Tuesday
Jul152008

First Time in Las Vegas: Part One

If you've never been to Las Vegas, there's no city in the world like it. I've been there 5-6 times for vacation, and even lived there for about 4 months, so I occasionally get people asking me what they should do during their first time there. Granted things change in Las Vegas like a stripper changes baby daddies, and it's been a year since I've been back. Nevertheless, my friends Johnny and Deb of The Great Dane will be spending 4 days there this weekend – the perfect amount of time – so I thought I'd put together a helpful itinerary. If you ever get to Las Vegas, print this up and take it with you.

For me, the two absolute can't miss places are: 1) Carnaval Court at Harrah's, and 2) the Voodoo Lounge at The Rio.

I'm admittedly smitten by Carnaval Court because it's the Vatican City of Flair Bartending – sitting at the bar is like worshipping at the altar. The best flair bartenders in the world would give their middle nut to work here. And the best ones do work here: Mig, Ati, Christian, Flippy, and more - their truly amazing skills are second only to their amazing service. Most important to the patron: it's casual, friendly, fun, and absolutely amazing. It's one of the only outdoor places on the strip, and even when it's cold at night, they have heaters around the bar that make you forget about a cold desert night. What I love most about this bar is that it's come-as-you-are, which is tough to find in Vegas. No dress code that I know of – you'll see people in suits and people in Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. It's open 3 pm till 3 am, and it's every bit as fun regardless of when you go. The bartenders are some of the most amazing in the world (legitimately) and are worth the trip to Vegas just for themselves. Outside of that, it's a fun dance party, as opposed to a pretentious nightclub (which is the norm in Las Vegas.) Generally, there's no cover charge, though if they do have one, it's $5-10. They usually have a live band or a good DJ, and you can dance or even play blackjack while everything is going on. Carnaval Court at Harrah's is a true Las Vegas gem. If you go to Las Vegas and miss it, you're kind of a douche.

A close second, but in a much different way, is The Voodoo Lounge, at the Rio, located just across Highway 15 on the other side of The Strip. Take a cab, it's worth the $10. The Rio is a very fun, unpretentious casino, much like Harrah's (it's owned by Harrah's Properties), and it's Voodoo Lounge is the most upscale rendition of what they have to offer. It's located on the 51st floor, with a walkout patio, which gives you a phenomenal view of Las Vegas Strip that few other venues offer. Inside it's an intimate club with great table service (and a truly worthwhile dinner if you're interested and get there before 10.) They have a house band that really rocks and can take just about any request you can throw at them. At nighttime, the view of the Las Vegas and the surrounding desert is truly breath-taking.

When I lived in Las Vegas, I spent a little too much time at Pure in Caesar's. Go there and you'll find out why. This place redefines the word nightclub. It's pretty ridiculous. Be sure to spend some time upstairs on the 2nd floor balcony. Oh, and I believe The Pussycat Dolls still perform nightly, which of course had nothing to do with my time spent there.

Tao at the Venetian is a sight to behold, if you don't mind waiting in line. Truly one of the more bizarre/impressive nightclubs I've ever been too, Tao sums up Las Vegas – though I'm pretty sure they charge a $20-40 cover, which is pretty common. I've heard Jet at The Riviera is just as good, as is Light at Bellagio. Also, MGM is a casino worth seeing – the Drop Bar was pretty cool last time I was there, but I heard they might not still be there. And there's a Hard Rock Casino in Vegas, though it's a 5 minute cab ride from the strip. It's not a necessary stop, but it is a great hangout for the 20-30 year-old jet set crowd, and they have a good bar, a decent restaurant, good gaming, and everything else worthwhile. There's also a small bar across the street that many big name bands play at, and you're likely to meet them after the show at the Circle Bar at Hard Rock (my friend played blackjack with Jamie Foxx and Steven Tyler one night for hours here...)

At all of these clubs except Carnaval and Voodoo, get used to standing. Tables are reserved for bottle service only. Your $40 cover charge and your $10 Heineken doesn't earn you the right to sit.

