World Flair Bartending Competitions: 2010 Spring Preview

We announced last week that we would outline a few upcoming competitions this spring for you in the hopes that one of them would make it on your calendar to attend! Because as you know, the best way to support this growing sport is to watch a competition live.

March
March 28: “Roadhouse World Flair” in London. This is the UK Open and where all bartenders resident in the UK can earn points which will see them through to the UK Final taking place in August. For more information please check out www.roadhouseflair.com or contact oli@roadhouseflair.com.

March 28: “Kings of Flair” at Kahunaville inside the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, NV. This is a once a month flair contest at Kahunaville, each month the winner gets $300 plus a spot in the finals, 2nd place gets $150 and 3rd place gets $50. Each finalist will get at least $1000. Rules are very simple: make one drink in 5 min. For more information on attending (which is free), contact Shawn Oana at Chants91@aol.com or visit his blog: http://justbarflair.com.

March 31-April 1: “Flair Kremlin Stars 2010” is a newly added event to the WFA calendar. To see more details and RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=106905419329687&ref=ts

April
April 1: “News Cafe Menlyn Flair Comp” in Pretoria, South Africa. South Africa is a turning into a hot spot for flair and this comp has had massive success in the past few years. Grown steadily from just a city competition, it has now turned into a nationwide get together of bartenders wanting to perform in front of the famous Pretoria crowd. For more information, contact Patrick: ellis.patrickm@gmail.com.

April 11: “Living Room Shake Down” in Bristol, United Kingdom. This will be Bristol’s biggest Mixology and Flair event to date and promises to be loads of fun for all who attend! What makes it even better is that this event will be free to watch so clear your schedule! The mixology event will start at 4:00pm and the flair will kick off 6:00pm. For details, please contact Emma at bristol@thelivingroom.co.uk.

April 12: “Maloney’s Flair Comp ” in Southport, Merseyside, United Kingdom. This bar has a long standing tradition of flair bartending and the comps are special to say the least. For more information please email maloneyflaircomp@hotmail.co.uk or check out the Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=8399473182&ref=ts.

April 20: “Underground Flair League 2010 – Heat 2” in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The second heat out of five in the UFL, all heats will be held in the Bitterzoet located right in the center of Amsterdam, with cheap accommodations available nearby. For more information contact Anthony via info@flairbartender.nl or check the facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=256887522706#/group.php?gid=15677273713&ref=ts

April 21: “Crystal City Flair Challenge” in Arlington, VA. For one night only, some of the best bartenders in the world will converge at Bailey’s Pub and Grille. This competition will be part of the 2010 FBA Pro Tour, with complete rules, prizes and drink list to be posted on the FBA website.

April 25: “Kings of Flair” at Kahunaville in Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, NV. See description above.

April 25: “Roadhouse World Flair – World Open” in London, United Kingdom. This competition, similar to the one mentioned above, offers a chance for all International competitors to showcase their talents. The top three bartenders in this competition will be invited back to participate in the World Final taking place at the end of November. For more details check out www.roadhouseflair.com or contact Oli@roadhouseflair.com for more details.

May
May 3-4: “MyBar Showcase” in Louisville, KY is a perfect comp for those also interested in attending the Kentucky Derby (May 1), which coincides with the showcase. So, head out early and make a week of flair bartending and horse racing!

May 12: “Graffiti Bar Flair Comp” in Earlsfield, London, United Kingdom. This is a real bartender’s competition as it’s a test of entertainment, as well as flair, reflected in the almost equal weighting of the scores. For more info, contact info@graffitibar.co.uk.

May 23: “CFFB 5th Qualification Round” in Strasbourg, France. A series of competitions happening in and around France all through 2010. Please note before getting to excited that this event is only for residents of France which means any foreigners working in France are eligible. Five qualifiers in total with the semi-finals taking place October 24, and the final happening in Paris, November 21. The fifth qualifier will take place in Strasbourg at Cafe de Anges and three bartenders will qualify for the semi’s in October. Please check www.cocktailzone.fr or contact Laurent on lg@baracademy.net.

May 23-25: “Super Flair” in Windsor, Ontario (Canada) at the Beach Nightclub. Last year this was rumored to have the best competitor swag bag anywhere. Always a great time, the Canadians certainly know how to throw a professional comp. For more information, visit: http://www.superflair.ca

May 25: “Cincinatti Summer Flair Tour” – the first stop on this five-comp tour located all around the greater Cincinatti area. For more information:  info@cincisummerflair.com.

May 30: “Kings of Flair” at Kahunaville in Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas, NV. See description above.

If we haven’t listed a flair competition you know is happening in your area, please leave a comment, and we’ll update this page as we go along. Would also love to hear from those of you who have attended a competition recently – what did you think? Will you go to another one?

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.

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!