U FLAIR! September 2011

The Ultimate Bartending Competition in 2011

During the early 90’s until early 20th century, bartending competitions for students in the country has been linked with trade shows or culinary events. I myself joined a few but I was always wondering why there aren’t any exclusive bartending competitions. I was browsing through the internet one day and to my delight I stumbled upon the FBA (Flair Bartenders’ Association) which was based in the United States. Membership was possible online so I decided to be a member. This group helped me a lot because this was where I met all the top dogs of bartending at that time (and until now) and I got to interact with them even online.  It is here where I was inspired to put up my own bartending competition inspired and patterned after LEGENDS bartending competition which was held in Las Vegas, the mecca of bartending.

I was determined to elevate bartending here in my own little way through the students since no one was willing to at that time. This was dubbed LAST CALL! Bartending challenge. This was the first competition to do away with jiggers and do free pouring through “Working Flair”. We also had a “Pour test” that was a bonus round. I had to go through my list of schools, sponsors and friends just to make it happen. At first the dean of each school I went to were hesitant but with sheer determination they joined. The first year had around 50 participants. The following year it increased. Kolehiyala Flairshowdown was also born which was exclusive for girls. We had a good 4 year run.

All good things must come to an end for I had to work for Holland America for 2006. But before that I designed a competition for a Major juice company that had it going for 2 years. When I came back, I judged a competition, I was amazed that the skills set of students doubled but to my dismay, the technical stuff and mixology aspect decreased. Electrical tapes were all over the bottle and shakers and. No one had a spill stop 285-50. Very alarming.

It’s been around 4 years since I organized a competition but I have been brainstorming and this was the right year to introduce a new format and bring competitions back to proper perspective.

Everything fell into place and I worked with On ground activation and DKT Philippines. This year marked the beginning of a new kind of bartending for the Philippines. U FLAIR! This is Flair and Mixology combined. Objective is to make a drink on the spot in 4 minutes based on the descriptions he will draw from 2 lots.

To give you an idea, one lot has the secret ingredient like mint, orange, and banana. The other lot contains descriptions like “something fruity”, “something potent” and the list goes on. Why this kind of format? Well, in a real bar situation, a guest will come to you not knowing what to drink. The usual bartender would just recommend any drink out of the bar list. A professional bartender on the other would ask the guest what flavor he likes and from there derive and create a personal drink. I didn’t copy this from any other competition. I just thought that this is what service excellence is all about. So I wanted to make students experience this since they will be doing this when they are in a real bar.

U FLAIR! Had around 50 applicants which were trimmed down to 36. These were then spread out into 3 venues: ICON, Club Phi, and Eivissa Super Club. The Grand finals was held at Dolce Superclub. 

I missed the competition scene especially the briefing part. This is where I get to gauge how the competition will be based on their questions and comments. (Include list of students)This competition is not the only first to introduce a new concept for 2011, it is also the first to give away a PORTABLE BAR as GRAND PRIZE as well as ORIGINAL FLAIR BOTTLES as trophies. We had resident judges who were all prominent in the beverage industry in their own right. I had no chefs as judges in a bartending competition of course. The first heat at ICON was pretty tough for it was their first time for this kind of format. The judges would say were understanding but they didn’t compromise the objective of the competition. The winners of this hat were probably the ones who were focused since most of the contestants forgot to put garnish on their creations.

The second heat was held in Club Phi at Metro Walk Ortigas. The venue was bigger and the competition mode I would say was a bit prepared compared to the first which was understandable.

The third heat was done at Eiivissa Super Club at Tomas Morato. Here the main challenge was the celing forit was too low for a bartending competition.Another one was the strobe lights right above  the stage for this made some of the contestants’ move restricted. Nevertheless, they were still able to show case their metal and it was a pretty good performance by everyone.

The GRAND FINALS was held at Dolce Super Club. The execution of this one was splendidly done having a technical as well as a stage director to oversee the details. The duration of the event was like American Idol style for each contestant had an introduction video before they were introduced.

 Another highlight of this competition was the reintroduction of the POURTEST using an authentic EXACTO POUR unlike some competition that only used “TEST TUBES”. I hope this round of the competition should be present for all those who wish to come up and produce a competition themselves for this is the basic skill needed for WORKING FLAIR.

It was a nerve wracking atmosphere during the FINALS for people had no clue who was gonna win since it was  the first time to have this kind of format.

The distinguished panel of judges during the Grand finals were: Dax Jaurigue of Source Asia Business Inc., Philippe Bartholomi of Century Park, Roderick Sorino of Princess cruises and The Brand Manager of DKT Philippines Mr. Norman Campoy. I would also like to acknowledge the other judges during the elimination round which were Henry Magalona of Philippine Barista Guild and Rey Navoa also from Source Asi a Business Inc.

To conclude, I personally hope that this competition maybe a learning experience. To be a professional bartender we need to know the basics and constantly enrich ourselves with knowledge for as they say “ Knowledge is the best investment.”

Here are some pictures from this historical bartending competition. Please check this link:  Pictures of U FLAIR!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.