dictionaries define the word Flair as style, talent, and unique
quality. For today’s general public, the term Flair
conjures up images of Tom Cruise juggling liquor bottles in
the 1988 film, Cocktail. There’s no doubt that
this film was the spark that ignited the flame for the recent
explosion of performance bartending.
But when did flair bartending really begin?
No one really knows of course, but the act of juggling
and performance has been recorded in many civilizations
including China, India, Greece, Mexico, and Polynesia. There
was even an Egyptian wall painting showing females juggling
in 1700 BC. Jesters, bards, and fools were known to juggle
and the probability of such skills making its way to local
village drinking houses are very high.
an inspired tavern owner flipped a flagon or two?
Maybe they slid a goblet down the wood? In the 1600’s
Dutch artist, Jan
Steen, painted a tavern keeper performing a longpour with
a wine pitcher into a martini shaped glass.
if modern writers can create an ancient fictional fire breathing
Xena then just maybe a pub owner somewhere through history
sparked things up with their own alcoholic fire show of sorts.
After all, fire was common element found in village pubs for
lighting, heating and cooking.
Professor Jerry Thomas
is considered to be the first known and recorded flair bartender
because of his showmanship while serving cocktails. He traveled
with a custom made set of solid silver bar tools and was considered
a true performer behind the bar. His Blue
Blazer drink was lit on fire and poured back
and forth creating quite a show. It was just one of his signature
cocktails, but is the best example of his entertaining abilities.
He is also credited with publishing the first known cocktail
recipe book, The
Bartender's Guide and bartender guide in 1862.
Today, flair bartending is not about just juggling bottles.
For the average bartender, flair just means a personal style,
a cool way of making something ordinary extraordinary. Why
not flip a shaker tin once before you put ice into it then
use both hands to pour two liquors into the shaker tin? It
takes the same amount of time yet adds a certain flair, style
and showmanship. This is called Working Flair which
spread in the late 1990’s when exhibition bartenders
were forced to develop and perfect new moves that were low
risk yet had high impact, and did not slow their speed of
service to satisfy bar owners and managers. Flair can be the
way you spin a cocktail napkin, tell a joke, pour a beer,
handle a crowd, or stack shot glasses. Elements of flair can
be found in many other professions as well. Have you ever
been to a Japanese restaurant and watched the chef throw an
egg in the air that falls and cracks perfectly on the edge
of the spatula? That’s flair!
the serious flair bartender
there’s another type of flair bartending
called Competition Flair or Exhibition Flair. In
1986 T.G.I. Fridays held the first known flair competition
called Bar Olympics, which eventually led Hollywood to make
the 1988 film, Cocktail.
Since then, competitors all over the world have been judged
for their choreographed routines, speed, and precise pouring
abilities. Learn more at the
Flair Bartenders Association (FBA) at barflair.org.
As of 2006 the FBA has over 9000 passionate and like-minded
members in 131 countries that govern the sport of Flair
Bartending. The FBA Pro Tour is the first International
series of flair bartending competitions.
does the future hold for this young sport? Well, that’s
unlimited to the imaginations of its shiny & bright competitors
and organizers. Time will tell if the thirty-something Grandfathers
of flair bartending will be written about in history like
The Professor Jerry Thomas.
GrandFathers of Modern Flair
Fridays; focus on training their bartenders flair in the 1970’s
and 1980’s and host the first known flair bartending competition.
John JB Bandy; winner of the first T.G.I. Friday’s Bar
Olympics, put out the very first flair bartending video, and was
the choreographer and bartender trainer for Tom Cruise and Bryan
Brown for the 1988 film, Cocktail.
• Wayne Collins; was the first flair bartender in London,
England. He worked at the Roadhouse bar, which is now home to
the largest flair bartending competition in Europe.
• Magic Mike Werner; started the first
• Todd Connell, Ken Hall, and Kent Brooks; created the first
international flair competition, Quest for the Best Bartender
held at Walt
Disney World’s Pleasure Island inside the nightclub,
Rohm; sold the first flair bartender video on the Internet.
• Tobin Ellis; started the first full flair website,
barmagic.com. It was also the first website to rank flair
bartenders and flair bars around the world. Ellis coined the phrase,
Flair Bar, and was the first to perform flair on the
• Tobin Ellis and Alan Mays; founded
FBA (Flair Bartenders Association). Ellis served as President.
Jim Allison; was the first Vice President of the FBA and is
the current President and CEO.
• Ken Hall, Alan Mays, Todd Connell
and Steve Bushur; opened the first flair bar in Vegas at the Voodoo
Lounge atop the Rio.
• Dean Serneels;
invented the first flair bottle and first bar unit that folds
up into a suitcase which is used at flair competitions.
Young; put out the first series of flair videos.
• Ken Hall; created a style of 3-bottle non-juggling flair
that helps him win 5 world championships, solidifying him as one
of the best bottle-flippers in the history of flair, and influences
flair bartending for the next 10 years.
• Ken Hall and Alan Mays create Legends
of Bartending, the first independent World Bartending Championship
becoming the most prestigious bartending competition in the world.
• Jim Allison and Tobin Ellis are the first to arrange a
US National TV special on Flair Bartending.
• Leigh Miller, Paul Mason, Rhys Oldfield
and Steve Lock; start the first independent flair bar in London
known as B@1 (Be at One).
*Animated Flair gifs courtesy of Dan the Melon Man from New Zealand.
Competitions and Bars
is the first non self-published book to ever talk about flair.