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Some flamboyance, some flair, some fun

There's more to bartending than mixing fancy cocktails, finds SUMITRA SENAPATY as she meets Simon Christopher Liptrott, the man who brings a new meaning to tossing off a few drinks... .



Flair bartender at Hyatt Regency's Djinns in New Delhi.

A STRANGE art, but loads of fun to watch, when Simon Christopher Liptrott can make waiting for your drink more fun than actually drinking it. The 26-year-old Briton is a flair bartender at Hyatt Regency's Djinns in New Delhi, and each night transforms mere mixology into choreography of the craziest kind. For a general idea of what he does, check out the Hollywood film "Cocktail". While Tom Cruise was responsible for leading anyone and everyone into thinking he could toss bottles around with abandon, it did help to prompt jugglers stylishly serving up concoctions in bars and taverns.

So, what is flair? Flair is the way a bartender flips, spins, throws, catches, balances, and stacks everything he touches. From napkins to glassware, stir sticks to bottles, flair is a unique form of expression and bartending is much more than just pouring drinks. A great bartender always has something cool, funny or interesting to say, and bar games build up the atmosphere.

Manchester born Simon started working at eight and has enjoyed every minute of it. "When I became a bartender, I wanted to separate myself from somebody who just pours drinks," he says. Learning the flips, rolls and glitzy moves that prompt crowds to gather around is, Simon says, "a long process. For me, it just started with a couple of basic, simple moves," he recalls - rolling the bottle, a single flip of the bottle. Then comes "juggling, multiple flips, multiple objects".

Simon practices for an average of four hours a day and has developed the deft touch that allows adaptation to such variables as bottle size, bottle shape and amount of liquor in the bottle. "You know the saying that you have to break a few eggs to make a good omelette? That's really true, especially if you're trying to learn how to do some really difficult stuff," says Simon.

He has travelled extensively through England, Greece and the U.S. to exhibit his flair, but admits to shattering a bottle or two sometimes. On an earlier visit to India, he went to Varanasi, Goa, Kerala, Hampi and Agra. "Hampi and Varanasi impressed me the most," he recollects.

Simon is also here to impart his knowledge and skills to the Djinns staff, for flair is not just about flipping bottles and cans, it is a lot more than that. The bartender has to have an above average knowledge of his work, speed, smoothness and accuracy behind the bar. He should have the ability to pour stylishly and accurately, communicate well with everyone, take multiple drink orders at one time, team bartend, remember names and what that guest is drinking to an extent, handle problems, stay alert, maintain a clean bar top and be spill-proof - all with that smile on the face!

Simon creates his own recipes frequently and has over 400 hundred cocktails on his fingertips. It is apparent that he enjoys bartending and will continue to serve guests with his charismatic efficiency of skill and movement while dazzling them with a show stopping performance. Cocktails will grow in popularity, he tells us. The kitchen and the bar will come together, bartenders will be influenced by exciting new happenings in the kitchen, and there will be more collaborations between chefs and bartenders, like drinks infused with exotic fruits, spices and herbs. Practitioners of the strange art are here to stay.

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