Back at Barefoot with Flair

FlairFest 12 will have bartenders pulling out all the stops at the Barefoot Beach Resort from July 31-Aug. 2.

Co-organizor Neil MacDonald of the 2014 Barefoot Beach Bartender Battle shows some flair of his own at the Barefoot Banana Cabana on the Skaha beach. This year's event runs July 31 to Aug. 2.

Canada’s longest running bartending competition is taking over the Barefoot Beach Resort starting Friday.

Dave Simpson, a veteran flair bartender from Kelowna, started the Bartender’s Guild over a decade ago after getting involved in flamboyant and skillful drink making. Now, he’s set to host FlairFest 12 taking over the Barefoot Beach Resort from July 31 to Aug. 2.

“Here we are 12 years later and we’ve got a pretty awesome hotbed of flair bartenders in the Okanagan, and Western Canada for that matter,” Simpson said.

Seven of the top flair bartenders from Western Canada, including the top flair bartenders in Vancouver, Kamloops, Calgary and Edmonton are on tap to show off their flashiest skills in hopes of taking the title for FlairFest 12.

Bartenders will have six minutes to make seven drinks, in the most creative way possible. They will be judged on technical skill and use of key ingredients and deducted for things like spills and breakages.

“These guys have had this drink list for months in advance, so it’s all about creating that perfect routine. Some of these guys might dress up and have a theme, some of them might set their moves to music,” Simpson said. “A lot of these guys can throw multiple objects, a lot of juggling, it’s pretty exciting stuff.”

Simpson says bartending may be the next big thing, and there has been a rise of fancy drink-fillers in Western Canada.

“You see all these cooking shows, the reality shows like Master Chef and what have you. It’s just a matter of time. The craft cocktail and classic cocktail movement has really boomed and the focus is on bartending again,” Simpson said.

“It’s definitely come a long way since the movie Cocktail,” Simpson said. “I would say it’s definitely on a rise and it has a lot to do with the focus being back on bartending. It’s not just a job you get to get you through school anymore, it’s become a profession that people are taking seriously.”

The fun starts at the Barefoot Beach Resort 6 p.m. Friday with the opening of the beverage gardens, and the Back Porch Big Move starts at 9 p.m., pitting the improvisational and creative skills of flair bartenders against each other with only a mason jar and a bottle to develop the best trick they can on the spot.

On Aug. 1, the beverage gardens open at 1 p.m. and the qualifiers begin at 3 p.m. and another round of qualifiers starts at 8 p.m. The gardens open at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 and the flair finals begin at 8 p.m. with live music from Her Brothers starting at 6 p.m.

The awards ceremony takes place at 10 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets will be available at the gate and it’s $10 for a weekend pass.


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