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The Metro Bars & Clubs 2005 Guide
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Scene on Fire

Photos by Felipe Buitrago

Graham Kimura

Graham "Britnips" Kimura is a bartender with flair. Literally. For the last five years—half of his barkeep career—he's been practicing what is referred to as "Flair" bartending, which means not only serving drinks, but serving them with style. While mixing and preparing drinks for their customers, Flair bartenders use all types of tricks, tosses and throws to turn drink preparation into performance art.

Kimura is also a bartender with flare. Which is to say, he actually lights alcohol on fire. It's part of his showstopping post-midnight performances that have been leaving night crawlers speechless at Fahrenheit.

Kimura says there are two different types of Flair: Competition Flair and Working Flair. Competition Flair is bartending against other Flair bartenders, and is more intricate, more for the sake of entertainment. Working Flair is about preparing quality and efficiently prepared drinks, but still throwing a few tricks into the mix.

Kimura was a student at San Jose State University when he went to his first Flair bartending competition and finally realized his life's calling.

"There was something about school that I just wasn't feeling," he says. "I used to live in L.A., and while I was helping my dad out in his moving company, I started going to bartending school just to learn the fundamental principles of bartending. Then after attending a Flair bartending competition in New York—that's what really opened my eyes. That's when I said, 'This is what I want to do.' Ever since then it's just been nonstop."

Besides besting competitors in the Bay Area, Kimura has been bringing his own flair for Flair to competitions in cities around the globe: Las Vegas and in Florida, the Cayman Islands, England and Germany, to name a few. The biggest Flair contests, like Vegas' "Legends of Bartending," are even televised.

"It's getting bigger and bigger every year," says Kimura.

But where does he get his biggest inspiration? Duh, the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail.

"Actually, I got to meet the guy who trained Tom Cruise in Cocktail," says Kimura. "He was an honorary judge at the last Legends of Bartending back in March."

Kimura loves driving 'em crazy at Fahrenheit, but you can bet Flair bartenders dream big.

"I'd love to hopefully open up kind of a school," says Kimura, "and then my ultimate goal would be to open my own club or bar that strictly uses flair bartenders. It'd just be guys and girls having a good time, and I want to make a difference, especially in the Bay Area."

Those who've seen him in action would agree his art seems beyond the reach of mere mortals, but here's his own philosophy: "There's no wrong way in Flair bartending—there's just your way."

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From the June 22-28, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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