Tuesday, October 13, 7:30 p.m.
I watched in wide-eyed glee as the bottles made high, confident arcs in the air, and my pulse raced in spite of myself; I beamed smiles of appreciation and encouragement at each TGI Friday’s flair competitor, probably more so than a responsible competition judge should. But TGIF’s staff wear their hearts and flair-lust—like their many buttons and pins—on their very sleeves. And vests. And collars and belt buckles … “TGIF: Thank God I Flair,” one competitor’s tee read when he ripped off his shirt to reveal it like a skinny un-green Incredible Hulk. Their flair isn’t the stuff of the competitions I’ve seen before (read: precise), but it is all joy, all heart.
Still, the joy of drinking was tempered by the knowledge that the same strong hand that squeezed and plopped two lime wedges into my Cape Codder had also just scooped up a bottle from the floor mat (its third time down there), and had just moments before been required by corporate culture to shake everyone’s hand at the bar.
Swine flu cocktail, ma’am? No thank you, my good man, I’ll just have a Purell.
I’ve said it many times and many ways: I’m quite over flair. And yet, like a tide or a boomerang, it keeps coming back. So perhaps it is I who should be sitting up and taking notice? All right, flair, I’m listening.
What was hard not to notice: the loss of liquor as it sprayed and dribbled in every direction except that of a glass as the helicopter twirls sent a ray of vodka right over my head; the way errant bottles made straight for the stacks of fresh glasses like a game of ninepins; and the way I smelled afterward, positively hosed down with the makings of other people’s drinks.
But dammit if I didn’t have one hell of a good time!
I was sitting with friends after the Weekly’s pizza cocktail competition Sunday, discussing all of this and how a nightclub GM had just mentioned—with an abundance of pride—that his venue had just gone flair. It made sense for the locals venue with the friendly bartenders that everyone seemed to know from somewhere. So flair class continued behind the bar all night, though we had to respectfully interrupt as someone also needed to learn to make the perfect Old Fashioned. Once my drink is in front of me, sweetheart, you can flair to your heart’s content!
“I think it’s a function of the economic situation that this inexpensive hybrid of entertainment and drinking should come back into vogue,” I concluded over my now-perfect Old Fashioned, echoing the sentiments of a Silverton rep who had commented along the same lines when the casino last month debuted Flare, a new casino-center bar with flair shows throughout the night. Not as boisterous as the heavily touristic Carnaval Court at Harrah’s, Flare Bar is a more subtle, stylish and interesting new amenity for the loyal Silverton gaming locals. The bartenders are very proficient cocktail-makers as well as bottle-flippers.
Finally finding itself in the hands of an older, local, slot machine-gaming audience, the rep said, flair has trickled down over the years from being the newest cutting-edge innovation to a marketable tourist trend to a mid-scale local diversion. Most flair venues in Vegas were at one time the height of trendiness, and are now solid tourist destinations: Carnaval Court, Shadow Bar, Kahunaville, the Rio … It’s natural, he continued, this next step of flair finding its way into the locals casinos.
The Silverton’s not the only one to figure this out. Indeed, the Gold Coast’s TGI Friday’s was packed to the rafters that Tuesday night with the fiercely loyal friends and patrons of competing bartenders from locations Valley-wide. Even the sports bar and nightclub formerly known as 40/40 has seemingly found success (sans flair of course) as Lagasse’s Stadium, embracing the mid-scale dollar with its dependable beer and gourmet wing sales, leaving the bottle service and celebrity worship out on the corner.
And not that it took much effort, but even I have thoroughly enjoyed—again, in spite of myself—a Deadline Beater (Guinness and Lindemans Framboise lambic) or two and a flair show by Terri Leeseberg at Flare Bar.
Believe me, no one was more shocked than I!