Flair Bartending

Part 3
Tips and Tricks

- written by Val Schirmer

You know all there is to know about the history of flair bartending. And you also know what you need to get started. But, you aren't quite ready to apply for a job as a flair bartender just yet. There are still some things you need to know. Like, maybe, some of the moves!

The key is to be realistic. Start with the easy moves and work your way up to the hard ones. If you do, you'll be a pro in no time.

First, get out that tin you picked up and practice these two moves:

Half Tin Spin
This trick is not fancy, but is perfect for the very first trick you learn. As the name suggests, during this trick, you mixing rotates halfway in your hand. To start, hold the tin in the same way you'd hold a glass. Make sure the tin's bottom is facing in the direction of your pinky. Move your wrist towards the floor, pull the tin into an upright position, release your thumb, and extend your fingers. Make sure your hand is open all the way to allow the tin to spin on your palm. After it has spun halfway, close your hand to stop the spinning.

Full Tin Spin
To execute this move, use the same directions as the Half Tin Spin. But, instead of stopping the tin halfway through its spin, allow it to move in a complete circle.

Make sure to practice these moves until you can pretty much do them in your sleep. Practicing with both hands is also recommended. Heck, even try using both hands at once!

After you've mastered these moves with the tin, then you can work on moves that use a bottle.

Bottle Flip
Other than the tin tricks, learning how to flip a bottle is pretty much as basic as it gets. If you want to begin learning the more complex moves, you definitely have to master this one.

Start by using your dominant hand to grip the neck of your practice bottle. Your thumb should be up. A loose grip is best in order to get used to the bottle's weight.

Next you have to decide how you are going to flip the bottle. Forwards? Sideways? Really, it doesn't matter which way you flip the bottle because you pretty much use the same maneuver. But, knowing how you flip the bottle helps with confidence while performing the trick, and also makes it easier to figure out what you'll do with the bottle after you flip it.

Now that you know where it's going, it's time to start the move. The bottom should be swung upwards. Use a sweeping motion so that the liquid moves in the bottle. When the bottle feels like it is swinging independently, let go. The bottle should move in a complete circle while airborne.

Now all you have to do if catch the bottle. Most use one hand for the entire trick, but flipping with one and catching with the other makes it all the more interesting.

Feel confident enough in your flipping and catching skills to take it to the next level? Good. Now, try this move:

Catch Behind Your Back
This one is definitely a little trickier than the Bottle Flip. Not only are you catching something that you can't see, you're also going to use more than just a bottle. You'll also need a shaker. Start off with an unbreakable shaker until you've mastered with trick. When you have, then you can move on to a glass shaker.

Use your right hand to hold on to the bottle. But, instead of gripping it by the neck as you did with the Bottle Flip, hold the bottle's body.

Once you have a good hold on the bottle, use your free hand to position a shaker glass behind your back.

Now, take the bottle, lift it so that it moves behind your bed, and turn it upside down so that the spout faces downwards. Let the bottle go. Your shoulder blades will help to guide it as it slides down your back. Lean forward slightly to help it along.

Use your left hand to catch the bottle, or let the shaker do the job for you. That's it, you're done. Not as bad as you thought, huh?

Do you really want to make your customers crazy with excitement? Then execute a trick that not only uses props, but the help of another bartender. This is a show that will keep ‘em coming back for more.

Over-the-Shoulder Exchange
Start off by practicing this skill with a bartender that you trust. Communication and trust are definitely key to performing this trick, and doing it well.

Have your team ready? Then it's time to decide who's going to pass and who's going to throw.

The passer starts by gripping the body of the bottle and lifting it behind his/her head. When you do this, the catcher is signaled that you are about to pass off the bottle.

The passer and catcher stand back-to-back, about five inches apart. You need to make sure that you are close enough so that the bottle has just enough room to slide.

The catcher presses his/her hand against the passer's back to signal that he/she is ready. The passer then slides the bottle into the catcher's hand. The catcher moves the bottle to the front of his/her body and pours it for the customer.

Once this trick has been mastered, the exchange will go quickly.

Tins, bottles, and shakers aren't the only things that you use when performing flair. Anything in the bar works as a great prop for enhancing your performance.

Scott Young, President and Founder of ExtremeBartending.com, offers some great tips on his website. He gives a great example of how to show off your flair prowess while using garnishes, such as something as simple as a lime. In the following scenario, he offers what could be a fun exchange between you and a customer:

"Would you like a lime with that sir?" If he says "Yes", you've got his attention. If he says "No", try throwing it away (over your shoulder) and say, "I don't blame you, I hate limes myself!" Either way, you'll get a reaction, usually a smile.

Flair bartending isn't a skill that you can learn overnight. It'll take a lot of practice, a lot of time, and a lot of hard work. Just stick with it, ask for help if you need it, and the end results will be well worth the effort.