Flairtending, Flair Bartending, or Flare Bartending: Which Is It?

The short answer is: all of the above. And then some.

When I first picked up a bottle and decided to clumsily throw it around, I had never heard the term “flair bartending”. I hadn’t seen anyone else doing it either. I just liked flipping the bottles. As time went on, I wanted to find others like me, others interested in doing more with bottles than just pouring from them. So I sat down at a computer and went to Google. What to type? Bottle juggling? Bartending tricks? Fancy bartender? I had no idea that there was a name for what I was searching for (this was still 7 years before YouTube!)

Eventually I found the Flair Bartending Association’s website… and the company FlairCo… and the online magazine FlairBar.com. So, it’s “Flair Bartending” then, right? Well, for the most part. As Wikipedia explains it: “Flair bartending is sometimes referred to as “extreme bartending” or contracted to “flairtending.” The word flair became popular among practitioners in the mid-1990s.” I’ve also heard people call it trick bartending or show bartending – there’s even a company called Showtenders® who do showtending®. So which is it?

The generally accepted term for what we do is flair bartending. If you live outside North America (as nearly half of FBTV’s users do) you’ll occasionally see the spelling  “flare bartending” – another phonetic spelling of “flair”. Search Google for “flare bartending” and it will likely auto-correct it to “flair bartending” for you since it considers “flare” a misspelling. However, if you live in the Philippines, it’s just straight up “flairtending”.

So there you go. One big world, a number of ways to say it, and tons of people doing it.

On a similar parallel: I find it interesting that with the rise of craft cocktails and mixology in the last 5-10 years, many would-be “mixologists” shun the term. I know a number of amazing cocktail professionals who roll their eyes at the term “mixology,” associating it sometimes with a certain air of douchebaggery or false hipsterism. It seems people outside the industry call it mixology; people within the industry simply refer to bartending, or at best craft cocktails. It’s intriguing to me because I had a similar response when I first heard the term “flair bartending.” Keep in mind this was the same year the movie Office Space was released, poking a lot of fun at TGIFridays for their “pieces of flair” – so much so that the national chain changed their approach to “flair” shortly thereafter. I wanted to flip bottles like a badass; I didn’t want to be this guy. Eventually, both with flair bartending as with mixology, I realized that love it or hate it, that’s what people call it. You gotta accept it and move on. Pick up your bottles and get to work.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you call it Flair Bartending, Flairtending, Extreme Bartending, or anything else – just as long as you keep flipping bottles, give GREAT service, share with others, and of course, practice practice.