Fancy cocktails aren’t for everyone, especially when there’s fire involved: That’s what a couple — and, quite possibly, a bartender — found out Wednesday afternoon after receiving a fiery drink at Shoal Creek Tavern at The Shops at Highland Village.
As The Dallas Morning News reported, emergency crews were called to the shopping center about 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, where they found a man and woman with major burns on their bodies from the waist up.
The two had apparently gotten a flaming cocktail at the bar, authorities said, when “an additional ignition took place which caused major burns” to the couple. A medical helicopter was called to take them to Parkland Memorial Hospital; however, their injuries are non-life-threatening.
No telling what cocktail it might have been, since the bar’s online drink menu lists only beer and wine, but suffice it to say things didn’t go as planned.
Though increasingly popular, cocktails involving fire date back to the grandfather of mixology himself, Jerry Thomas, who included the famous Blue Blazer in his 1862 Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks. But that blend of Scotch, boiling water and sugar, set afire, is all about the show as the (ideally much-practiced) bartender flamboyantly pours the flaming blue mixture from one vessel to another — and then finally into a cup, dousing the flames before serving.
It’s that last part that tends to get people into trouble. Blue flames look cool, especially in low light. But whether atop tiki drinks or bursting out of flaming party shots, the important thing is to put out the fire before drinking them. You don’t want to eat or drink anything that’s on fire, because, you know, it’s on fire.
“There’s absolutely no safe way to consume a flaming food or beverage,” then-Nassau County Fire Marshall Vince McManus told Inside Edition in a program segment on fire-related alcohol mishaps, including a March 2016 incident in which a woman preparing to drink a flaming shot at a Moscow bar instead had her face set afire as the bartender poured from a bottle. Video captured at parties also shows the disastrous results of people attempting to do the same.
In short: Cocktails may be the hot thing to drink these days, but they should never be on fire when you do.
They bounced shakers off forearms, caught glasses behind their backs and tossed liquor bottles around like jugglers’ pins. By night’s end, one of them had been crowned the best bartender of all — at least, that is, within the extensive, red-and-white-striped family of TGI Fridays, which held its 24th annual World Bartender Championship Thursday night at Dallas’ House of Blues. More than 8,000 TGI Fridays bartenders around the world had vied for the chance to be one of the night’s 10 finalists with a shot at the $10,000 top prize. The title-round air was abuzz, with the faces and names of the finalists plastered on walls, video screens and waveable flags for a wall-to-wall, cowbell-shaking crowd.
TGI Fridays’ horde-pleasing drinks – the global chain sells 3 million Long Island Teas a year – are well-known, but the Carrollton-based chain can also be credited with (or blamed for, depending) popularizing flair – the kind of theatrics associated with the Tom Cruise film Cocktail – when it started holding flair bartender contests in the mid-1980s.
While the World Bartender Championship, which started in 1991, emphasizes things like customer engagement, service and bartender knowledge (some of which had already been evaluated in a previous compulsory round) the practice of flair perseveres. Bryan Bonafacio of the Philippines sent a lime wedge airborne and caught it in a shaker behind his back before sliding it into a waiting cocktail. Fernando Soto of Illinois poured a drink into a glass that he’d perched on his forehead. Others pulled off moves too complicated to explain.
Along with lively banter (to that end, Peru’s Alexander Barrenechea was my favorite for his easy humor and likeability), some kept the bar-side judges entertained by putting them to work as drink shakers while they tended to other tasks, trying to stay within the given time limits. Each bartender had eight minutes to make five different drinks ordered from the company’s inventory of 100-plus cocktails, working to the sizzling guitars or thumpity-thump beats of their chosen playlists.
“It takes incredible discipline, focus and passion,” said Matt Durbin, the contest’s 1994 champ who is now TGI Fridays’ vice president of brand strategy and menu innovation. “We like to think that Fridays is the bedrock of bars. This allows us to recognize and celebrate our bartenders.”
While flair is among the techniques bartenders can use to interact with guests, Durbin said judges prioritize “working flair,” moves that a bartender could actually incorporate into a busy shift rather than those unveiled for competition’s sake. The U.K.’s Russell Ward, for example, last year’s runner-up, was relatively no-frills compared to some but cranked out his drinks with smooth confidence, “You have to look like you do it every day,” he’d told me earlier. “Not like it’s just something you just practiced to do here.”
Where New Jersey’s Ram Ong fell on the spectrum was unclear. Like Ward, he was in the final round for the third time, and aside from bringing his own pineapple juice – in a pineapple, of course – he pulled off my favorite move of the night, catching a bottle of Grand Marnier tossed overhead on one forearm while balancing a second Grand Marnier bottle on the other forearm. But Ong’s theatrics undermined him in the end, his time elapsing before he could finish building his final cocktail.
Meanwhile, Stavros Loumis of Cyprus, another third-timer who entered the evening in first place after a stellar effort in the compulsory round, saved a Cuba Libre order for last, starting the drink with just over a minute left in his session. Earlier, he’d told how a twist of lime elevated a simple rum and Coke into the classic cocktail, and now, as the seconds ticked away, he dared to position an ice-filled glass atop the flat end of a bar spoon, balancing the spoon’s other end on his forearm before pouring rum into the glass and finishing with time to spare.
In the end, third place went to the energetic, engaging Bonafacio, who may have coined the phrase “Don’t you panic; it’s organic;” while second again went to the U.K.’s Ward, who was also voted the fan favorite. Stavros was named champ, taking home a propeller-shaped trophy in addition to the prize money.
The annual competition also raises money for hunger-relief agency Feeding America, and TGI Fridays presented the organization with a $200,000 check midway through the final round.
Booze news and adventures in cocktailing, based In Dallas, Texas, USA. By Marc Ramirez, your humble scribe and boulevardier. All content and photos mine unless otherwise indicated. http://typewriterninja.com