An interview with Dennis Gray ahead of the Roadhouse Asian Open

The next Roadhouse Flair Heat is nearly upon us and it is time for the return of the Asian Open on March 26th. A very popular Roadhouse heat in London, the Asian Open draws large crowds of people from across the cosmopolitan capital and well as around the world. Many of the competitors taking part in the Asian Open will be travelling half way around the world from countries such as Australia, Japan and Singapore. As a Roadhouse heat £1000 will be up for grabs between the top 3, as well as a spot in the Roadhouse World Finals in November – where £10,000 will be up for grabs.

Ahead of the Asian Open we spoke with Australian competitor Dennis Gray from Melbourne to get his thoughts on the upcoming competition:

What do you love most about the Roadhouse flair competitions?

“In my books, the Roadhouse represents the epitome of flair bartending competitions around the world. Everything from the way it is set up and organised to the amount of guys that turn up from all over the world – you know that if you are only going to do one flair competition a year, this is the one you do. I still remember the first Roadhouse competition I ever watched, it was the Roadhouse World Finals 2003. Up on stage were all the legends of today, the real classic flair bartenders!

I’ve been flair bartending for around 11 years but it has always been a bit of a hobby for me, when I started out YouTube, Facebook and the like was just getting started, so Flair was only really known by those in the bar industry. I remember the first Roadhouse Competition I saw in 2003 was on a VHS video, that had already passed through a few hands before it got to me. Up until this point I had only seen a few flair competitions in New Zealand where you had a couple of international competitors. The Roadhouse was completely new to me and I was amazed to see so many people from different countries and so many new and different flair bartending styles – it was very inspiring. That was when I realised that I wanted to do more with flair, although it took me a while to figure out how to do that. I have the goal of one day winning a Roadhouse competition, with the Asian open coming up my main goal is to make the Roadhouse Grand Finals in November. ”

What are your thoughts on the Asian Open?

“I think the whole concept of the Asian Open is fantastic, in gives Asian flair and flair from the Asian and Oceanic continents a platform. You find wherever you go there are some really different styles of flair, in Europe in particular Flair is a lot bigger than in Asia and you have a lot more originality. There aren’t as many people competing in Australia and New Zealand so the Asian Open at The Roadhouse in London provides us with a great opportunity to test out our flair and grow as flair bartenders.

I know many of the guys I will be competing against in the Asian Open, they take flair very seriously. It is awesome to see, you loose sight of how important it is to remain competitive in flair bartending in Australia as there isn’t the same hype around it as in Europe. Seeing how hard my competitors work, many of which are from East and South-East Asia, is really inspiring and coming over to the UK and seeing the scene over here first hand has really reignited my love for flair bartending again”.

What is the current state of flair bartending in Asia and how has it developed?

“In Australia and New Zealand in particular flair bartending is used mainly for events, in terms of oversees competitors there aren’t many people who are putting in the time from Australia and New Zealand. I certainly find it hard to maintain a high level of flair bartending when there aren’t so many like minded people around to push you, coming to Europe you really get this. In Asia, on the continent, there are a lot of flair bartending competitions but interestingly they also put a lot of the focus on the cocktails themselves, how they appear and taste and everything. Although the guys you compete against in Asia are genuinely some of the nicest and most humble guys I have ever met”.

Do you have a favourite bar tool?

“For me my favourite bar tool has to be the long bar spoon with the fork on the end, I love this tool! Bar spoon flair is wicked, I find it a very versatile tool, which works really well for a lot of practical flair and combines really well with other bar tools. I am working on something original at the moment with this particular bar tool and a mexican elbow squeezer. I use the squeezer like a bow and the bar spoon is the arrow, it is a fun bit of showmanship! I shoot the arrow out of the bow, into a lime and flair from there! It is a work in progress but here is a sneak peak…”


Come and watch Dennis at the Asian Open, on Sunday March 26th at the Roadhouse.  Doors open at 5pm.  email to reserve a table.