Why’s there a stigma that bartenders “throw bottles in the air?”
The answer is definitely the movie “Cocktail,” which surprisingly, was born at the same time I was, which means it’s rapidly approaching its fourth decade of life (yes, 40).
This film, despite being cliché and outdated, has become a cult classic and not only in the bar world. During it’s time, Cocktail created endless stigmas and illusions regarding the profession. The biggest of them all, that flairing really happens!
It’s hard to believe how far from reality the following scenario is (which also happens to be the main storyline of the film): a highly motivated young man is looking to find his way in the big city. He sees a “wanted” sign at a bar, offers himself without any experience, accepted in a minute, learns in two and a half apprenticeships how to juggle, and conquers the New York nightlife. With bursting charisma, and basic bar tricks combined he’s the hottest show in town.
Let me exaggerate a little, and say that it’s actually a fantasy film, like Lord of the Rings or Planet of the Apes.
Put it this way, you are more likely to meet Gandalf in a bar or Caesar in a restaurant, than Brian Flannigan (Tom Cruise) behind the bar throwing bottles in the air while casually flirting.
Surprisingly, this far-fetched script somehow miraculously managed to enter the minds of millions of men and women, and become a legitimate script!
When I finished a bartending course sometime in 2004, my grandfather asked me “Now do you know how to throw bottles in the air?”
Cut, back to reality.
Type in Instagram “flair bartender” or something like that, and you’ll immediately get thousands of videos of bartenders doing cool things, some of them completely crazy. So why have you never seen this with your own eyes? How many times have you sat at a bar in your life, right? Have you been to parties? where is it? Where are these bartenders? where is the show, where are the jugglers? Let me tell you a secret, which is not really a secret: Flairing, in its raw form, an acrobatic display that combines flying bottles and shakers, alcohol, all in the dark – does not really exist in the real world. In an estimate that is not based on anything, I think maybe 1 in every 50,000 bartenders knows how to throw a bottle (and catch it). maybe even less.
Apart from a very limited number of concept places (Vegas Baby) and dedicated competitions with minor prizes, all this flair doesn’t exist, It’s not real, It’s fantasy. The gap between the film, between the stigma, and reality is the biggest gap imaginable.
It takes more or less several months to learn to bartend at a basic level, depending on who and where. Take a course (those who worked hard), learned a technical base plus some theoretical knowledge, and let’s get down to business. In conclusion, most of the knowledge is acquired during the process, together with experience.
On the other hand learning flair, I mean, developing coordination, is a story that requires much more patience, at least several years of daily practice. So the timelines are not close or similar in any way, the average bar job is 2-3 years, maybe 4. In that time you hope you finished your degree, and suddenly you are 30 years old with an adult job and a family.
What I’m saying is that by the time you are good, you will already be out of the game.
Wait, but you’re ArtenderTLV, don’t you teach flairing?? What’s going on here?
Here comes the twist:
We don’t teach flairing, we dont believe that flairing can exist as a standard, or as a routine. Flairing is terribly difficult (years of training as we have already said), ineffective (takes time at the expense of the flow of the shift), and even dangerous to at a certain degree (bottles flying in the air in the dark in a crowded room? Seriously?).
Flairing in its raw form has no right to exist in the real world where bars are opened in spaces of 50 square meters, and 2-3 bartenders working in high volume, It does not fit, It’s not realistic.
So what do we teach? I’m glad you asked (-:
We teach craft: Jigger, spoon, tins, pours, harmony, flow, speed, efficiency, control, sequences, muscle memory, round building along with presentation.
And if you think you can learn all this in a course, then you are wrong. Unless the course will be 800 sessions long, then it will be possible. That’s why we like to define ourselves
as a gym. There’s no finish line. Like judo, basketball or knitting (if you’re 83 years old).