Seven Things You Should Never Catch Your Bartender Doing

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You may think I was a little harsh in my previous post, Eight Things You Should Never Say To Your Bartender. Actually, I thought it was funny. However, the truth is that I’m much harder on other bartenders than I am on customers. I’ve worked in a lot of bars, I’ve seen a lot of shitty bartenders in my day and I feel there are certain things that you, the customer, have a right to demand of your bar staff.

So here they are, the seven things you should never catch your bartender doing.

1. The Glass Scoop
I hate this one. I absolutely hate it. Seriously, it’s my biggest pet peeve, and whenever I catch any of my bartenders or waitstaff doing it I scream such bloody murder that you’d think someone was torturing a small animal.

But you know what? It’s dangerous. It’s also stupid and completely unnecessary.

Here’s what it is: you sit down at a bar and you order a drink. Let’s just call it a gin and tonic. You order your gin and tonic, and the bartender proceeds to make it. He (I’m just going to assume it’s a guy) grabs a glass from the shelf and plunges it right into the ice, scooping out the ice for your drink.

Big deal, right?

Yeah, big deal. The one thing I hate about working with glass is that it’s always breaking. Or chipping. Or cracking. Glasses tend to do that, because they’re made out of glass. So, let’s imagine that the glass he used to scoop the ice for your drink chipped a little when he dipped in the ice. And now there’s a little piece of broken glass floating around. There are two possible scenarios here: either it’s now in your drink, or it’s about to be in someone else’s drink. Either way, somebody is going home with a chunk of broken glass in their stomach.


The really sad thing about this practice is that your bartender had to work around his perfectly good ice scoop to do this. The ice scoop is there for a reason, and it’s made of metal or plastic for a reason: to keep the ice and the glass separate.

Oh, and if you see him scooping the ice with his bare hands, just get up and leave. You don’t even have to pay for the drink first. The hand-scoop is a close cousin of…

2. The Hand-Packed Ice.

I’ll admit, I did this on my very first night working with hard liquor. But someone pulled me aside and told me how disgusting it is, and I’ve never done it again. I’m talking about smashing the ice down in the glass with the palm of your hand after you’ve scooped the ice into it, and before you start pouring liquor into it.

Come on, you’ve all seen it in the movies before. A customer walks up to a bar, the bartender fills a glass with ice, mashes it down with his hand, and then looks expectantly at the customer and says something like, “What’ll you have, Mac?”

The part they never show takes place right before that, when the bartender makes change from a filthy ten-dollar bill. It’s disgusting, and it’s no worse than watching your bartender put his finger in your drink.

Don’t let it happen. Tell your bartender to keep his hands out of your drink. And if you ever see me walking in to your bar, don’t let me catch you…

3. Juggling

This is it. This is the worst thing you could ever catch your bartender doing. I’m talking about flair. Yes, it’s called ‘flair’ bartending, and it’s the worst thing to happen to the profession since the invention of sweet-and-sour mix. It’s taught in bartending schools, it’s done in competitions and shown on ESPN on Sunday mornings, and it’s practiced by people who have absolutely no idea how to make a drink.

Bartending is a show, I’ll give you that. Most people who choose to sit at bars do so to watch the show. But a truly great show is one that involves a smooth, seemingly-effortless output from a genuine bar master. A great show is one where no single move of the bartender’s body is meaningless, but every finger, every muscle is focused on the efficient preparation of cocktails. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and a rare thing to find.

In contrast, a poor show is when you are forced to watch some jackass take ten times a long to make your rum and Coke because he’s tossing the bottles above his head, catching them behind his back, and spinning shit in between his fingers.

It’s not flair, folks, it’s juggling. And juggling is something that is done by clowns.

Oh, and it tends to go hand-in-hand with another idiotic practice…

4. The Glass Pyramid

Yes, this one’s a claaaaassic bonehead move. You’re sitting at a bar watching some clown do his tricks when a bachelorette party of, like, ten sorority girls comes in. And they all want shots. Well, my friend, I certainly hope they’re standing near you when they order, because you’re about to see one of the biggest shithead moves of all time, the shot-glass pyramid.

The bartender proceeds to fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and probably all kinds of apple schnapps, cranberry juice, maybe a Capri-Sun, whatever. Then, with razor-like precision, he stacks up ten shot glasses in a pyramid in front of the girls. They ooh and ahh, watching every move this genius makes as he begins to pour their drink into the top-most glass. Soon the top glass is full and the shots begin to cascade down into all the remaining glasses. Gorgeous.

The problem is, he had to make twice as much to account for all the shots that are now sitting in his bar mat. But they don’t realize that he poured their drinks down the drain, they got a free show. They pay for the drinks, tip him a dollar, and leave.

Sucks for him. Maybe next time he should try…

5. Lighting Things on Fire

I live within one hundred miles of Huber’s in Portland, Oregon, so I’m obligated to make a Spanish Coffee once in a while. I’m not a big fan, but I do it. It’s their drink, they’ve made a name for themselves by making it, and I’ll respect that. So I make the Spanish Coffee. And for those of you not from around here, it involves fire.

But it’s a coffee drink, so I can sorta see the connection. But when you catch your bartender lighting a margarita, or a Purple Hooter, or any other cold drink on fire, you know you’re dealing with a Grade-A knucklehead. It does nothing for the flavor (hey, folks, 151-proof rum tastes like shit, let’s face it), it warms the drink up (there’s only one thing I want warming my drink up: my stomach), and then there’s the possibility that you’re going to burn your eyelashes off.

If you see your bartender lighting things on fire, get up and leave.

Now, there is one more exception. It’s a very old drink invented by Jerry Thomas (like, 1800s old) and it involves a chafing dish of scotch, two pewter mugs, and some very dim lighting. There’s really no point in even mentioning how to make it. There are a lot of things bartenders did back in the golden age of bartending, but one thing you’d never catch a bartender doing was…

6. Shaking a Martini

Clear drinks should never be shaken. Ever. I don’t care what James Bond says, or what you may have heard about a perfect martini having ice crystals floating on top, or whatever.

Here’s the deal: A stirred martini (or a manhattan, or whatever) contains about 15% water. A shaken martini contains about 30% water.

A shaken martini is a shitty drink. Suck it up.

But there are times when ice is more than welcome, and it’s a bad bartender that gets caught…

7. Stiffing you on the Ice

This one is mainly applicable to straight shots of liquor served on the rocks, but I’ve seen it done in mixed drinks, too. It’s an amateur move and a pretty good sign that you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t know the first thing about bartending.

When filling a glass with ice, any glass, it should be filled to the top. Not half-way, not two-thirds of the way, but all the way up. Your bartender is not smarter than the people who make glassware for a living. You’re not getting more booze. You’re not getting a better drink, you’re just getting a warm drink. Or a drink with too much mixer in it.

I know there are merits to not taking one’s shots with ice. I like my shots neat, too, and I’m not going to touch that debate here in this post. But sometimes, folks, there is nothing in the world finer than sipping on a nice bourbon that’s been mellowing out in a bed of ice. It’s sublime, and it lasts so much longer than a straight shot. But I tell you, when I walk into a bar and order a eight-dollar shot of Woodford Reserve on the rocks, I don’t want five pathetic cubes swimming around in my drink. I want a god-damned rocks glass, filled with ice, and soaking in bourbon.

