Roadhouse World Finals: A Judge’s Perspective

The Roadhouse World Finals, the longest running and most prestigious international flair competition in the world, is into its 16th year. For 10 of those years the Roadhouse has had the pleasure of having flair enthusiast and judge Tony Adams on the panel. Not to be confused with the widely successful Arsenal and England footballer, Tony has been working in the bar and hospitality industry for almost 15 years. Initially fascinated and in awe of the flair bartenders Tony first came across, like many flair bartenders of today, he knew immediately this was something that he had to try for himself.

His flair career started in 2002 when he competed in his first international flair competition, practicing and working closely with the guys at Flair Motion this is where Tony discovered his own style and developed an appreciation for original flair. Suffice to say, looking at Tony today it is clear to see his passion for flair bartending has only grown since his fledgling days in 2002. Although Tony would be the first to admit he hasn’t had the most decorated flair career, he has got a number of big bartending competition wins behind him such as the TGI Friday’s World Bartending Championship, Las Vegas 2008.

With a huge passion for originality and showmanship in flair bartending, Tony loves judging the Roadhouse World Finals,

“Every year, without a doubt, the Roadhouse World Finals produces something special. For me I really look forward to seeing something new and original on that stage, as the hardest and most prestigious competition to win in the calendar, the competitors really pull out all the stops and will always come with something new that we haven’t seen before – this is what I look forward to most.”

Certainly no stranger to originality on the flair bartending stage, Tony is probably best known for his use of his bartenders apron during his flair performances. Making a cameo appearance at this year’s Bottle Tin is King at the Roadhouse, Tony brought back these original moves with style including his famous Apron Roll.

flair competition

What does the Roadhouse mean to you?

As a bit of a veteran on the scene and having spent many years in and around London, we asked Tony what the Roadhouse means to him:

As a venue, the Roadhouse is of course one of the best drinking destinations in the capital. I first discovered the Roadhouse when I was a teenager – many, many years ago! It was the go to place for many who worked in the bar and hospitality industry so it has always been the place to meet friends and have a drink in London. When it comes to flair however, the Roadhouse is even more important. By far the biggest and best flair competition in the world – mainly due to the number of years it has been around – if you look back over the last 16 years of the competition it is easy to see how the Roadhouse is the most important date of the year. More or less all the greatest flair bartenders in the world have either won the Roadhouse World Finals or one of the other Roadhouse competitions“.


For me over the course of recent history, three battles sum up what the Roadhouse World Finals are really all about. The 2003 UK Final and 2004 & 2015 World Finals will always stand out for me. Tom Dyer stepped up to the stage and blew everyone away with the first 3 bottle, tin move. Again to go back to originality, for me this is what the Roadhouse means to me: the date each and every year where I can almost guarantee I will see something truly new and original on the Flair stage. Considering this was back in 2004 and 12 years later the Roadhouse is still pushing flair forward and producing huge levels of excitement, I think speaks volumes about The Roadhouse World Finals“.

flair competition

What do you want to see on the Roadhouse stage in years to come?

The Roadhouse has been running for 16 years and is the worlds biggest and most revered flair bartending competition. It has changed a bit over the years and we want to know what Tony would like to see from the Roadhouse World Finals over the coming years:

To forget the competitors themselves for a minute and to talk about what I personally want to see on that stage from a professional perspective: what I really want to see is not just a great performance but also a fantastic looking drink at the end of it. Sometimes it can feel like the cocktail is a mere add on to throwing a load of bottles around – an afterthought. I’m not just looking to see a few original and balls-out moves, but also a clearly well made and measured cocktail – after all we are bartenders first and flair bartenders second”.


I think if each and every year competitors at the Roadhouse World Finals were to share their focus a little more evenly between the flair bartending performance and the professional bartending – the Roadhouse World Finals would only get better. There is a thin line between being flash and arrogant and being cool on the stage. Being or appearing cool is what keeps the crowd entertained and excited, the crowd do not just go mad for the moves, they want to be entertained, they want to dance and move along to the music during the performance and be surprised and amazed by the choreography. I want to see the packed bars, crazy crowds and more money in the flair bartending industry from avenues such as sponsorship – their isn’t a great deal of money in the industry at the moment for bartenders and this needs to change.

flair competition

What do you want to see from the competitors this year?

When it comes to the competitors specifically, everyone approaches the Roadhouse World Finals stage differently. As you will see from our past interviews with some of this years big favourites, each and every flair bartender has their own area and style that they are focussing on. For some that is originality, for others it is showmanship and choreography, similarly each judge will have their own perspective on what they are looking to see from competitors this year. We took the opportunity to dive deeper in to what 10 year veteran flair judge Tony Adams would be looking for:

For me a winner on that stage has to have the full package. Originality, professionalism, showmanship and technical skill. The cocktail needs to be relevant to the performance and not come across as an afterthought, I want to see some truly original moves – not just a move we have seen before with a slight alteration, and a bit of humour and engagement with the audience on the stage“.


As well as originality I want to witness a whole story on stage, a story of connections, relevance throughout the whole routine – as I have already touched on, perhaps making a cocktail as part of the whole performance rather than cramming it into the 30 seconds at the end. Also smiling and engaging with the crowd is really important in my eyes, after all without the crowd there is no show“.

flair competition

The Roadhouse World Finals

Who knows? Who will be the winner this year. Whatever happens we wish all the competitors the best of luck. The Roadhouse World Finals will be going down at The Roadhouse in Covent Garden, London, this weekend! 27th November 5.00pm-11.55pm. Tickets are available from the Facebook page and The winner will get £10,000 and the crown of Best Flair Bartender in the World. Over 16 years only 9 people have won it, will we have a 10th this year?

flair competition