Read Part Two:

Tuesday
Jul152008

I'm not huge in Japan. Yet.

Actually, I'm bigger in Mongolia than I am in Japan.

Anyone familiar with running websites is probably familiar with Google Analytics, a nifty little program that gives you all sorts of fascinating metrics about the traffic your site receives. For instance, it tells me how many people have visited my site today, if they were referred from another site, and what state or country they live in, among other things. Don't worry, Big Brother, everything is completely anonymous, and it's aggregated, so there's no way for me to know anything about this site's individual visitors, not that I would want to. It's just a jacked up traffic counter.

What's nifty is that in the last month, this site has had visitors from all 50 states, except for North Dakota, Mississippi, and Rhode Island. Sooooo, if you know anyone in the colder of the Dakotas or anyone in M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i, tell 'em about www.christhebartender.com. I want to see if we can rock someone from every state right here. Except Rhode Island. Fuck Rhode Island.

Monday
Jul142008

Flair 101 - The Swipe Thru

Here we go with week 4. And as we do every week, let's review the all-important practice guidelines.
Rules of Flair:
1. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Practice at home, perform at work. Never try anything at work that you can't land at least 90% of the time at home.
3. Always flair safely. Never flair without mats on the ground. Never flair around co-workers who aren't comfortable with it or who don't know how to move around you. Never flair drunk.
4. Practice with empty Malibu bottles (the plastic wrap holds it together in case it breaks) or get a practice bottle from my bar store.
5. Practice with both your left and right hands.
6. Have fun.
7. The FBA motto: Service first, flair second, competition always!


Monday
Jul072008

Flair 101 - Flat From Behind the Back

Here we go with week 3. And as we do every week, let's review the all-important practice guidelines.
Rules of Flair:
1. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Practice at home, perform at work. Never try anything at work that you can't land at least 90% of the time at home.
3. Always flair safely. Never flair without mats on the ground. Never flair around co-workers who aren't comfortable with it or who don't know how to move around you. Never flair drunk.
4. Practice with empty Malibu bottles (the plastic wrap holds it together in case it breaks) or get a practice bottle from my bar store.
5. Practice with both your left and right hands.
6. Have fun.
7. The FBA motto: Service first, flair second, competition always!


Monday
Jun302008

Flair 101 - The Stall

Here we go with week 2. And as I will every week, let's review the all-important practice guidelines.
Rules of Flair:
1. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Practice at home, perform at work. Never try anything at work that you can't land at least 90% of the time at home.
3. Always flair safely. Never flair without mats on the ground. Never flair around co-workers who aren't comfortable with it or who don't know how to move around you. Never flair drunk.
4. Practice with empty Malibu bottles (the plastic wrap holds it together in case it breaks) or get a practice bottle from my bar store.
5. Practice with both your left and right hands.
6. Have fun.
7. The FBA motto: Service first, flair second, competition always!
Let's Go!

Wednesday
Jun252008

Strip and Go Naked

I was introduced to this drink by a few undegrads at Kansas State University who referred to it as a Summer Beer. However, my boss Tommy knows it as a Strip and Go Naked. If the Kansas kids had called it that, I might've had a better understanding of how I woke up the way I did.

So here's a fantastic summer drink, great for sunny afternoons and cookouts. Don't expect to find this drink in any bars, as it is strictly a make-it-yourself kind of cocktail (think of it as the drink equivalent of hotdish.)

The ingredients are simple:
1 - Big cup
1 - can of frozen lemonade concentrate
2 - bottles of your favorite light-ish beer. Corona, Miller Lite, Leine's Honey, etc.
As much vodka as you like.

Mix the ingredients together in a big cup and enjoy. The lemonade concentrate mixes quite nicely with the beer, making a lemony-slushy beer that is perfectly refreshing... and happens to mask the flavor of just about any amount of vodka. BE CAREFUL on this one and don't overload it. I think I had two of them before I... well, that's another story.