It’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

97 Replies to “Seven Things You Should Never Catch Your Bartender Doing”

  • Maghie says:

    I am commenting from my perspective as a customer. I have been a waitress (I suppose server is more pc now) in a few different settings. The last place was somewhat high end, and definitely a snobby clientele. The manager’s rules which we were required to follow have stayed with me ever since. Some have to do with attentiveness, most have to do with hygiene. I often see servers and bartenders do things that make me cringe…..
    Don’t touch your face or hair and then handle dishes without first washing your hands.
    Don’t dip the glass into the ice. I don’t care how high grade the glass is – it is still glass. It CAN chip. You are also very likely touching ice in the bin with your fingers. That is as gross as packing ice with your palm.
    Don’t push a straw into a drink using your finger tip on the end – where I’m going to put my mouth.
    Don’t serve a drink by grasping the edges of the glass – where I’m going to put my mouth – with your fingers.
    I have no problem waiting my turn at a busy bar where the bartender is hustling. I DO have a problem waiting while bartenders or servers chat amongst themselves with their backs to their customers. Pay attention and break up the chat immediately when a customer looks your way.
    As for how drinks are made…well, I’m not a bartender so I don’t know the right or wrong of shaking vs stirring. But the customer knows how he/she like their drink…make it that way, not your way. Someone commented “don’t ask for high end liquor in a multi ingredient drink…you won’t taste the difference”. If that’s what the customer wants, so what? Just be sure they know that it will cost more.
    As for flair, I suppose what sort of establishment you are working in dictates whether or not it is appropriate. Just don’t slow down the service by doing it.
    For servers, don’t sit down at my table…you are there to take my order, not be my pal. The same goes for telling me your name(unless I ask you for it). Your hair should NOT be dangling over the dishes or table. And unless you are wearing long sleves, don’t balance plates on your arm.
    And if the establishment is less than half full…PLEASE turn the volume down on whatever music is playing.
    Thanks for the opportunity to add my two cents.

  • Alice Mcmiller says:

    As someone who enjoys a good cocktail, it’s fascinating to read about the things bartenders should never do. This blog post provides valuable insights and reminders for both bartenders and patrons. From not using dirty bar tools to avoiding excessive handling of garnishes, these tips emphasize the importance of cleanliness, professionalism, and maintaining high standards in the bar industry. Thanks for sharing this informative and entertaining read!

  • Travis Dodge says:

    Hello. I’m in a bartending class in Las Vegas, The Crescent School of Gaming and Bartending. It’s a pretty good class for newbies I suppose. Perhaps too much emphasis and thinking about the 30 drinks in 10 minutes speed test though. Here are the first 15. Any building tips that you see right off the bat? I haven’t found any other posts addressing this topic. They’re taught in a somewhat high volume-night club kind of manner as opposed to jigger pouring and proper stirring. Any quick tips?

    In sets of three

    Cape Cod
    Sex on the beach shooter
    Tom Collins
    Rusty Nail
    Martini UP
    Kamikaze shooter
    Kamikaze shooter
    Brandy Alexander UP
    White Russian
    Vodka tonic
    Rum Rummer
    Mai Tai modern

  • Greg says:

    I disagree on a couple of your points. As a bartender on bourbon street in night clubs to gentleman’s clubs to 5 star hotels I’ve done them all over 20 years. Most is common sense as a bartender but packing ice to the top of a customer’s glass isn’t what tourists really want as it waters down there drink. I make drinks for customers how they want as you should it’s the customers choice right? Im not saying pour doubles and ect. Im sorry maybe you worked in different areas which you definitely have to consider. Locals and tourists are 2 different types of customers period. I just wanted to leave a reply due to my experience in 3 different scenes from night clubs, gentlemen clubs & hotel bars.

  • Henrique Gabado says:

    Hello, I’m a mixologist, I have 7 years of experience in the bar world. Here’s my opinion about flair :
    It’s a part of the profession, you may use it, or not. There is working flair and showoff flair. Working flair actually helps you work fast with some kind of moviments that are gonna boost and basically combo up. Then you have show off flair ( nothing wrong with this) it’s just about knowing when to use it. I’ve been a mixologist since 4 years ago, and a bartender since 7 years ago. I’ve started flairing 2 years ago, and I don’t over do it, that’s the thing. In every job you can find good or bad professionals, if a cocky flair bartender is taking too much to make your drink, that just makes him a bad bartender. No need to blame the flair for it X). Example of working flair in a different situation: Ronaldinho in Soccer/ Football the man was a beast and he was a joy to watch, did someone ever called him a bad player just because he used flair ? It’s about knowing how to use it. And also, it makes work a lot more entretaining and challenging ( sorry if I got grammar mistakes, english is not my first language).

  • Michael Blosser says:

    It is juggling really

  • Jeffrey says:

    Very good point, Johnny.

  • Johnny says:

    Just a side note on the Ice.

    When drinking whiskey neat a little water can help “open up” the whiskey like a wine opens when it’s decanted. A few measly ice cubes is a good way to control the amount water in your whiskey in a world of baretnders that don’t know what a splash is.

  • Melissa says:

    Wow. Thanks for showing the link to that flair video. As someone who never really cared for flair, I was starting to wonder if I was being to hard on the “flairtenders” and maybe I should give the whole practice a chance, maybe even try it behind the bar myself. But seeing this champion work his magic…
    Wow. He looks like a moron. An egotistical, self important performer.
    But then again, I don’t like the term “mixologist” either. I don’t think it makes you sound like a scientist, just someone who is slightly ashamed to tend bar.

  • bmself says:

    I’d have to agree, I’ve been a chef all of my working life, and I’ve known both types of bartenders, flair, and traditional. I’ve known bad flair bartenders, and bad traditional bartenders, but if you get a good one, it doesn’t really matter- they are good. a little flair brings some more money home, and I totally understand, we all whore ourselves out one way or another. The greatest flair bartender I ever knew could throw bottles and not spill a drop. THAT was what amazed people, and kept them coming back. not to mention he made a really good drink, and had a very wide knowledge. I’m not saying everyone should become a flair bartender, there are lotsa guys who suck, and are really slow; and quite a few who make shitty drinks, but most traditional bartenders/bars are similar, good and bad. If you can mix a good drink, and throw a bottle, all while taking my order? I’ll be back. If you mix a good drink, and pour it from a jigger, all while taking my order? I’ll still be back, but you might not get as big a tip.

  • Jeff says:

    I think the problem here is that we are dealing with “bar snobs.” Just like there are wine snobs and food snobs, there are definitely bar snobs. I am a defender of flair, but I also admit that I’m a bar snob too. I like gin! I like scotch! I’ll wait longer for a well made cocktail!

    The problem (besides greatly exagerating your experiences with flair…five minutes for a drink? Really?) is that you are writing this for maybe 5% of the population who actually know the difference between a martini and a cocktail. I respect that. When you are not bashing flair, I really enjoy what you do. For the bar snobs, flair is never going to be your thing, no matter how much we argue. But maybe what you fail to realize is that the other 95% of the beer swilling, shot taking, apple martini drinking public eat this stuff up. I know that there a lot more people out there doing flair badly than those who do it well, but when you see it done right, it is a thing of beauty that can really add to your experience. I think that there are definitely more people out there making bad drinks than people out their who are doing flair badly. In fact, you are much more likely to get a bad drink than to even see someone attempting a single flair move.

    Instead of the worst flair clip ever, here is a good one of one of the world’s best flair bartenders in a flair and mixology competition. Before you rag on the ingredients being used, those were the sponsors and they had to work with those products.

    One last thing, to all of my flair bartenders out there, please, please, please read what you write before posting it! Maybe a little spell-checking? Your arguements hold a lot less weight when they are full of mistakes.

