A drink with… Nicolas Saint-Jean

9th April, 2015 by admin

De Kuyper’s global flair ambassador and winner of numerous international flair competitions is now championing a more modest approach to his craft through his training academy, Flairmotion.

A-drink-with

Nicolas Saint-Jean claims people generally view flair bartending as “monkey business”

What came first for you, bartending or flairing?

Bartending, definitely, but I always wanted to set myself apart. When I started flairing 17 years ago, nobody really took it seriously but it just felt natural for me when I was holding the bottle and shaker for the first time. It was something to do with creating moves and making the cocktail at the same time with purpose. I did a lot of research and spoke to the right people who shared their knowledge of flair. I decided to practice and be the best, but I knew that if it didn’t work out I would still be a better bartender than I was yesterday.

Has the general perception of flair changed in the last two decades?

People don’t see the potential in flair; they see it as a monkey business. In London there is an increase in mixology and people are taking flair more seriously, but it has become so difficult to see the difference between juggling and flair. People have rejected it a bit lately and see it as a circus act, much more so than in the boom at the end of the 1990s. Flair has had too much influence from jugglers. This is one of the main reasons I stopped competing 10 years ago, because I don’t support that style.

What does flair mean to you nowadays?

I don’t see flair as anything to do with juggling; I consider it to be a way of elaborating the art of making a drink. When you just flick your shaker, or dress classy in a three piece suit, or twiddle your barspoon smoothly, or check your glass is clean, you are already flairing. How far you want to take it is up to you. Bartenders use this style of flair to set themselves apart and are developing a lot within their mixology. One of my students in London, Marian Beke from Nightjar, has developed his flair while working in the right way. You have to find your own style in the way that you create your moves.

Why did you move from competing to teaching?

I gave up competing because I saw flair going in the wrong direction, and always said to myself I would set up a school the day I stopped. So I started my training company, Flairmotion, to explain my philosophy. I run classes for about 2-3 months a year in my house in Malaga, Spain. Bartenders come from all over to my house and I teach them for a week.

Have you enjoyed teaching as much as performing?

The most awesome feeling is the satisfaction that you’ve shared something with someone that’s strong enough they want to share it too, and who knows, it may change the direction of flair today. My dream – and it is a dream as I am not 20 anymore – is to one day go back to competing to change flair. It’s hard because I’m the only one with this vision. For now I’m happy that my relationship with De Kuyper allows me to be free to explain what my vision is all about.

It’s unusual for a brand to have a flair ambassador isn’t it?

De Kuyper has two ambassadors – I concentrate on flair, and Arno van Eljmeren looks after mixology. I’ve been working with them for about five years, since Flairmotion first did an event for them at their academy in Schiedam. My job is to explain how to use the bottle, which was updated in 2013. The fact I have the freedom to express myself and deliver the right message to bartenders defines the spirit of De Kuyper and the quality of the product.

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