Please drink responsibly. I don't want to get sued.

Monday
Jun232008

Flair 101 - Flat Behind the Back

Rules of Flair:
1. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Practice at home, perform at work. Never try anything at work that you can't land at least 90% of the time at home.
3. Always flair safely. Never flair without mats on the ground. Never flair around co-workers who aren't comfortable with it or who don't know how to move around you.
4. Practice with empty Malibu bottles (the plastic wrap holds it together in case it breaks) or get a practice bottle from my bar store.
5. Practice with both your left and right hands.
6. Have fun.

Let's Go!

Wednesday
Jun112008

Summertime Cocktail

Wherever you are in the world, I'm sure summer is in full swing by now - except for south of the equator. For the rest of us, it's time to enjoy some refreshing summertime cocktails. We're gonna start today with a trendy classic: the Mojito. A Cuban original, the mojito's popularity hit its stride a few years back when Halle Berry strutted out of the water as the newest James Bond girl and ordered a mojito from the beach bar.
Here's your ingredients:
1 1/2 oz. white rum (Bacardi works well)
2 slices lime
sugar (sugar cubes are great, but packets work just the same)
fresh mint leaves
soda water (aka seltzer, carbonated water)
ice cubes

Start with the mint leaves, one slice of lime, and as much sugar as you want. Two sugar cubes will suffice for most people, put I don't care for dry or unsweetened drinks, so I add enough sugar to kill a diabetic. Place those ingredients in your nearest clean glass and muddle them together for a minute. If you don't have a muddler, a bottle of beer turned upside down works just as well. Grind the ingredients for 10-20 seconds, just long enough to release the oils from the mint leaves, break up the sugar, and squeeze out some lime juice. Add the rum, ice cubes, and soda water. I like to give mine a quick shake just to mix up the ingredients. Use the last piece of lime and a leftover mint spring for garnish. Enjoy. Rinse, repeat.

That's a mojito in a nutshell. I like to add in raspberries or peaches during the muddle, giving them a whole different flavor.

One piece of advice: please don't order one in an insanely busy bar. Yeah, mojitos are great, but any drink that takes that long to make is sure to earn the ire of the bartender and leave you wondering why he's politely ignoring you the next time you approach the bar.

Monday
Jun092008

A Preview of What's to Come....

I thought we'd start the week with a preview of what's to come. Every Monday I will be uploading a video teaching you a new flair bartending maneuver. We'll cover it all, from bottle flipping to cherry catching to drink mixing. And most importantly, we'll be starting from scratch with the most basic skills so if you've never flipped a bottle in your life, you can start right along with us. And best of all, it's free!

In the meantime, just in case I needed to, I thought I'd post a couple videos in order to "qualify" myself as a flair instructor. The first video is short one of Ben Galaviz and I entertaining at Kahunaville. Keep your eyes open around the 38 second mark for my sickest 1-bottle 1-tin 1-HAND move.

And for a bigger overview, here's a video of what the full Kahunaville flair show entails, featuring myself, Ben Galaviz, David Tatro, and Jeremy Endres (whom I will be guest bartending with next Tuesday night at the Ivory Room - if you don't get my invite on facebook, be sure to friend me and be sure to join us!!) Enjoy the show and get your bottles and tins ready for next Monday!

Thursday
May012008

Flair Bartending 101: Come Learn!

Flair Classes are finally here!!

For five consecutive Monday nights at 7pm, beginning May 12, I will be teaching a flair bartending class in the basement of Madison's Downtown, off the Capitol Loop. If you already know a few moves and you're looking to expand your skills, sharpen your shadow pass, learn a few 2 item moves, this class is for you. Or if you have never flipped a bottle but always wanted to learn, this class is for you.

Instruction will focus entirely on Working Flair – that is, flair that can be used behind your bar in the everyday working environment. Emphasis will be placed on safety, building or expanding your repertoire of moves, and how to increase your tips. If you practice enough, the class should pay for itself in the extra tips you will be making.

