Flair Bartending: What It Is & How to Do It

You might be wondering, “is flair bartending still a thing?” Or maybe you have no idea what it is.

Sure, if you were here for the Spice Girls generation you’ll know that the flair movement peaked in the nineties (hello, Coyote Ugly!), but yes! 

These bar tricks are still around. They kinda just retreated back to the fringes, where the skill is still practiced by a dedicated group of passionate bartenders who like showmanship or just enjoy doing things in style (or they just want to be better than everyone else?).

How Flair Bartending Became Popular

Flair bartending tricks hit the mainstream and became attractive to everyone everywhere after a few hit movies. We can thank two in particular for our obsession with bartending tricks and juggling cocktail shakers: the 1988 film, Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise.

And perhaps, even more, the iconic 2000 movie, Coyote Ugly. I mean, even my reclusive dad who doesn’t speak to his own brother wanted to go out to bars and see these amazing bartending flair tricks! Or was it the dancing on tables? We’ll never know. 

So, What is Flair Bartending?

Flair bartending is the practice of bartenders entertaining guests, customers, or audiences with the manipulation of bar tools and liquor bottles in visually dazzling ways.

Flair bartending, aka bar tricks, is basically an art, and a skill, that involves entertaining your bar top and patrons with the tools you have available. This can actually come in handy when it’s too loud to talk or it’s too busy to wow your bartop with your hilarious, charismatic personality that everyone loves.  

“Flair has an impact on morale, energy, and it courts a crowd reaction.” – Tobin Ellis, one of the founders of the Flair Bartender’s Association.

“At some point, it starts to happen naturally. You see people trying to figure out how to stir four cocktails at once or hold two or three jiggers in one hand. It becomes a question of efficiency mixed with a little bit of style,” Ellis adds.

At its flashiest, flair borrows from the juggling playbook, switching out glass bottles for clubs and balls. 

Flips, “stalls”, rolls, and midair captures are the staple moves.

Styles of Flair Bartending

Flair or freestyle bartending can be categorized into two styles: the working flair and the competition flair

The biggest difference between these two is the amount of risk and how complicated the tricks are. As you might have guessed, the competition flair (more on that later) tricks are the riskiest and more complicated than working flair.

How to do Flair Bottle Bartending

Flair bartending isn’t all about drink making, juggling bottles, or some cool ice trick. Generally speaking, it can be anything that you create that adds extra excitement and dazzle to your bar top’s experience. 

You can do a simple juggling trick, flip your shakers, or tell an engaging story, or even a joke! Sometimes, you can use a bar trick and a hilarious story to really win your bartop over. 

The whole spectacle of bottle flipping and flames can be a sight to see! But, you should know that there’s an alternative that deserves recognition, and that’s ”the bartender with the entertaining word.

Your regulars will come to you week after week for cool bartending flair tricks, sure. But they also come to hang out and interact socially, with you and the other bar patrons. 

The most memorable bartenders I’ve had share jokes that make me spit my Moscow Mule out, they share insightful stories and tips. They listen and provide meaningful feedback, charming their guests all throughout their visit. 

This kind of social flair technique will consistently bring the big tips home. 

To be the best flair bartender, combine some easy-to-nail bottle and tool skills while genuinely engaging with your guests. Use your tools and tangible skills to show your professional ability and save your words for the cherry on top.

Three Easy Bar Tricks for Beginners

There are so many videos online to learn some bar tricks. Of course, that’s only if you want to do it on your own!

Basic Flip
Ice Throwing
Bar Spoon Flip

But, I have to confess something! With these videos available online, you’ll probably learn tricks that are pretty basic. Tricks that a lot of other bartenders know and your boss has already seen, over and over again. You might not be able to really ‘wow’ your new team. 

Of course, it never hurts to practice! But personally, I think the best way to learn is to take a personal 1-on-1 class, where a bartending professional will not only speed your skills up but also give you a quality rundown of basic tricks and design your own personal flair technique.

Your Options for Learning Flair Bartending

When it comes to flair tricks, you can either learn while on the job, teach yourself (which can be stressful and usually takes longer) or, take a course.

