How To Get Started In Flairing

Text taken from Flairco's 'Flairing with Bols Liqueurs'

Flair Bartending: Past

There have always been entertaining bartenders who worked with style, and the first true flair bartender was active 150 years ago: Jerry Thomas toured Europe and America with his bartending show, the highpoint of which was a fire show involving pouring whisky on fire between 2 solid silver lined goblets! Modern flair bartending grew up in the 1970's, when the new singles bars (designed to attract women as well as men) opened, often employing out of work actors, comedians and street performers as well as waiters and bartenders. Soon bottles, glassware and fruit were being juggled and the guests loved it. Flair even made it onto the big screen with the 1988 film Cocktail.


Nowadays, flair has advanced much further than Jerry Thomas could have ever dreamed of. Bars and restaurants that feature flair bartenders have grown to massive international chains and flair bartenders are some of the highest earning in the industry. The art of flair has also split into the fast, every day moves (called working flair) and the showy, high risk performance-orientated moves (called exhibition flair). For the truly dedicated there are hundreds of contests each year, featured on national and international TV programs, offering thousands of dollars in prize money.

The golden rules of flair are:

  • Never make a guest wait because you're flairing.
  • Train at home, perform at work. Don't do moves you're unsure of at work.
  • Never attempt risky moves if there are colleagues or guests nearby.
  • Never do flair involving fire.

Learning Flair:

Make Time

Set a time and place where you can train. Training twice a week for one hour will produce better results, faster, than training for 3 hours once a week. You're also more likely to keep to the twice-a-week-for-an-hour schedule.

Make Space

Choose a space where bottles dropping on the floor won't break, and where the sound won't bother others, and where a mis-thrown bottle won't go through a TV screen or a window.


Set goals for the session ("I will learn how to throw a bottle over my shoulder and land it on my hand"), and stop for a moment after every drop. Analyse why you dropped, and adjust your technique until you're not dropping any more. Choose a move and train until you can do it 10 times in a row perfectly.

Be Realistic

When you can do the move 10 times in a row, put a couple of shots (max 2oz/ 60ml)of water in the bottle and a pour spout, and train to do the move 10 times in a row without spilling. If you spill, analyse why you spilled and adjust your technique until you're not spilling any more. try to apply the move to shakers, glasses, ice and garnish fruit, so your flair is more versatile.

Learning Working Flair

Working flair moves are moves that can be done very quickly, have little or no risk of dropping or spilling, require no special preparation or props. Working flair can be done with everything you use to make drinks, including full bottles.


Start making combinations of moves into small routines. Remember: only do a routine in public if you are totally confident of all the moves in it, and make sure your transitions (from move to move) are smooth.

Be Humble

Don't become arrogant and cocky because you can pull off a few moves: make sure guests still get served quickly, and that you don't neglect guests so you can flair. Even the best flair bartenders drop and spill sometimes, just as the best performers sometimes miss their cue or forget their lines. Stay good humoured and humble about your flair and guests will appreciate it even more.

Be Ruthless

When you're training at home, make it deliberately hard on yourself. Make a training bar even smaller and more cramped than the one you have at work. Wet the bottles so they are slippery. Then when you perform at the bar your moves will be much more confident and smooth.

Good Luck and most of all, ENJOY!