Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 6 p.m.
With the art of mixology washing over the Las Vegas bar scene, it’s easy to forget about the city’s most classic cocktail spectacle: flair bartending.
Though not without its campy charms, the practice is not to be pooh-poohed as a cheesy tourist attraction. From glass-tossing to bottle flipping, flair bartending is equal parts culinary art and acrobatic skill, with prestigious international competitions drawing the world’s premier flair bartenders to face off year after year. Las Vegas’ flair bars have come and gone over the years, but many of the classics still remain. From mainstays to newcomers, here’s a look at the best places to catch flair bartending in town.
Carnival Court at Harrah's
Carnival Court combines the entertainment you expect from the Las Vegas Strip with ease of a spirited outdoor street fair. The flair bartenders could double as magicians, incorporating sleight of hand, balancing acts and feats of flexibility into their mixology routines. Come thirsty — these friendly barkeeps like to get up close and personal with their pours.
Voodoo Lounge at Rio
Located on the Rio’s 51st floor, Voodoo helped popularize both rooftop nightlife and flair bartending in Las Vegas. The latter makes for a perfect complement to the class and sass of the venue’s New Orleans-inspired decor, making for an evening that’s less a chi-chi nightclub than a dance party with a view; even bottle service comes with its own bit of flair, including exotic mixers and a booklet of daring drink recipes to try out.
Kahunaville at T.I.
There’s a reason Kahunaville bills itself as “the original party bar.” With its tropical island theme, lei girls, live DJ and oxygen bar, it’s almost impossible not to feel like you’re on vacation, and the nightly flair bartending only helps up the let-loose factor. Kahunaville draws an eclectic mix of bartending talent, with mixologists hailing from as far as Sweden and Uruguay. Their flair styles are just as eclectic — expect to see everything from juggling bottles to musical instruments incorporated into the spectacles.
The Golden Gate
The Golden Gate is downtown’s flagship for flair, serving up cocktails that are as delightfully complex as their routines. Their staff is so dedicated to the art, in fact, that flairtender Eric Parker will be representing the United States at the International Bar Association Flairtening Challenge this week in Beijing. He’ll be serving up a specially-crafted concoction dubbed the “Perfect Sunrise” — be sure to stop in to get one upon his return.
The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar at Margaritaville lives up to its name; beer is quite literally on the mind as flairtenders can found balancing bottles of brew on their forehead while pouring a customer a frosty pint. Others serve signature tequila concoctions with just the kind of pizzaz and potency you might need at the end of a long workday — or the start of a night in Vegas.
Rock & Rita's at Circus Circus
A newcomer to the flair bar scene, Rock & Rita’s boasts hearty American cuisine (barbecue is their specialty) with an international, top-ranked flairtending staff. For these guys, this is no hobby — they mean business, and they come touting resumes that include performing for the Queen of England and the Prince of Bahrain. Their feats range from tossing up bottles with their chins to balancing glasses on the tips of utensils. The venue also hosts flairtending competitions and stream a flairtending channel on their website.