Flair Bartending Lesson 99: Chin Stack

First things first: THIS IS A VERY DANGEROUS MOVE. The tips I give are meant to decrease the likelihood of you hurting yourself while trying this move, but there is no guarantee. Attempt at your own risk.

The Chin Stack is one of my all-time favorite flair bartending moves. It doesn’t get more eye-catching. Crowds love this one.

Obviously, this is exhibition flair. It works best at the end of a flair show or competition.

Before you even think about going for the full Chin Stack, it’s absolutely necessary to learn the basic mechanics of being able to balance things on your face. The first thing you need to do is find two bottles, preferably tall bottles (like Grey Goose, Belvedere, Galliano, etc.). Use duct tape or packaging tape to tape the bottles together, end to end. This will be the tool you use to learn the balance.

Let’s talk about what part of your face you want to use. I’m a fan of the divot between your chin and lower, hands down. I’ve seen some flair bartenders use their upper lip or their forehead. If that’s your style, fair enough, but I find the spot just above your chin has a natural curve that fits the mouth of a bottle almost perfectly, making it much easier – and less painful – to balance.

To begin learning the balance, take your two taped bottles and place the mouth of one on your chin just below your bottom lip. Spread your feet into a wide stance. Squat a little bit. Tilt your head all the way back – while holding the bottles to your chin – until the bottles are perpendicular to the ground. Focus your eyes on the very top of the top bottle: this is the spot you concentrate on to gauge what direction the stack is moving and – more importantly – how & where you need to move your head to counterbalance the movement of the stack.

The goal here is baby steps. Use the above method to try and hold the bottle stack on your chin for 2 seconds. ALWAYS control the bottle so that it falls comfortably into your hands. Never let it get away from you or fall toward your face. Once you can comfortably do this for 2 seconds, try for 4. Then 6. Then 8, then 10 seconds. Eventually, after a few days or weeks, you will be able to balance these two taped bottles on your chin for 30 seconds or longer.

Once you’re comfortable with the mechanics of balancing the taped bottles on your chin for at least 30 seconds, it’s time to try something even more flashy: cocktails stacked on bottles. Very important tips for trying this:

1) Pour the cocktails in the plastic cups, not glass. Not only will they weigh less and be easier to manage, if or when you drop this, it’s one less thing to break. Use different colored liquids (Cranberry, Sprite, Midori, Blue Curacao, Pineapple Juice, etc.) to make the stack more eye-catching.

2) Use empty square bottles for the layers in your stack. I like to use Jose Cuervo bottles, Bombay Sapphire, or Jagermeister bottles, but find what works best for you.

3) In order to create friction and minimize the risk of slipping, use slightly wet napkins in between each layer. The general rule is this: anytime one object is touching another, there should be a damp napkin in between them. The last thing you want is glass sliding around while it’s up on your face.

4) Use a long bottle (Ketel One, Belvedere, etc.) as the anchor for the stack. If you’ve been following along and practicing, you’ll already be comfortable with how this bottle sits on your chin; in theory, all you’re doing is changing the stuff that’s stacked on top of it.

Go easy. This is an incredibly dangerous flair move. Taking baby steps and precautions along the way will help minimize your risk of injury.