  • I agree with the majority of what Jeff says. But I don’t want to get into the argument about whats right or wrong. I believe there is a place and time for everything. I have trained as a flaritender, then I moved onto mixology and worked in some of the worlds best cocktail bars. I am now moving into sommeliering and striving to be the best in that. To dismiss any facet of this industry is detrimental to it. This industry is about putting on a show for all demographics, some like flairers or jugglers, some also like a nice martini stirred up (just for reference, if people like having the s*!t shaken out of their martinis let them, its called a Bradford when you do that). And of course their is the people who think cocktails are ostentatious and they love a glass of 2002 Joseph Phelps Cab Suav from Napa. We are hospitality professionals need to break down the walls that seperate each niche in the industry and learn that we are all here for the same reason, to serve the guests at our bar. I have been doing this for over ten years now, I have competed, won, judged & organised more than 40 competitions in flair and mixology. I have been named one of the Australias and now North Americas best mixologists and now I am moving onto wine. We need to all get along, when we do the public will truly get an experience from every bar and every bartender they encounter.

  • SMaj says:

    Aaron (#14) et al – the fact that you have responded to an impersonal opinion with a personal attack only proves your immaturity and lack of comprehension. I order a drink because I’m thirsty now, not in five minutes when you’ve finished spraying the bar back with liquor. Did it occur to you that I might have already spent a considerable amount of time in line? Just look at the names of the bars you advocate… Carnival? Rockin’? Puh-leeze! Have fun catering to kittens and cougars because when you finally get around to setting my drink down, it will be to an empty seat. I’ll probably have already been served somewhere else.

  • kt says:

    maybe we should all go fry up some irish babies to eat, too…

    I am interested and amused by the comments (and yes, I did read through 90% of them). while I feel as though the list was an intendedly serious one, I am more inclined to believe it was created to provoke discussion among those in the profession. that being said, I could possibly be convinced of the overall value of “flair” if the vast majority of pro-“flair” contributers had something intelligent to say. OK, you can make your car payment in one day. OK, you make 21 year old girls wet? congratulations! how does that help the profession? the purpose of discussion is to state your point and opinions in a somewhat appropriate manner. not taking the time to state the case just weakens the side from the get-go. if you want people to take you seriously, act like you are serious!

    it’s all opinions anyway… don’t take it personally.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thank you, Ron.

  • Ron says:

    Well, Jeffrey, it’s appears that many of these responses provide a look into our cultural abyss. For too many people, it’s all about form instead of substance. It’s the professionals who are responsible for civilization’s advances – not the jesters.
    Thanks for a refreshing website.

  • A-sop says:

    Mr. Jeffrey Morgenthaler

    I must say that you hold your ground very well! You made me laugh so much at your comebacks to some of the nay-sayers on this page.

    Great work on the website, I would be honoured to pour the drinks with you any day. If I ever get back into the game, that is.

    Cologne, Germany

  • darryl says:

    Everyone is missing the point about the flair. It doesn’t matter if you think it is lame or wastes time, it is a major detractor from most peoples enjoyment at a bar. People go to a bar for two main reasons – to meet people and to socialize. By taking the customers attention away from each other and focusing it on you, you are becoming an entertainer not someone who tends to the needs of the customers at your bar. I know my male clients would not appreciate it if every girl was hoping to go home with the fancy juggler instead of interacting with any of them at the bar.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thanks, you both!


  • Dylan says:

    Great article, good to see my first boss/co worker knew his stuff cause he covered all these things! Love from Australia, Cheers!

    PS – I love shaking MY martini cause it waters it down a bit, and I don’t have to be trashed in public too quickly. But most of all because I enjoy it that way! Yay Stoli!!!

  • Adam "stirred" Vine says:

    Hey, nice to see you take it as seriously as i do. but lay off flair. it has a time and place… its just you and i know the time is always and the place is the bin area!

    passionate about drinks, thats me.
    last thing… got any jobs?

  • Ali B says:

    I think it’s all about the customer. In Cincinnati, people like their drinks in a timely fashion, and their bartenders literate.

  • todd says:

    Krysta… you didn’t get my point…. if that cashier at the grocery store is busy and starts to juggle tomatoes… they are not doing their job… but if that cashier took care of their customers and in that down time turned on and off their little “cashier aisle” light and threw a nerf football to another employee…. can that, or can that not be fun for other people around…. I try to have fun with everything I do…. I am a kid at heart… and I will be silly sometimes just to get a smile out of someone that isn’t having the best day…. Krysta… do you, or, do you not have fun at work… and try to have a good time with the people you are around… 🙂 someone once said “find a job you love, and you will never work another day in your life” I found mine… and I don’t work… I have try and throw the best party night after night!!! love it and love you all for caring so much…. come see me… we will laugh and have fun together

  • Jay says:

    Great article. Never read your stuff before, but found this piece after a Google search for “flair bartending is bullshit.” 🙂

    I agree with almost everything you say, especially the flair stuff. Flair is utter shit. As a bartender, my employers have given me a task. That task is to take every single customer that comes through the door, turn him upside down, and shake him until every dollar he has falls out of his pockets. And I have to do it in such a way that he’s thrilled to give me all his money, doesn’t want to leave my bar, and can’t wait to come back tomorrow and bring a few friends. A tough task as it is, and even tougher to do if I’m more concerned about tossing shit around. Flair is masterbation. I’ve never heard a flair bartender (and one of my best friends is one) talk about how much the CUSTOMER enjoys it, just about how much skill and artistry is involved and some new horseshit move he’s pulled off.

    That said, I have to disagree with Jeffrey on a few points, however:

    1. Scooping ice with a glass: Pint glasses, rocks glasses, and highball glasses are all heat-tempered. At least, they are in all but the highest and lowest end bars. Chances are good that your favorite bar uses Libby glassware, or something equivalent. Those things are *strong.* And unless they just came out of the dishwasher, and assuming you don’t have bizarrely packed ice in your bin, they’re not going to chip. There’s a technique to doing it right, but if I can scoop 4 glasses at once, rather than ladling ice out separately with a scoop, that’s going to save me valuable seconds on each drink, which adds up over the course of a busy night. I figure once every 3 months I break a glass in the ice, which is then immediately burned. A small price to pay to save myself and my customers all kinds of time, translating into more drinks sold, more money for me, and more money for my boss.

    2. Shaken martini: If someone wants to enjoy a nicely made martini and clearly knows that they want quality, I’ll take the time to stir it. But I’ve found that most people ordering a “martini” actually enjoy the miniscule ice crystals that come as a result of shaking. It’s really not going to do too much to water down the flavor of grapefruit vodka, blue curacao, chocolate syrup, and whatever the hell else is in there. And, truthfully (and this might be my shortcoming), I’ve never figured out a good way to stir 2-3 oz. of liquid in a shaker glass well enough to get it cold, but quickly enough that i’m not neglecting anyone else. So, shaken it is.

  • Krysta says:

    I don’t have a problem when the cashier at the grocery store is taking a long time to check people out and theres a line in front of me. But when I see the cashier pick up some tomatoes and start juggling them while I’m standing in line, then I have a problem.

    Juggling drinks is the same but worse. Its just kind of… boring. Not that fun to watch and more juvenile than anything. I’m sure it takes skills (or sKillZ) and everything, but it just looks kind of stupid.

    I think juggling bartenders are on the way out anyway so it doesn’t matter. Goodbye 80s, hello 2007!