A flair bartending class is a fantastic way to go, especially if you want to learn how to be an experienced, well-versed bottle flipper. I think it’s so valuable having a pro show you! 

Your trusted instructor will help you nail bar tricks correctly every time. Plus, by reducing the number of mistakes you make you’ll end up increasing muscle memory, and quickly!

And don’t forget, the certificate you earn will be extremely useful if you want to work in a club setting, where flair bartending and bar tricks are sometimes more appealing over talking skills. Why? When the music is so loud, your personality sometimes doesn’t matter!

Flair Bartending Classes Near Me

Local Bartending school even has an entire flair bartending course to suit your fancy! With over 1,300 certified instructors nationwide, this powerhouse bartending school offers convenient and customized in-person classes throughout the United States and Canada!

Our instructors are ready to teach you the swing of things!

FAQ

Why Learn Flair Bartending?

Well, that’s a simple answer! Bartenders who have flair skills have a way higher chance of getting hired, more quickly and at a higher starting rate.

Plus, bar tricks and flair bartending have become a sought-after skill set among bar owners and even marketers. 

These skills can help both the establishment and the bartender earn more money (both in sales and gratuity) or to help advertise a liquor product or the opening of a bar establishment.  Not to mention, flair bartending looks awesome on your resume.

How Flair Bartending Can be Performed in a Bar?

The critical rule for flair behind the bar is to not use tricks that will slow down service.

The worst thing that can happen during flair bartending? That would be spillage. Your guests and the owner will enjoy the entertainment, but will not be impressed about losing alcohol, the entire garnish tray, or money. The whole point of the working flair is to add value to your guests, not taking away from their experience.

If you start to perform extra-exciting tricks, you might find yourself working in exclusive bars with higher pay. In specific hot nightclubs in competitive markets such as Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, your bar tricks can get you the best jobs!

What Flair Options Does Local Bartending School Offer?

Here are LBS, we offer you a total package flair bartending course. The lesson can be purchased as an add-on or ala carte item. Questions? Just reach out!

How Much Do Flair Bartenders Make?

According to the most recent data from the United States, the average annual salary for a Flair Bartender in the United States is $32,952 a year (without tips). This salary works out to be about $15.84 an hour. You’ll earn $634 per week or about $2,746 a month.

Where Can I Go to See Flair Bartending?

  • Carnaval Court and Fuel Bar – The outdoor round bar at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas.
  • Nottingham Forest Bar – Historic bar in Milan, Italy
  • The Roots or Kita Koguta – For an elegant and sophisticated feel in Warsaw, Poland
  • Be At One – One of many flair options in the capital of flair, London, UK

The Largest Flair Bartending Competitions

  • Roadhouse World Flair – an annual competition in central London, UK
  • Legends of Bartending – Perhaps one of the most publicized events! There are so many videos on YouTube of this event that helped promote flair. This event was in Las Vegas, but unfortunately no longer happens!
  • Quest – Quest is the oldest major flair competition in the world. It takes place in Orlando, but it has also been canceled.
  • Zante Flair Open

How is Flair Performed at Competitions?

Flair bartending competitions are all about performance! Competition flair is borderline choreography. It requires hours of rehearsal.

Flair competition contestants and mixologists number their bottles or shaker tins and have them positioned accordingly for tricks. Every second of the performance matters. Practicing the timing is crucial.

At a competition, a contestant can perform tricks that can’t be done behind the counter at work. Take 5+ minutes to make a drink at a busy bar and you will create a line and a pissed-off boss. In a competition, ticket times don’t matter! But spilling is a huge no-no.

The motivation behind all this flair competing is to achieve some money, recognition (perhaps from those viral YouTube videos), better bartending gigs, and prizes just to mention a few.

So, what do you think? Will you be competing next to this bartender in next year’s flair competition?

Ready to get started on your flair bartending journey?

Our experienced instructors and very best bartenders are ready to show you all the sweetest tricks so you can earn some extra money, work your way up in the bartending industry, or begin to compete in next year’s competitions. Contact Local Bartending School today!

Avatar
Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *