It is always great to gain an insight into how other bartenders practice. You will be surprised how many people practise in different ways and with different tools. As we talked about with the favourite brands of glass bottles blog, there are no right or wrong bar tools to be practising with. In the end, it generally comes down to preference.
Flair bottles and glass bottles are the obvious choices when it comes to flair practice. However, week in week out, do some of the top flair bartenders practise with more than just bottles? What other barware comes into play? We had a chat with a number of flair bartenders who have been competing in the industry for a while, many of which have been winning Roadhouse Flair Heats this year and will be competing on the Roadhouse Grand Final stage in November…
Michael Moreni (@michaelflaironepiece) – Roadhouse Freestyle Champion ’19
“I starting flairing with flair bottles (to be more precise the flair bottles looks like Malibu) and I kept them for a long time… I think to improve the techniques as fast as possible you have to practice with flair bottles, because if you try a simply snatch with the glass bottle it’s easy to land it, but if you try the same move and your snatches aren’t clean with the flair bottle you will see it is going to be harder.
Some people think if you practice with flair bottle you are a beginner… I definitely don’t agree with that, every single time some crazy idea came up in my mind for a new moves, I try it first with my flair bottles; I remember my first Grand Final in 2017 I was in the practice area and I was expecting the floor was full of glass a kind of hell, but it wasn’t!!! You know why all because all the big names warm up with flair bottles !!!
So I think you understand it already but YES I am still using flair bottles !!!! I use some from The Bars to improve my juggling skills and 2 from FlyBottles – 1 of soft ones for learning some crazy taps and bumps, these are great as they don’t give you bruises on the left arm and one normal one for the multi-object stuff. That said though it’s really important to practice with glass bottles as well, especially for the signature moves… I give you a couple of examples: Tony Mallin Grand Marnier move, Sikky Disaronno move, Tom Dyer Grand Marnier move etc…” – Discover the FlyBottle range of flair bottles here
Riky Bin (@rikybin) – Roadhouse Bottle Tin is King Champion ’19
“In my opinion, the type of bottles and tins are really important in flair, every bottle has a different shape, weight, etc. For 3 years for glass bottles I use Captain Morgan with tape ( white, I prefer) on the neck for exhibition, they are really light and also I love the shape for rolls and they are really good for multi-object. For working flair I use a Bacardi or Monin bottle, but most of the time you need to use the sponsor’s bottle for the competition!
For the tins I use the Beaumont TM 30oz wide top, those are big boys! Heavy and good for rolls and stall, really good to control but a bit too heavy for multi-object. I don’t usually use flair bottles, I like to practice with glass bottles, but In case I have some Flairco and FlyBottles! I think in the end that you can practice with any bottles and tins the important part is practice, you need to get used to your equipment and practice is the best way!”
Bryan Levato (@bryanlevato)
“I practice my flair mostly with glass bottles. I started to flair with the old-style Bacardi bottle, even though they switched to the new shape I adapted to it and now find they are the perfect balance for my flair. I also like to roll spin the Chambord bottle on my arm and use the top as a jigger. I also practice flair with the bar spoons and fine strainer to make my shaken cocktails.”
Roman Zapata (@romanzapata) – Roadhouse World Open Winner, March ’19
“I practice a lot with tins and prefer Piazza tins, they just fit perfect to me, great quality and the big size tins are the ones I prefer and been using for the last 4 years. Then for bottles, I started with Flairco / bar products back in 2008 and using them like for many years. Since I moved to Italy I started using the bars as my training bottles instead because they are way lighter and they have a partnership with the school where I work. I also really enjoy using the FlyBottle from France, which developed the soft and semi-soft bottles, these bottles are perfect for training individual technical moves and combinations like taps, bounces and stalls with so much less risk of hurting yourself. Anyways at home, I have many different plastic bottle brands so I have fun training with all of them!”
Ravi Camadoo (@ravicamadoo)
“Ok so to break it down, when I practice I always like to use glass bottles. My preferred choice of bottle is Monin, for a few reasons… but mainly because after Bacardi changed, I had to find something else and it was fairly easy to save in my bar because everyone else was using Stoli at that time!
Only recently have I joined the gang of Malibu juggling enthusiasts, and I will explain why: Since the beginning of 2019, I’ve been progressively improving my multiple bottle skills. I don’t like to practice with plastics, and I rarely do today. However, when I was trying to teach myself some new skills with 3 /4 bottles I found it very dangerous at first (bottle collisions etc) so I borrowed 4 unbranded “flairco shaped” plastic flair bottles and began each session with those. After a few weeks, when I felt more comfortable, I applied the new moves to glass. I soon found though, as the shape of the plastics I had been practising with was very different from my usual Monins, it actually felt uncomfortable and I wasn’t enjoying the feeling with these bottles. So alas I picked up the nearest shape to the plastics, and immediately found the fun again!