  • todd says:

    ok… just read everything since my last post, and am going to comment once again… If you didn’t read my first post, I have been bartending 10 years… It’s my passion.. it’s my life… I love everything about it… Meeting new people, showing people a good time, learning new drinks, old drinks, creating drinks, finding new liquors that mix well, or not with other liquors or mixers (flavor profile)… But I do love to flip bottles as well…

    To you out there… I ask… what is your hobby… do you like to fish, shop, read, write, photography.. etc. guess what mine is… flipping bottles… it calms me when im stressed, it wakes me up when i’m tired…. can’t explain the feeling… don’t care to…

    there is a difference between working flair and competition flair… a flair bartender that knows the importance of what they are doing… customers first… flair second… they can do working flair and make a drink just as quick as a random bartender making the same drink.. there are times and places for everything, and a good flair bartender knows these…

    there are bartenders that like to compete…. i have been for the past year… the best part is being able to travel, meeting new people, and hanging out with people that have an interest that are the same… i don’t win… but i have a blast

    to all of you that are not bartenders that complain that you have to wait an extra second or two for your drink… one question! WHAT DO YOU DO!!! I don’t get upset with my bank teller when im in a rush and they don’t move as fast as i want… i don’t get upset with the person at the grocery store that has to call a manager for a price check or void something… that’s all i’m saying…. don’t criticize me for what i do… cause i’m trying my best… if you have your drink, and you don’t like watching bartenders flip bottles, turn your head and talk to your friend… if you don’t have your drink, and your bartender is not paying attention, and flipping bottles… he or she is not what being a flair bartender is meant to be…. and look above, and have the dumbass give me a call… i want all people to have a good time, and if i can educate someone, i am more than happy to!! 🙂

  • Ryan says:

    Obviously everyone has an opinion on the subject and i think everyone here has pretty much said everything there is to say.Yes there are a lot of shitty, amateur bartenders who try to flair and just end up making themselves and their proffesion (working-class aristocrat…I like that!) look stupid, but as so many here have pointed out (some very eloquently, others…not so much)there are some extraordinarily talented and dedicated flair bartenders out there who are very capable of making a superb drink.As the last post pointed out, it’s all about finding your niche.Go to the bars that make you happy,work at the bars that suit your style.
    I consider myself to be more of a classic bartender,mixologist,bar chef,whatever you want to call it but i can flair as well.I can “juggle” three bottles when the mood takes me.I rarely do it at work because it doesn’t suit the place I work at but i’m happy with that.Every once in a while i enter a flair competition where people actually want to see exhibition flair and I really enjoy myself and i think other people enjoy it as well.Which is not to say that i dont use work flair while working..i think that work flair is a natural extension of an experienced bartender.It is simply speed,economy of motion,familiarity with your environment and tools and an extension of style and personality behind the bar.Anyone who says that competent work flair is unprofessional or slow has obviously never seen it done properly.Period.As Mr Wrongster pointed out though it’s all opinion..just please try and make them informed ones.

  • Wrongster says:

    Great banter on everyones part.

    Of course the bottom line on “flairtending” is do what ever makes you and your particular clients happy. The clients will go where they feel they fit best, whether it be the “show-bar” or to a nice quiet establishment. I am sure that you bartenders will find your niches just like your clients will.

    As for the harsh words toward Jeffrey and his opinion, he did not ask you to read his site, you did so of your own free will. Would you go a complete strangers house and tell them that their house decorations look like crap? Get a grip…it’s just an opinion.

    There is a great saying about opinions…
    Opinions are like anuses, everyone has one and they typically stink. Especially if you have your nose up someone else’s. So back off and let the guy have an opinion.

  • I can see merit in SOME of the posts defending flair, especially those that begin with the argument “it has its place”. But those who imply that because Jeffrey doesn’t practice flair, his skills as a bartender are suspect, really undermine their own position. There’s a time and a place for everything. Someone brought up the question of “What does the customer think?”, and it’s a good one. Has anyone else who commented ever been a customer at the establishment where he works? I have. I know the atmosphere there, and I can tell you categorically that if he tried most of the Cirque du Soleil antics that pass for “Flair”, most of his customers would walk out in a heartbeat. It’s a quality restaurant, but it’s a refined atmosphere, and flair just doesn’t belong there.

  • Michael says:

    Maybe it should be illegal. Right up there with cat juggling. Flair bartending is stupid. A circus act. It has nothing to do with making and serving cocktails. Given the posts, it seems most of these pro-flair hacks would be better served taking remedial English classes than tossing bottles in the air.

  • Michael says:

    Maybe it should be illegal. Right up there with cat juggling. Flair bartending is stupid. A circus act. It has nothing to do with making and serving cocktails. Given the posts, it seems most of these pro-flair hacks would be better served taking remedial English classes than tossing bottles in the air.

  • BarProf says:

    Another waste of liquor for your collection

  • Darryl says:

    I think I fall somewhere in the middle re: flair. It’s fun to watch, but not at the expense of speedy service. Some bartenders go overboard, let’s face it. And yes, it takes skill to juggle all those bottles, but in the end that’s all it is: juggling. No, really.

  • Jeffrey says:

    If it’s not illegal, it really should be. I can’t think of a more stupid practice.

  • BraceKyle says:

    I’m not sure about the other 49 United States or the rest of the world, even, but in Illinois, I’m pretty sure it is health code that we cannot scoop drinks using glasses. Not even plastic. It’s actually illegal.

    At least that’s what I’ve been told at the bar I have tended for the past eight years. Maybe they’re lying?

  • nicolas says:


  • Tracy says:

    JW….we 21 year old chicks are not getting wet of our own accord when you “flair”…it’s the alcohol you’re flinging at us. We don’t want flair, we want the damned drink we ordered so that we can go back to the men who are interested, rather than the self important prick behind the bar who needs to hide his shitty drink making skills with “flair”

  • Vast Majority says:

    Maybe Jay misread this statement, for it is not narrow minded.

    “It’s taught in bartending schools,” – TRUE

    “it’s done in competitions and shown on ESPN on Sunday mornings,” TRUE

    “and it’s practiced by people who have absolutely no idea how to make a drink.” -TRUE; There are some people that practice flair and they have no ability to create a finely tuned cocktail.

    Jay, how can you possibly dispute this? Did you think that the statement read ‘ALL people practicing flair have no idea how to make a drink.’?

  • Jay says:

    “It’s taught in bartending schools, it’s done in competitions and shown on ESPN on Sunday mornings, and it’s practiced by people who have absolutely no idea how to make a drink.” I was actually quite interested in your website and advice until I read this narrow minded comment. This reference to bartenders who perform flair is possibly the most uneducated comment I have ever heard about flair.

  • Jason says:

    here are a few flaws in your argument. Fist Flair bartending entertains many, from sacramento to LA, Vegas to Oakhurst…and I dare you to find a bar in argentina that dosent have a flair bartender working. Juggling is not bartending, but than again neaither is asking you about your day, or playing a game of pool with you.

    Secondly the effect of pouring fire into a cold drink is two fold. One its part of the show, two drink like TKO’s already have too much alcohol, so it is a way to serve the drink while slowing down the alcohol consumption. Also many tropical rum drinks have a fire effect, thats justthe way it is … BUT A BARTENDER SHOULD NEVER SERVE IT TO THE CUSTOMER WHILE STILL ON FIRE

    Next let me say this, so what if we waste a little liquor selling the ‘girls’ 8 shots at $40, trust me we made money, and that is between the owner and the bartender, besides, we dont spill as much as you might think

    Shaking a martini dilutes the flavor, makes the drink cooler and easier to drink (and drinks are like sex, highly personal) … if you want it stirred ask … but vodka martinis SHOULD BE SHAKEN, not gin unless requested

    AS for rocks glasses, whiskey soaking in ice, isn’t that the same problem as shaking a martini, a good whiskey or tequla is for sipping.

