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Flipping the bottle

Author: KELSEY HOLM
Source: WCF Courier

 

Sara Weichers and Tiffany Klahn attempt to spin glasses and toss into the air cocktail shakers, two of the many talents taught at the ExtremeBartending.com seminar.

CEDAR FALLS --- It all happens so fast.

A bottle. A glass. Maybe a lime and a straw.

The items fly through the air with ease, thrown and caught with steady hands.

Before you know it, the drink is sitting in front of you. It's bartending at its finest --- bartending with flair.

Though it plays like a scene from the 1988 film "Cocktail," starring Tom Cruise as a bottle-flipping bartender, flair bartending has caught on in bars across the country over the last 15 years. And when the newest Barmuda club, Coconuts, opens April 28, flair bartending will officially come to the Cedar Valley.

Scott Young, president and owner of ExtremeBartending.com, visited Waterloo Tuesday and Wednesday to teach Coconuts bartenders the basics of stepping up their bartending game.

"This is geared toward people who want to succeed," says Young. "There's major competition out there, and whether you're a bartender, a manager or an owner ... you're selling an experience."

Young started his business in Vancouver, Canada, 10 years ago to provide a service that didn't exist in 1991, when he became interested in flair bartending. He remembers paying far too much money to learn all the moves from "Cocktail," and walking away knowing virtually nothing. Now, he focuses on teaching group seminars in multiple countries --- including Jamaica, Mexico, the Bahamas and Denmark --- and selling his 25 instruction videos and DVDs via the Internet in more than 80 countries.

For two-day seminars, like the one for the Coconuts group, Young focuses on the basics.

"It's just about making drinks in a stylish and interesting way," says Young. "A lot of people think it's juggling. It's not, but it can be. It's just a little flow, a stylish movement. But it's fast."

And Young is clear about one thing --- the customer is the important one, not the bartender.

"Our focus is on working flair and exceptional service. It's a business tool," he says. "It's not about, 'Look at me. Look at what I can do.' It's really about customer service."

Kyle Dehmlow, general manager of Coconuts, says Barmuda Corp. wants everything about the new club to be fresh in some way.

"People can drink at home," he says. "The employee interaction with the customers is key."

Early in the second day of the seminar for the Coconuts crew, Dehmlow began to see a change in the bartenders, who were at first unsure of their abilities behind a flipping bottle.

"They were all a little bit scared, but Scott eliminated any preconceived notions, and scared went out the window," says Dehmlow. "Now, they say, 'I know I can learn this.' There are so many other things than flipping."

For Young and his team, flair bartending isn't just about objects flying through the air.

"It's a joke, a smile, a game, a bet. It's a funny one-liner," says Young. "There's all different things. It's something new to bring to the table."

In the basics of flair, Young says the Coconut bartenders are learning fast, though they'll have to take home the skills he teaches them and practice on their own.

Kami Kazda has worked for Barmuda Corp. for 10 years and approached the seminar with some apprehension. Young says the percentage of females in the Coconuts group matches the bartender population in general --- about 30 percent are women. Kazda was worried the new techniques would only slow her down. But, her confidence grows with every flip.


"I'm excited, but it's hard for me. It's going slowly, but I'll get it," says Kazda. "It's fun. I'll make a mess, but it's fun."

Date: June 13th, 2005

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Scott Young, President and Head Instructor Bar Smart Inc.