Sometimes referred to as “extreme bartending”, flair tending is a sure way of enhancing guest experience at a watering hole. Interestingly, the art is fast finding favour worldwide
Really, childhood can allow you so many fancies! At one moment, I wanted to be a teacher on becoming an adult; at another, a cook, and then a driver. And then, I saw a juggler by a street side! Niftily dealing with five tennis balls. My God, how I just wanted to be him!
I borrowed balls from neighbourhood pals and would practice day in and day out. And fail miserably. At last I gave up, felt sorry for myself for not knowing what to take up as my next career bait for adulthood.
Years later, I saw a row of waiters juggling beer bottles at a TGI Friday’s outlet in Delhi. The way they dealt with them was pretty cool, I thought. And I was pleasantly surprised to have felt a distant ache in the heart, you know why!
Till then, I hadn’t watched the Tom Cruise flick Cocktail, so I didn’t understand that the boys were doing flair tending. In simple words, flair tending is the juggling of bottles and other bar tools by barmen at a pub with the aim of entertaining the guests. Why they do it at TGIF took me to an interesting slice of flair bartending history. TGIF, back in 1986, persuaded its bartenders in the U.S. to take up some entertaining tricks behind the counter to enhance guest experience and went on to host that country’s first flair tending competition. Quite gallantly, they called it Bar Olympics. By the early ’90s, they turned it into a global event.
Today, if you want to see some world class flair tending, you have to be in Las Vegas. Some say, the flair tending scene in London bars is worth a note too. Bartenders in countries like Uruguay, Argentina, Italy, Poland and even Japan are reportedly picking up the art fast.
Though in recent years, flair tending has gained impetus, it has its history in the 19th Century. Celebrated bartender Jerry Thomas concocted the cocktail Blue Blazer by “pouring fiery streams of boiling water and flaming whisky” (according to Wiki).
In India, you see bottle juggling in some bars but nothing beyond. So recently, when two well-known Polish flair bartenders visited the country, I got interested. Unfortunately, they came to Bangalore and not Delhi. The bartenders, Tomek Malek and Marek Posluszny, were brought to India by the beverage brand BOLS Kyndal India as part of its Celebrity Cocktail Session. Adding their spirited moves, technically termed “shake and strain flair tending”, the duo — also finalists of the popular tele-series Poland’s Got Talent — whipped up for the guests BOLS Brandy Sidecar. BOLS’ idea was to “break the pre-conceived notion of brandy being an old-fashioned after-dinner alcobev.” So the session with Tomek and Marek was a continuation of many such future sessions.
In an e-mail chat, Tomek says they got interested in flair bartending in 2004 when they took part in a competition in Warsaw. “Since then, we took part in more than 100 contests all over the planet,” he says, pointing at the growing trend of flair tending. In 2006, the duo opened their company, Flair Factory.
Tomek says they continue to look for inspiration for newer moves. “Usually, inspiration comes from sports like gymnastic or even dancing. But to adjust the new moves to the new music is time consuming, usually takes about four months.”
Do you have any popular moves? “They have to be the bumps and the stalls especially when we use elbows or forearms and perform them to some cool music, it always works,” he says. They have some signature moves too, like “three shakers and bottles.”
Not that every move comes out right. “We have broken glasses and have had problems with music.”
Entertainment and flair are key but knowledge of drinks is important too. “Without good cocktail it’s impossible to win any flair tending competition. At the end of the day, we are bartenders,” says Tomek. So in their training school at Warsaw, they “start from mixology before focussing on basic flair skills.”
Getting a little ambitious, I ask him if he can tell me about some easy moves which I can use to impress my pals. Tomek says, “I will recommend you to start from some really simple stuff like ‘hand stall’ or some nice pours. There are also a lot of cool videos on Youtube where you can find some basic moves.”
Well, who knows, may be I can relive my childhood dream now!