    Now that I am on a roll let me make a come back …


    1. Now what you want, and have your money ready when the bartender asks.

    2. If a bartender is talking to another guest, wait your turn… so what if they are talking life, cause later in the night he’ll be talking to you and someone else will be waiting

    3. Its a bar, not a doctors office, dont expect perfection, if you like it a certain way… ASK

    4. LEAVE A FRIGGIN TIP, if you want to get served quicker, TIP BIGGER … we get paid MIN wage to clean up puke after patrons, stop fights, help with your problems, stock, order, deal with the police so you dont have to and among hundreds of other things, serve you drinks


    6.please dont through stuff, as well as forcing your bartender to pick up more stuff, we ALL get pissed off by it… leave throwing stuff to a flair bartender … besides we don’t come to your job a throw fries do we?

    7. please dont tell us when to cut someone else off, thats our job!!!

    8. PUSH IN YOUR STOOLS when you get up to leave and bring your empty BACK up to the bar … sometimes we are just too busy picking up after you to serve you a timely drink

  • Anonymous says:

    I’ve been tending bar for nine years, I love what I do, and I am good at it. I agree with you 100% especially the full glass of ice! I can’t believe how many times I have ordered a drink, and I am very specific with my order, and I will get it wrong more times then not. People are funny, they will complain sometimes saying “there’s to much ice, your shorting me on my booze” ????? Go figure?? If anything your going to get a stronger drink with more ice?? Your not doing the drink any favors by giving to much liquor either, if it’s to strong it’s just going to sit there and get warm. I don’t use anything to measure when I”m mixing, I’ve just figured it out, and make good drinks, and I make them from scratch (Bloody Mary’s/ Mai Tai’s ect. when possible. Thanks for letting me ramble on..!

  • keith says:

    oh and i agree about the glass pyramid. i hate that thing too, but damn if its not a crowd pleaser.

  • keith says:

    I didn’t read the entire argument so forgive me if I am repeating any of this.

    Flair doesn’t have to take time, I do a palm spin just about everytime I pick something up. If I didn’t spin that tin with my right hand it would just be sitting there while I picked up the ice scoop with my left, I don’t look at my right or have to think about it, its just something I like to do. There is no time wasted. Same with flipping the tin to myself or any of the other countless ways to incorporate working flair into your daily routine. If your walking to a tap why not thumb-roll your two pint glasses? Competition flair is competition flair and there isn’t always time for routines in daily life (unless you’re paid for that, and then sometimes it’s so blinding it doesn’t matter anyway).

    Also I started with TGI Fridays and most of the people who work there only do the minimal requirements, and most of the time not even on shift, but the ones that want to get serious need to practice in a real life situation. I want one person in here to tell me they never served a bad martini because they didn’t know something or a bad coctail because their pour wasn’t solid yet. You didn’t train with water until you were good enough to have a blog about bartending did you?

    Lastly you speak of mixing drinks like its a science (mixology: -ology = study of), and rightly so. So I pose this challenge, find me one time in history when science was good where it was, and didn’t need to evolve. If I can make the same drink you can and give my customer a little extra for his 7 bucks why not? Most flair competitions have strict pour tests and speed rounds to prove we can.

    And one more lastly, your bartender should realize your needs and work to them not force anything on you. There are some guests I never talk to because thats the way they want it and some that won’t let me go. Chatting is no different than flair in that aspect, you don’t want to see it, then you shouldn’t. Period. But don’t get yourself in a huff because someone else at the other end does.

  • HigherEd says:

    I’ve been doing this job for over thirty years, and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I had a lot of kids work for me that wanted to juggle bottles and make lots of money. They were always the ones that were ripping me off every night. A solid, flash-free barkeep is worth his or her weight in gold. Trust those bartenders, people. Theyll never let you down.

  • Sarah says:

    I was a bartender at a TGI Friday’s restaurant and flair was a part of the job. I was never good at it, but many of my fellow bartenders would practice during every shift.
    There is nothing more frustrating than being yelled at by a customer to get them another drink while your coworker is standing directly in front of said customer flipping a bottle behind his back.

    A bartender is first and foremost someone who makes alcoholic beverages. I should not be expected to entertain you. If I wanted to be a performer, I would try out for a play.

  • Dave Uk says:

    Bar & Restaurant Consultant
    I am slightly concerned with your articles, you appear to have a firm grasp of the basics of the industry and little else, I like you have a spent a considerable amount of time training bar staff and working in different bars. the majority of staff sound and act like your self, with distain for the industry, seemingly negative? a barmen is not there just to serve alchol they are there to look after customers through service and entertainment. just because you can make a perfect martini means absolutely nothing if you can’t hold a conversation with a customer or show them something that will entertain or astound, leaving like they have recieved a personal service. on your point of setting drinks on fire look at a 4th of july martini, please tell me that by heating the cinnamon you dont get a better flavour. Now my biggest grudge on your article was about flair bartending. a) Its NOT Juggling b) There is a difference between working flair and exhibition flair
    I suggest you have a look into it? c) I do agree that there is nothing worse than having to wait for a drink because staff are messing around, however if the venue managers were doing there job it would be clear to staff when it is appropriate to flair?

  • James says:

    James Edis, UK, flair and mixology bartender, bar owner.

    For someone who is attempting to sound so intelligent and seemingly knows everything about the industry we all love, you’re seriously ignorant!! How is it that you managed to find the single worst piece of flair video ever, with the world’s largest video library at your finger tips? Or did you purposely use it to try and prove a point? Either way, very stupid!!
    I figure that your one of those bartenders who was never skilled enough to grasp the art of flair therefore you refuse to accept what you don’t understand. Next time you attempt to write an article on something make sure you do your research properly, there are 2 types of flair; working and exhibition, us professionals leave the exhibition for competitions or quiet times and use working flair constantly which in no way effects the quality of the drinks or the time taken to produce them.
    We expect the very best from our bartenders, which includes elements of flair, we train them properly so they understand their work is a constant performance, adapting their show to suit the situation.
    Instead of trying to make a mockery of your industry maybe you should try promoting a higher level of training? Well done on your mixology skills, that makes you half the bartender that we are, that’s where the difference is mate, we learnt the hard bit as well!!

  • Amy says:

    Damn, I just realized I spelled flair wrong! Sorry everyone, I hate spelling mistakes!

  • Amy says:

    As a customer, I have seen a few bartenders demonstrating their flare talents and it was interesting and exciting. It’s the kind of thing you take out of town vistors to see. After one drink, you move on to a bar that is more about service and less about show and that is where you spend your night. I think that is why there is more flare in tourist towns than in a regular everyday places. If I was looking for cancun excitement and entertainment than flare is great but for a habitual watering hole I’ll take a mixologist any day. Especially one that won’t put their fingers in my drink or scoop ice with my glass.

  • Jon says:

    First off, this has been a rather amusing string to read(Thanks Jeff). I never realized there was so much division over “flair.” Reading through all the posts I can’t help but think back to that gloriously bad Tom Cruise flick “Cocktail.” When I want to drink I like to go to a nice divey bar. The kind of place where they’ll remember my name, the drinks are made strong and well, the jukebox is loaded and juggling a bottle is the last fucking thing on the bartenders mind. I just want a good drink and preferably cheap. I even started a site dedicated to these hallowed grounds of drinking: I guess it all comes down to how you like to get your drink on…

  • dolgen says:

    I just stumbles across this interesting disussion and thought I would add my two cents. It seems like there aren’t any opinions from customers in here, and aren’t we the ones that really matter the most? or am I just deluding myself?

    Flair bartenders seem to be very pro-themselves, but I don’t think (in my experience and in reading this discussion) they really care thing one about the customer.

    Guys, we know you like yourselves. a Lot. We also know that your selfish addiction to juggling, flipping bottles and lighting crap on fire is going to come first, and that we the customer are going to come second. Judgging from the comments here, juggling bartenders think VERY highly of themselves. I’m glad to read that someone out there thinks enough of the customer to care more about what he puts in his drinks and less about how he looks doing it.