The tins I use are in fact the silver weighted shakers straight off the WFA website. The number one reason was when I first came across them they were only £2/3 -less than half the price of the powder-coated ones! – and you can’t be too picky when ballin’ on a budget!
For many years before I moved back to London I was using white powder coated tins. In Australia, the flair competitions were often far from perfect condition, lighting usually was the issue. So my friends and I put our money together and we made one giant order from bar products in America. Each of us buying brightly coloured tins (white, yellow, green). These kept me satisfied for many years. However, it was one competition in Jakarta that forced me to grow up. In the rules, it stated, in a polite way, that we were not allowed to use bashed up, old equipment, and after 4 years practising in parks, my shakers were definitely scratched up and not looking pretty!
To be fair for most of my practice, shakers and bottles are all I need. But when preparing for competitions and building routines, I leave no chance for error and I will pull every piece of equipment that I need. From ice scoops to juice bottles. By the time the competition arrives I’ve set my bar up and learned my routine so well that I know where I am in every section and to which beat I am on cue with…or at least that’s the plan!”
Jean-Marc Pothier (@jean-marcpothier)
“I like to practise with flairco bottles, those bottles are universal, you can do bottle tin, multi objects or even 2/3 bottles. In my option, if you land a move with a flairco, you can land it with any type of glass bottle. In the flair room, I use “stainless steel tins, it’s really a good and strong product, but for competition, I prefer white-coated tins because they are heavier and wider. Cocktail kingdom and his famous Hoffman bar spoon are my favourite to make some craft flair, it’s well balanced and the perfect size for me.
The old Bacardi bottles were the best ever created to flair in exhibition and working in my opinion, with the best shape and weight. I still have a few in stock, I know some bartenders who are ready to pay a billion to get those jewels in their hand! Right now I use Captain Morgan bottles to practice and to compete, and for the 2/3/4 bottles, I flair with old Malibu bottles, they are robust and don’t break easily. All those bottles are old but gold trust me.”
Marian ‘Sikky’ Chmel (@marianchmel) – Roadhouse Battle Comp Champ ’19
“I am quite particular about practice. Since I started people around me who showed me the basics put in my head the harder you work the better results you will get. This applies especially for bottles. For glass bottles, I used to practice with the old shape of Bacardi, then they changed and I switched into the old Stoli. A few years after I switched to the new Stoli as we had them in our speed rail at work and so it was easy to get hold of them! Now I am currently practising exhibition with new Bacardi’s and Malibu bottles. For working flair, I am trying every competition to show people that bartenders can flair with any bottles so I’m trying to use a different bottle at every stage.
Flair bottles are perfect for trying new moves. I still have my old flairco bottles but I’m in love with FlyBottle especially the rubber one which can give you great confidence practising new dangerous moves
For bar equipment, In past years I’ve been buying tins from the WFA shop as they have amazing prices (bartender friendly 😁). Flair guys are using two different sizes but I choose the bigger one. I have small hands so for me it would be better to have smaller ones but bigger ones give me another challenge, which forces me to slow my moves so people can understand my flair better. They also have better snatching and better sound if you snatch them properly!
I also switched a few years ago into metal pour spout only! So even exhibition flair is with metal pour spouts so that is giving me a new challenge and I’m waiting when will people realise that even if it’s old school but difficult way.”
Nico Valimaki (@nicovalimaki)
“First of all, I love to play with pretty much all of the stuff I have behind the bar when I am working! Sneaky moves – quick and funny is the way I like it! Throwing ice cubes was one of the first things I started doing. I remember watching Migdouglas doing it in Carnival Court in Las Vegas back in the days and it looked super funny and entertaining!
Tin-on-tin shakers are of course my favourite tools behind the bar! I always try to develop some new and cool quick moves with those. Jiggers and spoons are on my list as well, but I think I need to put a bit more effort into practice with them at the moment.
For working flair I’m ok with any type of bottle when I am working. You can always improve your skills with any shape and style of different bottles. But for exhibition, I personally like to use the Monin 700ml bottle! For me, it is the best shape and it fits my hand the best as well as the old Bacardi bottle. Then again, for juggling, I like to use Malibus. The new Malibu bottle is great and well balanced too, but I still prefer to use the old mango Malibu bottles for my routines.
In the end, my absolute favourite object is my hat. Spin it, roll on top of it, stall it, tap it! Use it for your craft and choreography. Yeah, it does take a while to get used to it, because at first, it’s going to just disturb you a lot!”