Class will last over an hour each Monday night. In order to keep instruction personal and focused, space is limited to 10/class. Signup early! In order to signup, email chris@barspecials.com. Classes are $15 each night, or $10 each if you bring a friend.

All classes are taught by me, Chris The Bartender, former bar manager and flair instructor of Kahunaville in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin's only full flair nightclub. I've been a member of the Flair Bartender Association since 2002, and have competed internationally, with a 1st place win in Ohio's Bottles for Buckeyes, Rookie Division, and 1st place at King of Kahunaville, overall.

If you have any questions, call me anytime at 608-345-2789 or email chris@barspecials.com.

Monday
Apr072008

Media Monday

The interweb at work was down all day Friday, thanks to AT&Ts craptastic installation timeline. I apologize to those Filthy Friday fans that missed their daily dose. I promise something special this Friday to make up for it.

In the meantime, check out this video from Funny or Die. Note: it is not safe for work, unless your boss has a potty mouth. Enjoy.

Thursday
Apr032008

Flair in the Twin Cities, Update

I just got an email from Brian Zachau, who I'd forgotten runs a sweet business with Paul. Check them out at 4LiquidMotion. I've also added a link in the sidebar.

So, Mr. Anonymous, get your ass in touch with the masters, and I'll see you at the competition we're planning for September in Madison.

Cheers Brian!

Thursday
Apr032008

Flair in the Twin Cities

This post is for Anonymous who left a comment earlier asking about flair bartending in the Twin Cities.

Yes!! There are definitely places to learn flair bartending in Minneapolis, though they may not be in the traditional classroom setting. If you're willing to step out of your comfort zone, I'm sure a handful of flair bartenders in the Cities would be glad to have you join them for some practice and teaching.

Minneapolis is home to some of my favorite, and well-accomplished, bartenders. Brian Zachau, who works at a TGI Friday's in the suburbs, has won the "Best Bartender in the U.S." the last four years at the Global TGI Friday's Competition. And Paul "The Mad Russian" Trczianko, is easily one of the top 10 American flair bartenders on the circuit right now, and has been for the last few years. I've had the pleasure of competing with Paul, and the pleasure of drowning my tears in a drink he bought me after he cleaned up the competition. Paul used to work in Block E, but I heard he's at TGI Friday's as well nowadays. Minneapolis is also home to Jeff Rogers, my original mentor, and truly the finest bartender I've ever worked with - a consummate gentleman and bartender. Last I heard, Jeff is no longer in the game, but Paul would know better than I.

There are a handful of other competitors I've crossed paths with from the Twin Cities, but those three stand out as being not only the most accomplished, but also the ones most likely to be teaching a class at any given time (or know someone who is.)

Also, if you haven't already, drop the damn $50 on a membership to the Flair Bartender Association. It'll put you in contact with everyone who flips bottles in the Cities, and for that it's worth every penny and then some. Seriously, if you've been dragging your feet on joining, stop. If you're a flair bartender, or you'd like to be, membership to this organization is the first step.

Good luck to you Mr. Anonymous. Be sure to keep me posted.
And remember Service First, Flair Second, Competition Always.

Wednesday
Apr022008

The Funk is Official.

Anyone who knows me, or knows the music scene in Madison, knows that I'm a big fan of Clyde Stubblefield. And anyone who's ever shaken their tail feather to Clyde, is a big fan. I've been happy to work Monday nights as my bar hosted the Clyde Stubblefield Band while their previous venue, the King Club, was being renovated.

Today, I'm honored to announce, the Clyde Stubblefield Show will officially make Madison's its home on Monday nights. That. Is. Great. News.

Just a quick recap on Clyde's credentials, if you need them:
1) Drummer for James Brown 1965-1970.
2) The Original Funky Drummer.
3) Most sampled drummer ever.
4) Recorded "Cold Sweat" "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" "Ain't It Funky Now" and the album Sex Machine. That's right, Sex Machine.