    Before you attempt to tear someone to pieces for suggesting that your style of work is unprofessional I have to ask. Do you ever catch yourself in the mirror in the middle of some retarded dance routine and ask yourself this?

    “What the hell am I doing with my life?”

  • Sean says:

    Wow…you can tell this “old school” bartender has his ego, as well he probably should. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, you have approached the breaking part of your career walking the plank. Most bars like to employ open-minded bartenders to get along with EVERYONE within reason. If you don’t like flair bartenders then you never really enjoyed your career in the first place. No one is asking you to toss a thing, but the professionals who can flair while still providing customer service and well-made drinks have put more of their time in 6 months learning their job (usually in their off time)than you may have in your entire span of tending bar. Flair is an art and a passion to a lot of bartenders out there, and as I just found out from my first competition “Quest” in Orlando, it is not their only passion. Quest had a speed and accuracy round, which accounted for half the competition. Let me tell you, these Flair-tenders would more than likely take you and 95% of all egocentric bartenders apart behind any bar, any day, at any time. They were amazing! Honestly, I know my comments won’t change your mind. I am guessing they will have the opposite effect. I just wanted to make you aware of your ignorance before you infect others…
    -Sean Alto

  • Gaston says:

    I feel that you are attempting to demean other bartender’s styles of serving simply because of your closed minded views. You are suffering from a classic attack of bartender’s arrogance. You think that you know best and everyone else is wrong. If you could flair I’m sure you would be one of those people that flairs all the time and gets really touchy when people make any comments about it. I appreciate that we all have gripes about the way other bartenders serve but there is no need to slag them off, just don’t visit their bar again. Like it or not flair is an integral part of modern cocktail bars and in a few years I’m sure that all the so called “mixologists” will realise that mixo and flair can be used together to make a superior service product. Please get off your high horse.


  • Anthony "Paisan" Alba says:

    To Jeffery,
    First off let me commend you on posting ALL the opinions whether pro-flair of anti-flair.
    We all know the way you feel about it and it takes a man of character to let all voices be heard.

    Secondly let me condemn you for judging something when you don’t truly understand it.
    If you did you wouldn’t bad mouth the flair community in that way. Now we all understand that EVERYTHING in life has its time and place, even flair. The fact of the matter is that flair is a tool, no different then spirit knowledge or a good personality behind the bar. When you dam it in the way you have its relaying the message to your readers that a certain “tool” is not only useless but otherwise counterproductive. The flair bartender has a passion for his craft that should be respected not to say all flair bartenders should be respected but you can’t pass judgment on the few experiences you personally had with a hand full of barmen that fell short of your expectations. I’m assuming that you usually do your research on most of you subjects but I cannot believe you did on this one. To all who wrote your opinions for or against, we are all one community of people who love what we do and should not be squabbling with each other on who is the best. Besides the term “best” is a relative term, we all can learn from one another. I’ve see many flair bartending and classic Mixology competitions I have never seen anyone move faster and pour more accurately the flair bartenders. The reason for this is because flair bartenders train like athletes for these events, never seen any other bartender do that before. If someone has hard evidence contradicting this statement I would love to hear from you. In closing; Jeffery I’m curious on how you acquired the title “Mixologist” and I don’t mean that in a condescending manner.
    Thank you in advance,

    P.S. To Marvelle
    Fact; Bobby Flay has earned the title “Chef” in the same way (I assume) Mr. Morgenthaler has earned the title Mixologist. To sell that title short is disrespectful.

    My opinion; to be beaten by Bobby Flay would be an honor, not humiliation.

  • Vast Majority says:

    Todd is right. Having a well rounded appraoch to bartending is good. A small percentage of patrons really do like flair. Unfortunately there are some bartenders that don’t ask before they flair and they don’t realize that some patrons just don’t appreciate it. To some, flair is just dumb. Fortunately Todd sounds like the type of bartender that knows when not to flair. Unfortunately there are some bartenders that are blinded by flair and believe that flair is the be all and end all of bartending. They are grossly offended by people that prefer not to see flair and they are too simple minded to understand why people may not like it. To those bartenders I truly feel they are in the wrong profession and may be better suited working as a juggler in a circus.

  • todd_ekis says:

    10 years ago, I was trained by a bartender that was “well known” … whether he was or wasn’t, he did teach me a few basic fundamentals of bartending that I live to each and every day since then…. first rule behind the bar… never scoop glass into ice… second rule… know what is going on around you, as best as you can, at all times… third.. you are a bartender… you should know your drinks… you should be able to serve your customers what they want, when they want….. and you should make them feel special.. after my 10 years… that is my ultimate love of bartending… the culmination of every aspect of being a bartender… seeing the look on the elder asking for a stinger, listening to the person that just had a bad day and needed someone to listen too… pouring shots for those that have never been to that place knowing that when they woke up, they had a fucking bad ass time last night…. yes I do flair…. sometimes behind the bar, sometimes not…. depends on the atmosphere at hand… I am a professional bartender…. I love and live what I do… I have the chinese symbol for bartender on my forearm…. It is who I am… so… to end what i have to say, I will sum it up like this… whoever wrote this is a good bartender for understanding the basics of bartending…. but bartending is such a broad word these days…. it’s drink knowledge, bartender etiquette, being yourself, making your customers feel welcome and special (whether that is listening to them, telling them a joke, pouring an original drink they have never had, blowing fire, flipping a bottle…. but if you can’t ….. the best bartenders can do em all… or none of em, but still make that person leave with a smile when they walk out the door…. we, as bartenders do more than just serve drinks…. we are the ones people rely on for entertainment, and to ultimately feel that deep down it’s all good…. I am who I am, and I am proud to be a bartender…


    Aka Todd Ekis
    [email protected]
    or 630-251-1833

    and thank you to all here…. there is deep down a reason why we care so much for what we do… to me… it’s my passion and my life… if you don’t understand that….. just call me!!

  • Patrick says:

    The first rule in bartending is . . The best bartender thinks he is the worst! And the worst bartender thinks he is the best! It’s all about being humble. The fact that you have a web page trashing what you DON’T know explains it all. Get outside your little world where you think your God, and have a drink competition with one of us! NO FLAIR, just speed and mixology.

  • Marvelle says:

    Nice spelling. If I remember correctly, didn’t the world’s top bartender get beaten… by a cook? Doesn’t that smack of humiliation?

    Keep it up, Jeffrey. We love your style over here in Virginia.


  • Chia says:

    Jeffery, you forgot about # 8… SPEWING BULLSHIT! As I see from you column you are a master. You have demonstrated only that skill as I read threw this pile. Without getting long winded. Really what do you know about being a bartender… first off if I want my “GIN MARTIN” shakin’ and made with Jim Beam & Beefeater… I’m paying for it, and you make the M.F. the way I like to drink it. For Christ sake you live in Eugene, if your mixology was worth a $hit you would have moved on. JUT FOR CLEARAFACATION THE LAST STATEMENT WAS AS IGNERENT AS MOST OF YOUR COLUMN.

    P.S. When was the last time one of the world best chefs challenged you to a mastery of mixology??? Ask Toby Ellis (FBA Founder)

  • Jamie says:

    Hey I too made my carpayment last night. Tonight its the rent. Then maybe take the rest of the month off.

  • Teriyaki says:

    Not sure what flair has anything remotely to do with sex, nor why “ww woo”, “Vast Majority” and “Jmoney” seem to believe there is some sort of correlation. Yet another bar myth? (

    It’s humorous how stereotypes are formulated and prejudice perpetuated. One bartender makes a comment about spilling liquor on 21-year-old girls (that is what he meant isn’t it? =) ) and suddenly, bartenders everywhere flair for sex.

