For the flair bartenders out there, I’d love to know what reaction you guys get when you tell people you meet what you do for a living. What do the public think of flair bartending, what do they think of us, and are those reactions positive or is it something we should look at correcting if we can?

Cocktail Bars in the Movies

Even though Cocktail (yes, I know, its my guilty pleasure too, I love that film) came out in the 80s, still barely a shift goes by without someone calling me Tom Cruise. Of course, there could be far worse people to be compared to, but everyone thinks they’re the first person who thought of it. Of course, we smile through it, comment on how he’s got nothing on us and let it go (I remember the old Flair Bartenders Association had a thread for many years dedicated to Tom Cruise comebacks). But seriously – its been 30 years, come up with a new one!

The worst part is, especially at the start of the movie he’s incompetent, then he’s bratty and threatens to stab his co-worker with a broken bottle, then he’s cheating on a girl. Ah, but that smile! 😉 Don’t forget the other movies that flair has cropped up in too like Coyote Ugly (which makes a great theme night for your bar if you’re ever short an idea!)

I just want a beer…

Some people seem to think that if they order a beer I’m going to do a 3 minute routine to open his drink – these reactions normally come from people that have never seen a good flair bartender work and how fast we actually are at making drinks – I regularly take double what others on the same bar take for the club, and I’m flairing all the while. Flair doesn’t (or at any rate shouldn’t) slow down service, it should simply make it more entertaining while you’re stood at the bar!

How many have you dropped?

I always answer “None tonight”, and I’m almost always telling the truth. I genuinely don’t drop when I’m working, my bar doesn’t have bounce mats, so if I did, it would be expensive. On my last shift I think I dropped one empty beer bottle during the shift while clearing the bar top, purely because I wasn’t paying attention. I got laughed at, I laughed with them and told them they didn’t know what I was aiming at, and then they tipped me. I’ll call that a win.

The Guy That Used to Work in a Bar…

There’s always one, and he was at the bar on Saturday night for me… As soon as I threw a garnish into a drink, he grabbed my shaker off the bar counter and threw it behind his back and dropped it a few times. I got the feeling he knew what he was doing but he’d already had a few drinks and it took a few attempts to get a catch. It turned out that he used to run a cocktail bar across the street and loved bars. It’s a lot easier when you’re sober. I had to convince the door staff that he was fine to stay. Then he tipped me too. And gave back my shaker, so all was well!

The “Oh S**t” Crowd

These are the fun ones. They’re the perfect crowd for a David Blaine or Dynamo street magic TV show, who when anything that they can’t do themselves happens, however mundane, they lose their minds and shout and hi-5 you. I love these people, they make my nights fun, and they’re perfect to do little magic tricks for too. They’re the perfect people to make your bar popular, as they will tell everyone they know how great you are.

The quiet fans

These are the guys who sit at the bar just watching and smiling and drinking their drinks. They’ll make excuses to drop by for a drink, and be quite happy to wait when you’re busy. You’ll quite often find their either bartenders already or they want to be. If you get on with them and they’re interested, give them the chance to do a bar back shift sometime when you’re hiring, they might have learnt a lot just watching!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There are certainly some great opinions of Flair Bartenders out there and some we’d rather not have. Look at how you serve your guests and see if any of the less desirable ones apply to you. Are you flairing for you, or for your guests when you’re honest with yourself? If its for you, go to the park and do it – behind the bar the guest has to be first and foremost in your mind. Do you spend too long flairing and frustrate your guests that have ordered a drink? If you’re doing anything that could be considered exhibition flair over working flair, I’d say most of the time, yes, its too much, especially if there’s anyone waiting. If however you’ve offered a drink to a guest before they’ve finished their last one (as you should…) and no-one else is waiting, go to town! You can perform your next competition routine if that’s the case, and they’ll have a great time.

Also try to know your guests who are just drinking a bottled beer when they walk up to the bar for their second or third and make sure you grab it fast, even if you’re involved in other rounds. That will keep the beer drinkers happy and you’ll be rewarded with tips for such great service too.

Essentially what i’m saying is, use your powers for good. Flair is a great tool in the arsenal of any bartender, but like any tool, it can be used well or poorly. Be sure that you put your guests first and your ego second.  Do everything you can to make their experience as good as possible, that includes flair, but not to the extent that their experience suffers. Don’t prompt the stereotypical bad reactions, but remind people what is so great about this passion we share.

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