All the fun of the flair

Bar flairtending is a great news for the region's bar staff

Caterer Middle East assistant editor and former bar manager Ben Watts
Caterer Middle East assistant editor and former bar manager Ben Watts

During a past life, I was a “hard-working” bar manager in Liverpool, and dropping glasses was one of my specialities.

The chances of seeing someone serve you a drink, by first throwing a bottle of Pernod over their head, then preceding to catch it between their knees is quite remote in leafy suburban Liverpool — especially when the guy being served has just made his way home from Anfield after a watching his team lose to Bolton Wanderers.

But Dubai certainly isn’t Liverpool; with Dubai Fountain now on full display every night, it seems the emirate is really turning itself into the Middle East’s answer to Las Vegas; a place fit for the style and exhibitionism of bar flairtending.

A few days ago I went down to Jumeirah Beach Park in Dubai to witness for myself the growing community of bar flairtenders across the emirate at a training session organised by Nick Hancock, former European Champion and World Flair Association ambassador to the Middle East.

Hancock says for bar flairtending to really take off in this region competitions are being organised in order to drum up support for the sport.

“In the last couple of months there have been a couple of competitions in Dubai for the first time since 2006.”

The first, organised by local flair association Mastah, attracted 21 competitors; the second, X-Treme Flair held by the ski slopes in the Mall of the Emirates' Après, attracted 29 participants.

Hancock says: “Since the competitions, every time I go on Facebook, everyone’s status updates revolve around flairtending.

“I know there are guys in Beirut and Kuwait that flair, but at the moment our concentration is on Dubai and the UAE in general, as it’s currently a world focus point for so many reasons.

"With the Sky Global [competition] coming up in a few months, that should generate a bit more interest from further afield.

Flairing is proving beneficial to the bar community across both Dubai and the wider Middle East; in just a few weeks a Facebook page dedicated to the Middle East’s bar flairtending community, set up by Hancock, has attracted more than 200 barmen and women.

Après barman Burn Vicoy, who took up bar flairtending in January, told me at the training session, that over the last five months it had really grown; “we’re like a family of bartenders now” he says.

Vicoy practices for four hours-a-day, a remarkable amount of effort to put into anything when you consider he works 12-hour days on a regular basis.

Personally I believe we can all learn a lot from these passionate and cheerful bartenders — especially at a time when Sky News, the BBC and are reporting on ‘mass redundancies’ and ‘financial meltdown’.

And for all the flack this website and many of our contributors give the region’s service staff, it cannot be denied that bartenders from across the Middle East are a friendly and enthusiastic bunch.

Flair bartending has its benefits according to Hancock, who says it is a great way of keeping fit as well as a good way of making new friends.

“It’s addictive,” he adds. “Imaging being a boxer in the ring or a footballer on the pitch — at the competitions you land a big move and you have 2000 people going crazy — it’s a great adrenaline rush.”

So if you’ve always fancied trying something a little different, why not give flairtending a go, after all, apart from a few smashed bottles, what have you got to lose?

For more information on flairing, please visit:

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