    “FLAIR… I do it for the SEX!”

    That’s like saying, “GOLF… I do it for the SEX!”

    No one golfs for the sex! People golf because it’s fun, social, recreational, competitive and challenging. And yes, some actually make a nice living doing it.

    The same can be said of flair.

    If anything, sex is just a bonus. =) I’m sure Tiger Woods would agree.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Not true, many of us have worked in lousy bars!

  • Kenny says:

    I guess lousy bartenders always end up working in lousy bars, aint that right? 😉

  • Jmoney says:

    This is serious canon style work. I never new that “Flair” was the bartenders equivelant of driving a really big truck to make up for, well you know smaller wee parts. And you don’t have to write back saying you flair and you are a women. This is not Feminist theory.

  • Vast Majority says:

    Ha! No wonder there has been an influx of flair defenders. This blog has been mentioned at cocktailshows:,7073.0.html

    Talk about shallow and immature, they showcase their intelligence by naming the thread “MORON OF THE YEAR (IDIOT BARTENDERS)”

    So people that could care less about flair are idiots? These flairbartenders will NEVER get any respect with that type of attitude. But I guess you have to be that defensive when your livelyhood hinges on juggling.

    The big defense of bottle juggling, err, uh flair, always seems to be that flairbartending earns a lot of money. So what! Money is not our god. Get your priorities straight.

    Oh yeah, you also get lots of sex if you are a flair bartender. That’s the other defense. Sheeesh. I get plenty of sex as it is. I don’t need to juggle for it. Lame…

  • Toledo says:

    Talking about Bartending…

    I think that a Flairbartender is the most professional Bartending example ever.

    A Flairbartender loves his carreer, is his passion, he knows about mixology, ingredients, histories of the liquors, and everything you think that be useful behind a bar…

    Giving his service in a higher level than the normal, pushing himself to learn about Bars, trying to travel and meet others places and technichs to improves himself.

    Flair is not just flip bottles, make a show, and get better tips or relation with the people, flair is the way you have to take to be better than you are behind the bar.

    I meet world champions flairbartenders and I have to say that their knowledges are unbelievables…

    Maybe the writer of this blog has bad experiences with the flairbartenders he saw, but we feel very sad for that, we want to keep the mixologist with us because toghether we can take to the bartending to other levels like the art of cook a dish.

    cheers and be happy whatever you do.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thanks, Teriyaki and See Dot, and I will check out the Blue Blazer competition on DVD – as soon as someone sends it to me!

    Also, I will continue to take people to task for comments like “chicks get wet when I flair” or gross spelling deficiencies because a) I feel we need to try to restore the image of bartender as working-class aristocrat and b) it’s my website.

  • canary says:

    As a customer who appreciates a simple glass of wine poured accurately (yes, one can screw up wine – pour it to the brim, pour it and then slam & slosh it in front of me, pour it with cork) and the relaxing hum of a not-too-crowded bar with an intelligent and skilled tender, i have to back jeffrey on this. Yes, i’m in the 30’s bracket, so perhaps that automatically excludes me from appreciating flair, but i just don’t take my time from my husband & child to have clutter in my face. I take my time away to sip my wine, chat with fellow adults, and ponder my own thoughts. Flashy, commanding moves behind the bar would do more than distract – they would ruin my experience.

  • see dot says:

    thanx to teriyaki for putting it all into perspective. (is ur name tobey, by any chance?) and seriously, DO check out the blue blazer challenge. it really does showcase how flair and true mixology can meet with nothing lost on either side. cheers!

  • Teriyaki says:

    It’s of little merit to judge a person’s educational background based on typographical errors. Last I checked, spelling and grammar had little to do with bartending.

    The reason I first posted was to dissolve the notion that bartenders who flair are akin to “jugglers” or “circus performers.” Many bartenders who flair are award-winning mixologists who choose to excel in every aspect of bartending. To make a blanket statement about bartenders who flair is both unfounded and naive.

    Perhaps those who dislike flair have worked with someone who spilled, dropped or provided poor guest service while flairing behind the bar. I can understand why you would have a bad taste for flair.

    However, bartenders who flair professionally rarely drop or spill. They practice countless hours to ensure accuracy. Many calibrate themselves before their shifts by pour-testing WITH flair into an Exacto Pour.

    The ability to pour accurately is also paramount in many flair bartending competitions. While some use Exacto Pours to test accuracy, others actually use liquid measuring scales that convert grams to fluid ounces and are accurate within 0.05 of an ounce.

    Liquor brands support flair because it showcases their product. They rely on bartenders as their primary point of sales and entice them to push their product by sponsoring bartending competitions. It’s smart marketing.

    While flair can be defined a myriad of ways, there are basically two distinctions: Working flair and exhibition flair. Working flair is just what it sounds like: flair you do while working that doesn’t significantly slow service. Exhibition flair is more flashy and elaborate and can best be described as flair you would see at a competition.

    There is a time and place for both. A good bartender knows this and will never compromise service for flair. If you do see a bartender giving the flair bartending community a bad name, do them a favor and kindly suggest they practice a thousand times over at home before attempting flair at work. Service first. Flair second.

    Lastly, for those who seem to think bartenders who flair can’t create a quality cocktail, I suggest you view a DVD called The Blue Blazer to witness a competition that holds both mixology and flair in high regard.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thank you, JW. I guess that my point is this: if we want to shed the poor image that bartending has these days, we probably shouldn’t say things like “21 year old Chicks get wet when I flair”. In fact, maybe a little infighting is exactly what we need right now.

    Who is going to argue that I’m not a high school dropout if I can’t spell the words grief, alcoholics, carrying, or ourselves?

  • JW says:

    I am writing this because i do hold myself as a pro bartender, thats how i describe what I do when pepole ask me what I do for a living. It stuns pepole for a min. and i explaine that I tend bar it dosn’t matter what kind of bar. I can throw over 75 cocktails in 10 mins or i can take the time to muddle/strain and carmallize rims of glasses but also if it calls for it I can put on a show by Flair. The reason being is because I am a PRO and in doing so if you think of your self as a pro you should know and be able to do every aspect of a bar!!

    21 year old Chicks get wet when I flair, 30 year old ladys love watching me get all sweaty moving hard and fast behind the bar and 60 year old women love in when I go that little extra making them one of my specialty drinks mix ever so perfect. So I don’t think that bashing anyone style behind the bar is usful.

    We get enough grif from the pepole that think of bartenders as High school drop outs with nothing else better to do,Druggies Alcolics,STD carring dirty son of B*#%hes, The last thing we need is to fight amongs ourslefs


  • ww woo says:

    Just a few comments regarding “flair” from a woman, who’s bartended everywhere from biker bars to college nightclubs as well as those yippie high-end bars–
    1)Liquor companies back “flair”
    competion, and infact encourage it
    because,if it takes 1 oz. of spill to
    make a 2 oz. drink they will sell
    more alcohol to your establishment.

    2)Wouldn’t you rather go home with a
    bartender that dosen’t waste
    his “flair” on breaking glass into
    his well and wearing gin. But keeps
    his “flair” in the bedroom, were it
    belongs. Really guys…you can
    only be good at one or the other.

    3)”Flair” is good for-
    -Bartending schools that teach it.
    -Alcohol companies that sell spillage
    -Bad drink makers,that hide behind
    “Flair” is bad for-
    -Establishments pour costs.
    -Customers that like real drinks
    -Circus jugglers that are being
    put out of business

  • Jeffrey says:

    Brilliantly spoken, DENDAY. Thanks for sharing!

