What is Nicholas Cage’s favourite flair move?
He can make gomme in 60 seconds.
Flair: It should be important to all bartenders, but it’s not. What makes a flair bartender tick? As a flairer how can you avoid coming across like a cheesy twat?
When training flairers at the very beginning of their flair lives I ask them to smash a few glasses. Throw them hard at a wall or floor, and then to forget about them. To inspire a sort of Momento Mori I guess.
When we consider that the universes nature is chaos, and the premise of order only exists in the fleeting moments humanity puts things in a straight line, an inalienable truth is revealed.
Every single glass you have ever touched is destined to be broken. In fact, every glass that has ever and will ever be created is destined to smash. In fact, everything the human race ever did and will ever do is destined to be obliterated from existence. Unless of course this piece of scifi comes true. We call this entropy.
Your glass bottle, other than being entirely irrelevant, will without doubt end up in pieces, or to draw upon the trite meme of a lonely over sharer, it will again ‘become part of a star.’
This context helps put two things in perspective. Firstly, you don’t need to worry about smashing a glass that is definitely going to smash anyway; secondly, it’s much easier to flair when inspired by some solid context, rather than the notion that you may be the centre of the universe.
The best flairers in the world can be categorized as a mutation of the child genius. However, it is often a lack of pressure as opposed to an excessive amount applied by parents that causes a corruption of the soul and a Peter Pan like disposition.
They hide away in cellars and bedrooms self harming / loathing with the discipline of a Thai boxer, developing muscle memory and coordination at the expense of social skills and any understanding of current events.
Flairers then come out of their hermit like environment to display their skill. Generally to an audience that doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.
It’s similar to when the kids come running in from play to perform their new show or dance routine. WATCH DAD! WATCH! The display is slightly inappropriate but remains just the right side of tasteful thanks to a blissful childlike innocence. It is also why at flair events you will hear a compere screaming ‘CLAP. NOW YOU SHITS. SHOUT NOW. WOOP AT THAT.’
There is something slightly unattractive about asking for claps and adulation. Too much of a fuck is given. This is why exhibition flair can be jarring and often inspires dumfoundedness before awe and excitement.
Case in point:
Last week Tom Dyer won the 2014 Roadhouse World flair final with what may be described as the most bland world final routine ever. The sad fact about this routine is that it was routine. It could have been recorded at any point in the last few years and only the poisonous EDM blaring alludes to the present day.
There is next to nothing new, no evolution of the form. If this is supposed to be the pinnacle of this art form Worldwide then flair bartenders should be worried. Put simply, if performing something which takes hundreds of hours to learn gets such a muted crowd response then surely the frame within which flair is presented needs adjusting.
I remember a long time ago hanging around with a group of flair geeks trying to produce moves, technically superior, increasing in difficulty, breaking sweat with more spins, bounces, rolls and pops.
It’s going to get really good. Any second now.
We would arrive back at our bar for the weekend, bruised and excited, ready to land that flick-pop-snap-catch-stall and blow everyone’s mind by bending the rules of time and space through the medium of glass.
Invariably, no one gave a fuck, and we gave far too many. And why? Because being good at flair cannot simply mean adding more spins and bounces. We were jittery enthused disassociates, keeping punters from their drinks and delaying frivolity like that guy at a party reading you his intense poetry, inspiring a polite pause while he gets it over and done with.
Stop trying so hard man. It isn’t cool. What is cool is when someone just does something and the room stops and everyone is like, ‘is this a thing? It feels like a thing’. As opposed to setting it up with ‘Look at me now’s’ and ‘Watch me be awesome’s’.
Imagine a party arrive at my ‘Bar Hypotheticalé’. Nicholas St Jean and I serve them. They leave saying ‘Wow, those guys were awesome. Did you see that thing with the bottles? I’m having a great time. One of them had an attitude problem, but still, I’m having a great time.’
I doubt the party would remember any specific technical moments, similar to the way you never remember a stand up comic’s jokes. It’s all an effortless whirlwind. I’m not saying don’t do technically difficult moves, but I am saying that the public don’t notice that Nicolas was doing 1080’s while I was doing 360’s. Indeed in Tom Dyer’s routine the biggest organic cheer was for his easiest trick. Balancing a bottle on a tin stuck to his elbow. Steve Harman, compere and another incredible flair bartender, comments confusedly, “That went off?”.
Incidentally if you follow the St Jean link above you’ll see a boyish Harman barbacking for Nicholas. You’ll also hear the silence of a compere that has no clue how to describe the innovation unfolding before him. Let us consider that the St. Jean video is eight years older.
Inevitable Mr. Anderson.
The secret to being amazing at flair is the opposite to what nearly every bartender imagines it to be. The more you try the shitter you look. The more effort you appear to put in, the shitter you look. The elbow move ‘went off’ because it was unique and new, more spins are just boring. Spin blindness. The crowd were spin blind. That’s a thing now.
I have watched reactions to flair over my career and the most satisfying moments are when customers think I think they are not watching me work, and as their drinks are being prepared I casually slide moves in and they catch it from the corner of their eye.
I don’t do it to be seen, I do it because it’s beautiful and if it gets seen then it becomes more beautiful still. It is a fundamental philosophical difference that shows in your work. Am I doing this because it looks cool? In order to show off. Or am I doing this because I love playing with these objects?
It brings me joy. I love taking something fragile and performing the impossible in a seemingly hostile environment. Who am I dancing for? That is the question.
So no. Flair isn’t dead. It is a symbol of death. But we need to acknowledge that flair’s relevance exists in it’s permanent reinvention and originality. Every bartender flairs in one way or another. So recognise where that flair lies, and when you do it, DO NOT GIVE ONE FUCK whether anyone sees you or not.
credit to Adam Basich for artwork.
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