That’s a scary prospect, yet it’s also a skill that will benefit your everyday flair. Honestly, stay with me, it will make sense later.
I remember the first time I saw anyone flair blindfolded, it was Scott Young from extremebartending.com on one of those VHS flair training videos from the 90s I learnt to flair from when I was just starting out.
Scott is someone I still look up to to this day and he’s still innovating in the industry… I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next!
How to get started with blindfold flair
Before you even think about covering or closing your eyes while flipping bottles you want to ensure that your throws are super accurate. Scott always talked about giving yourself a target, especially during practice. It’s so tempting to throw and react to catch, but this will never improve your throw accuracy in flair bartending.
While you’re working on a specific move with a single item especially, get your catching hand in position first and aim to throw the bottle right to that hand without needing to move it.
Give yourself a target and hit it. BAM! – Scott Young
Practice every single throw and catch in this way until you’re confident about throwing the bottle, tin etc and knowing exactly where it’s going. The measure of success in this excercise is minimal movement for each catch.
Moving your attention away from flying bottles
Throughout the process of tweaking your throw accuracy, you’ve been free to watch the bottles so you can see what needs to be adjusted, but now we’re going to restrict that. We’re not going to restrict vision, but put the attention elsewhere.
Choose a point on the wall in front of you, a feature, or even just a sheet of office paper with a cross drawn in the centre that you can pin up. Stare at the point, and attempt your move.
You’ll find that naturally your eyes are drawn away to the moving objects, that’s fine, but we’re working to train this out of you and just know where the bottles are going. Your peripheral vision is enough to adjust your catches if you need to, but as you practice this way, you’ll reduce your reliance on this too.
At this stage you’ll get the huge benefit from learning to flair blindfolded…
Watch your tips explode when you first do this.
Once you can focus on your point in the wall instead of the bottles, you can make eye contact with your guests as you flair. Suddenly your bottles will just seem to dance around you while you serve rather than looking like you’re struggling to control them.
You may also be able to chat to your guests comfortably while flairing – but if this is a bit of a struggle ask a friend to hold a conversation with you while you flair, or try to read text out loud from the piece of paper you’re focusing on.
All of this is to move the bottle flipping from your concious mind to your muscle memory so that your focus is free to concerntrate on your guests at the bar, which is of course your main priority.
You’ll also find at this stage that you start flairing with household objects like deodorant cans, sock and more, perhaps even while making a cup of tea!
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Putting on the blindfold
Hold your horses. Before we get to that part, we need to work up to it.
Start off by just closing your eyes after you throw the bottle you’re catching. You may glean a little information about where the bottle’s going and if it’s on track, and it’s the best feeling in the world the first few times you catch these. Oh, and practice this stuff first with plastic. You will be dropping stuff when you learn any new move, but more so when you can’t see!
As you get more comfortable you can close your eyes for the whole move, or even a couple of moves in a row. Once this is second nature too, then get an actual blindfold – I reccomend a headband as being perfect when you practice, elasticated and easy to pull up and down when you need to collect those bottles off of the floor.
Once you get to the point of being practiced and you’re ready to perform behind the bar or in a competition, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, make sure you have a bartender or bar back keeping an eye on you. Behind the bar of a TGI Friday’s in Manchester (Sale, I believe…) during one Bartender Challenge I was seconds away from grabbing a broken bottle from the rail and flairing with it. Remember, you can’t see, and if just the base of a bottle is broken the neck may feel fine. Thankfully a bar back knocked it out of my hand before I threw it and it all went wrong.
But Don’t be Put Off…
Secondly, this is not what you’ll be doing during a busy shift when you’re working, its a showcase piece. Only do it at the appropriate times, when everyone has a drink or you’re on a stage, and its a reputation maker. I walked into a Friday’s I’d never been to before, three years after performing it in the Challenge and was recognised by the bartenders who’d been watching and trying to learn it!
If you give it a go, please email me over a link to your video, I’d love to see it!