  • DENDAY says:


  • tiki god says:

    “Let me point out right now that fancy twirling of spoons, flipping of glasses, and tossing bottles into the air are not the earmarks of a good bartender. Such antics not only do not produce good drinks, they slow any bartender down to a walk. Any guy who goes through a lot of gymnastics behind a bar is just putting on the flash. I’ve never seen one yet that made good drinks or made them fast…My best advice is to make every drink as though it were to be the best you’ve ever made, and you can’t do this if you don’t measure. Novice or professional, measure your liquor. You won’t spoil any drinks and your customer will always know that they’re getting what they pay for.”

    Trader Vic, 1948

  • Jesse says:

    I’m 23 and one of my biggest complaints with flair is that it’s created so many shitty TGI Friday’s bartenders who are throwing around their bottles and dropping them everywhere. If you want to throw a bottle around with a little accent thats fine, but anything thats going to take the bartender’s focus away from the taste or time of my drink is annoying. The people here who are arguing for the top Vegas bartenders need to realize that the majority of bartenders trying to demonstrate their flair is really detrimental to the overall bar experience and it is something that really should be left to the professionals.

  • Teriyaki says:

    Love it or hate it, flair is part of bartending. Whether it be a simple hand spin of the tin when resetting it on your mat or the six bottles of beer you pop in rapid succession on a busy shift, if you’re a seasoned bartender – you have flaired.

    Simply put, flair is the efficiency of movement with a little pizzazz. Flair doesn’t have to be a 30 sec mind-blowing flurry of bottle tossing. It can be a simple garnish toss into a drink from behind the back, a bounce cut when creating multiple cocktails, or the spin of a bottle to empty out the last quarter ounce of liquor remaining once the pour spout is removed.

    With the right recipe poured to spec, anyone can make a decent cocktail. So is it true that with enough practice, anyone can flair. The ability to do both well earns my respect because it requires a higher level of expertise and years of experience.

    “Bartending is a show.” So have some fun.

  • LiquorSnob says:

    I believe you have missed the point, Stephanie, Jeffery’s website is geared to a older, more sohisticated audience. To us, having a perfect cocktail and a good conversation is much more inportant than watching a 23 year old throw bottles in the air. Sure, children and monkeys are easily amused, but for those of us that prefer a more upscale experience to the Chili’s at the mall, this sort of behavior is not what we are looking for in a bar.

    Thank you for this, Jeffery. My coworkers and I love your site!

  • stephanie says:

    i agree with mig, aaron and #14 who actually seem to know what they’re talking about…i believe that when people go to a bar they don’t go there to have a drink and watch your pretty face pour it wonderfully….i think that a lot of times people go to a bar to keep themselves entertained…whether its flairing or just talking guests go to bars to escape..whats wrong with showing them a couple of moves? flairing is defnitely an art and it causes such a wonderful commotion when its done well. The look on peoples faces is priceless and the cheers that they bring are unexplainable…i think that you jeoffrey work in a boring old bar where no one there cares to watch you “pour a perfect drink” so therefore u r boring as well..

  • Hersa says:

    I dont want to contribute to the whole flair bartending argument, but I trained to be a “flairtender” at the bartending school I went to. I now work in a large club but only flair on very rare ocassions. I noticed that my coworkers, while they dazzled people, only dazzled them once and had very few regulars. I spend most of my time(when not pouring a thousand drinks)talking to people and using my brain. I find it works a hell of a lot better than flair (I don’t hate flair, I just think it’s kinda stupid at most places other then Vegas)

  • Shaun says:

    Mig’s right. You can call me anything you want — juggler, clown, whatever; I’m just happy to be able to make my mortgage payment and my car payment in two days.

  • aaron says:

    i think you found the worst example of flair bartending you could of ever found on you tube. You talk the talk but i bet you cant walk the walk.

    flair bartending is a art and a skill. some thing that you will never figure out. you should stay in oregon making $50 a shift and leave all the real money to the real bartenders in vegas and california.

    you are proabbly some overweight middle aged washed up bartender you could never figure out what you wanted to do with your life. do us a favor go to a real flair bar ie. carnival court las vegas, shadow bar las vegas, rockin taco fullerton CA,

  • Mig says:

    Hi, if u think u such a good bartender , what is your best day ever ? If u never made more then 1,000.00$ , you don’t have to answer 🙂

  • Lauren says:

    Once again, I love the attitude and the way you lay it out for those of us who are not in the know.

  • Marc says:

    I pretty much agree, although the point of shaking a Martini is to get that amount of water in to soften it up. Not everyone likes their Martini’s “arid as the Sahara Desert,” and a Martini shaken not only is colder but the extra water content takes it down from what has evolved into an iced shot of gin with an olive into an actual cocktail. If your argument is that bartenders shouldn’t assume shaken, that’s a different story though.

    And I love Hubers! The point of the fire there, though, isn’t the coffee but rather that the recipe requires the sugar on the rim be carmelized, and flaming the 151 is the easiest way to do that (as well as burn off about 30 proof of that stuff so people don’t destroy their nasal cavities).


  • sillygirl says:

    I have to add, as someone who only drinks gin martinis, that shaking bruises the gin. for real.

  • mike says:

    spot on, man…although with regards to #6…these days a lot of people seem to understand “martini” to mean “really cold vodka with ice chips floating in.” more people, sad to say, seem to turn their noses up at gin and vermouth. if someone orders a gin martini at my bar i never shake it…when vodka martini orders come in they are more often than not accompanied with a directive to be extra cold, or shaken hard, etc. uninformed drinking public.

    i just read through some of the savoy cocktail book and the “blue blazer” is something i dearly want to try…just for the theatrics, not in the bar or anything.

  • 4lex says:

    I totally agree with the ice scooping scenario, no good barman should EVER risk getting glass chips in the ice bucket.
    However… as for your dislike for flairing, lighting drinks and other forms of harmless bar entertainment I can only assume you have no fun behind the bar whatsoever? A good bit of flairing keeps me and my customers happy.

  • brewmonkey says:

    I used to spend all my time telling bartenders AND waitstaff alike to never scoop ice with the glass. They never get the message until they are standing there trying to empty the ice bin during the dining room rush trying to get the broken glass out of the bin. That shit cracks me up and made me happy I was the brewer!

  • Steve says:

    Scotch with one (1) rock please! Otherwise I agree with everything you say! I am glad to see that you are passionate about your profession, we should all be so lucky!

  • Ben says:

    Just a small comment on the James Bond thing… in the books, written before th e films were made, he always asks for a Martini ‘stirred, not shaken’. How those idiots in Hollwood managed to get it backwards I’ll never know. Maybe they thought it sounded snappier.

    Oh yeah, and I’m afraid I’ve been a heinous criminal as a barman in the past when it comes to touching ice with my hands. But that was only because I worked in a shitty nightclub and hated all my halfwit customers and my manager, and therefore gave not a crap about how clean the drinks were.

  • Joe says:

    I agree with all of these except #7 Shorting you on the ice. I am a scotch drinker and when I order a scoth rocks at a bar I often get served a full sized rocks glass full of ice. The standard 1 oz shot of scotch is then poured over the mountain of ice. I have a cup now that is 1/5 scotch and 4/5ths ice. This ration requires me to drink my scotch too quickly or to drink it slowly and drink VERY watered down scotch.

    I prefer (and often ask for) a shot with just enough ice to stick up out of the liquid. Just my preference.

  • Mike says:

    I have been in bars for most of my life, from the Bowery to Broadway and I could have used your advice. It makes me smile that there are people like you who take their profession seriously.

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