And for the record, it's not just Clyde whaling away on the drums. It's a full 11-piece band, with a brass section, guitar, keyboard, 3 singers, bongos, and then some. And it's not just the only thing to do on Monday nights, it's also one of the best things to do all week. Come find the funk you've been missing.

Tuesday
Apr012008

Media... Tuesday?

I remember this line of commercials from back when I was a kid, mostly because Bubba from the Police Academy movies made me giggle. And it's good to know John Madden was always that way.

RIP Rodney...

Monday
Mar242008

Media Monday

After the Budweiser and Heineken ads, I'm gonna give a little fair time for Miller to do it's thing. Miller has had literally dozens of ad schemes you might remember from over the decades (we'll revisit Tastes Great/Less Filing another time) and one of my favorites that seemed to disappear to quickly was the Man Law series. Here's two of my favorites:

and somehow eye candy apparently sells beer...

Monday
Mar172008

Media Monday

We'll get back to commercials next week, but for now this is too good to pass up. Thanks to Tommy for sending me this one. You may have seen it before, but that doesn't matter. It still makes me laugh, even on the 20th time.

Who knew pouring flammable liquid into your mouth (while on fire) wasn't a bright idea?

Monday
Mar102008

Media Mondays!

Welcome to a new feature for christhebartender.com: Media Mondays!! Every week I'm going to put a video clip worth checking out. Last week's research that dug up the Budweiser commercial was so fun that I thought I'd share a number of the video clips and commercials that I found, meted out one at a time. So...

Let's begin with My Favorite Beer Commercial of All Time. As a bartender and a joke teller, this one from Heineken warms my heart.

(It may take longer than usual to load, but it's worth it)

Thursday
Mar062008

The Green Fairy

Score one for the good guys in the drug war. In case you haven't heard, absinthe is once again legal in the US.

It seems that around the turn of the new year, the market was re-opened for absinthe in America. My research makes it sound like all it took was a single lawyer writing a few nasty letters to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, but I've got a hunch he may have flipped them the bird and dropped a few F-bombs, too. Either way, they've lifted the restriction on the trade of alcoholic beverages containing small amounts of thujone, i.e. absinthe.

Opening a new spirit market is bound to invite all kinds of prospectors. Marilyn Manson has been distilling his absinthe, Mansinthe, abroad and will likely move a few units in the lower 48. And apparently the same people in California who bring you Hangar One Vodka and all its fine flavors will be the first distillery in America to produce and market the first original American absinthe of the new century. My favorite quote from an article covering this monumental occasion:

"On Monday, the small artisan distillery sold its token first bottle, becoming the only American company since 1912 to sell absinthe in the United States. Then the staff took a moment to celebrate.

"We made champagne and absinthe cocktails, which rapidly degenerated into just sipping absinthe out of the bottle with crazy straws," said Lance Winters, a 42-year-old master distiller at the seven-employee company.


Say what you will about the legend, the myth, the history. Their 11-year-in-the-making product launch "rapidly degenerat[ing] into just sipping absinthe out of the bottle with crazy straws" tells me everything I need to know.

 

To further whet your appetite, check out this great article from Salon.

Wednesday
Mar052008

Advertising

I've been reading a lot about advertising lately, about New Media, about the old paradigm, about what sells, how sex sells, viral marketing, guerilla marketing, and other really intelligent babble that just rolls around in your head. But there's a simple truth: funny is funny. And people want to share funny things with their friends. And they end up passing the word along for you. And that is good marketing.

No one does this better than Budweiser. Liquor and beer companies in general have pretty entertaining marketing. And while Miller Lite has scored some points lately with their "Good Call" football officials, Budweiser consistently cracks my shit up. You may remember the Real American Hero radio commercials, which after 9/11 turned into Real Men of Genius. The Male Cheerleader. Taco Salad Inventor. Giant Foam Finger Maker. They made me listen to the radio to hear the commercials.

More Budweiser, still in fine form: