a need in promoting & assisting different countries in their events by sharing their combined experiences gained by being heavily involved within flair bartending. Whether in competition, exhibition or behind the bar the WFA prides itself in the sharing of knowledge, good times and providing the platform for modern ethical performance bartending and event organization. Since it’s launch, the WFA has seen unprecedented success by linking like-minded individuals throughout the world using the same passion and drive for the sport, or art of flair, as they call it.

FlairLive TV

FlairLive TV – a company whose interests lie in promoting flair bartending to the masses, with live, streaming coverage of competitors and events online. This company has been created by three former flair bartender world champions – Christian Delpech, Rodrigo Delpech, and Oscar Perez. Our two companies have been known to work together on broadcasts at competitions, so keep an eye out for a GenF spokesperson at their next event!

FlairbarcoverFlairbar – While not published as consistently as it used to be, Flairbar is still the best online publication that competitive flair bartenders use to stay in tune with the industry and other competitors. Normally a monthly e-zine, Flairbar features a different flair bartender or group of flairbartenders on the virtual cover.

Cocktail Shows – Originally a flair bartending video site, this is now a new and improved social networking site for flair bartenders and fans alike.

Roadhouse – A successful nightclub in London’s West End, “Roadhouse” began as a single competition, but has expanded to be sort of like Europe’s World Series of Flair Bartending. This is the official website where you can view the forums, download videos from previous Roadhouse comps and view current standings.

youtubeYouTube – a wide variety of flair bartending videos exist featuring well-known (and not-so-well-known) flair bartenders. Check out the extensive library by searching for simple terms like, “flair bartending,” “Legends of Flair Bartending,” “Roadhouse Flair,” “tandem flair bartending,” or any flair bartender’s name who has competed in the recent past.

FlaircoFlairco – The company who invented the indestructible practice bottles flair bartenders use to train. Flairco is also well-known for the Flairco bar, the portable bar that is used at nearly every competition around the world. If you’re interested in getting started, they also offer several training DVDs and products you can use if you’re just dipping your toe into this sport.

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Facebook / Twitter / MySpace – a variety of fan pages and groups exist. Most of the above mentioned are on all major social networking sites.

The best advice we can give, though, whether you’re a bartender, a bar owner or a general fan interested in learning more is to attend a competition. You will become connected to the large network of people who keep flair bartending going each year. But the best part is, you’ll get to watch and possibly meet each of the competitive flair bartenders. You can then decide which bartender’s style you enjoy the most and become an official flair fanatic!

Flair Bartenders Actually Compete?!

Until I went to my first competition, I had NO idea flair bartending was a professional sport. I know what you’re probably thinking – “So what! I hear underwater hockey and cheese rolling are also ‘sports.'” However, to say these guys and gals compete in “little” events for “neat” prizes “like in the movie Cocktail” is about like saying the World Series is equivalent to a little league tee-ball game.

Competitions are why most people become flair fans. Watching competitions is exciting, crazy and sometimes even dangerous (especially if you’re down front when a bartender breaks a bottle). This post will be a brief explanation on how competitions work, what’s at stake for competitors, and where flair competitions are held. Hopefully you’ll gain a better understanding of why this sport has become so popular.

The best way to describe what these competitions are really like is to refer to one of my favorite write ups from the 2006 Nations International Flair Challenge DVD:

Every bartender who has spilled his own blood trying to master the dangerous age-old art form known as flair has dreamed of having just one round that makes the entire planet take notice. Every man or woman who has bruised and banged up their bodies and filled garbage cans with broken glass flipping bottles has imagined being under the lights, in front of the cameras and the crowd, having the round of their lives. If you have ever competed, then you know that tiny, little voice inside you that faintly whispers, “I think I can win this…”

How Flair Competitons Work

Because there are hundreds of competitions all over the world, many are hosted and judged by different people and groups. However, the Flair Bartending Association (FBA) is probably the first and most prominent group to consistently organize competitions with formally trained judges, outstanding staff and top notch sponsors.

In addition, the FBA has created a set of categories with standardized definitions and points. By “standardized,” they mean that both competitors and judges understand what is expected in each category, no matter if the competition is in Las Vegas, Toronto, London, Moscow or Tokyo.

Judges base their comments and scores on categories like Difficulty, Originality, Technical Execution, Smoothness, Variety and Balance of Routine. For each category, the points scale is broken down into five levels: “Below Average,” “Average,” “Above Average,” “Advanced” and “Best in the World.” Every category is judged based on the world of competitive flair today, which obviously can change after every competition if a bartender raises the level with their performance. We’ll go into more detail about what each category really involves in a future post.

When a judge scores a flair bartender, they consider the routine as a whole, not just certain moves, to determine the score for each category. Using the Difficulty category as an example, if a flair bartender performs a routine with moderate difficulty and a few really hard moves, they will score lower than a flair bartender that performs a routine with greater difficulty, even if the second flair bartender’s moves do not match the few really hard moves of the first flair bartender. It is more difficult for a flair bartender to perform at a higher skill level for a whole routine versus just a few moves.

What’s at Stake for Flair Bartenders?

The most surprising thing I learned about going to a flair competition is how much money was involved for the winners. Top flair bartenders can make a living off of competing. In fact, many of the professionals are at or above earning six figures a year. Surprising? Check out the first place checks for some of the latest competitions:

Legends of Bartending (XI) – $10,000 USD
Super Flair Canada – $5,000 CAD
Quest 2008 – $5,000 USD
Nations 2008 – $10,000 USD
Best in the West – $5,000 USD
Roadhouse – 10,000 pounds
Bacardi Pro Flair – $20,000 USD
Barstars – $20,000 USD
Havana Club Bar Giants – 5,000 EU
Flair Castle – $10,000 USD
Austrian Flair Combat – $5,000 USD
Prague Bartending Challenge – 4000 EU
MBA Flair Romania – $8000 USD
Daylight Flair Contest – 4000 EU
Athens Flair Open – 4000 EU
Brasil Open Flair – 1000 EU
Skyy Flair Global Challenge – $7000 USD
Shaker – 3500 EU
King of the Ring – $25,000 USD

Once a flair bartender decides to compete, he or she is entering a new world. Although everyone is extremely friendly and professional, don’t let that fool you into believing these guys and gals aren’t competitive. Not only does a first place trophy offer a huge check, it also provides bragging rights.

Competing takes a significant investment in time and determination, resulting in hundreds, even thousands of hours of practice. Flair bartenders regularly break bottles, cut their hands, bruise their bodies and sweat out coordinated routines all in the name of earning first place. That’s sometimes why gaining respect from top names in the industry is even more worthwhile than the money.

Where Flair Competitions are Held

Competitions are held all over the world, and some of the most prominent are in places like:

Las Vegas, NV
Legends of Bartending – invite only competition, hosted by the FBA
Nations
Best in the West

Orlando, FL
Quest

Windsor, Ontario – Canada
Super Flair

London, England – UK
Roadhouse

Graz, Austria
Austrian Flair Combat

Moscow, Russia
Bacardi Pro Flair
Barstars

Cologne, Germany
Havana Club Bar Giants

Kiev, Ukraine
Flair Castle

No matter where a flair competition is held, competitors and viewers both agree attending your first event is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. If you’re interested in going to a flair competition, contact us. We’ll be happy to give you information on an event that may be near you this year. If you’re a bar owner and would like to host a competition (it drives lots of traffic, gets media attention AND improves sales), we’re also happy to start the event planning process with all the key players. Or, if you’re already flair geeks (like ourselves), we’d love to hear the story of your first time at a competition.

Cheers!

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