Updated: September 1, 2009
From starting out flipping empty bottles in the backyard, to an award winning Corporate Mixologist… Brian Loukmas. From slinging drinks in a high volume bar, competing in Flair bartender competitions, organizing his own Flair bartending competitions, judging some of the world’s best Flair competitions to impacting the beverage industry of today and now in the pages of Flairbar.com, we get to know a little more about Brian with “Flair & Mixology Evovled & Intertwined!” as he shares with us his insights on the world of Flair bartending & Mixology… So sit back, relax and indulge in a Absolut Vodka and Finest Call cocktail and enjoy…

Age? I am 35 years old.

Where are you from? I was born in Rochester Hills, Michigan (near Detroit). I now live near Orlando in Winter Garden, FL.

How long have you’ve been Bartending? 20 years in the industry: 11 years bartending. 6 years Corporate Mixologist.

And Flair Bartending? I Flaired for a couple years back in the day before Flairco bottles and before all of these guys starting practicing 8-10 hours a day!!

Where do you work? TEAM Enterprises. Corporate Mixologist for the BACARDI Portfolio.

What got you into Flair Bartending? Watching ‘Quest For The Best’ back in 1995 and seeing Todd Connell, Tim ‘Storm’ Norman, Ken Hall, Alan Mayes, Steve Busher, Mark Schultz and many others up on stage at Mannequins in Pleasure Island, Disney World.

How did you start out learning to Flair? My old roommate Billy Hitchock was working at Ohana restaurant in Disney World and the bar was a Flair bar. He would learn new moves from Tim ‘Storm’ Norman and Todd Connell and then show me how to do the moves. We would be up until the early morning breaking bottles and upsetting our neighbors that lived below us. Billy also started the original ‘Yard Days’ where we would invite bartenders from all over Orlando to come over and we would share moves and play music and have a good time. I always remember Shawn Oana Flairing in front on one of our trees and pretending it was the crowd and he was on stage.

FBC_BLoukmas_quote1Tell us how you got involved with Bacardi? BACARDI was looking for a Mixologist to work with their National Accounts team and I happen to be on their list of people to interview because of my background in drink development for National Restaurant Chains. I was in the right place at the right time!

What exactly do you do for Bacardi? I create new drinks and presentations for the BACARDI National Accounts team. I present the drinks to the Buyers of National Accounts. I also work with their Brand Teams and create cocktails for National Programs and when I’m not in my test kitchen mixing drinks I’m on the road giving seminars on drink making techniques and checking out cocktail bars all over the country.

Describe to us your style of bartending? I’m more of a Classical style of bartender with a little Flair mixed in.

FBC_BLoukmas_sm2What makes you stand out from other Flair Bartenders & Mixologists? Since I deal mainly with the National Restaurant Chains I need to focus on drinks that can be easily replicated and they have a taste profile that will satisfy the majority of the consumers. During Mixology competitions is when I can be more creative with flavor combinations and presentations.

What do you hope to get out of Flair bartending & Mixology? In Flair Bartending I already get everything I’ve ever hoped to get out of it. I get to judge two of the biggest and most prestigious competitions (Quest & Legends) and I get to travel around the country meeting fellow enthusiasts.

In Mixology, I’m learning new techniques everyday. I’m able to explore new taste profiles. I get to travel the world and meet exceptional mixologists/bartenders and share their passion for the craft.

FBC_BLoukmas_muddleWhat is your favorite Flair Bartending competition and why?  I’m a little biased; I’d have to say Battle of the Bartenders 1-9. Even though this series of competitions have been retired since 2004, it was the best mix of old school Flair veterans and rookies. For a lot of top Flair bartenders this stage was where it began or where they went from rookies to world class: (James ‘Francize’ Hadhazy, Peter Medina, Tony ‘Sweet T’ Banawa, Robyn Closson, Rick Barcode, ‘Flairin’ Erin Moreland, Tim ‘Flippy’ Morris, Vache, Shawn Oana and Levi Donaldson, if I forgot anyone else I apologize. We also had many other notables battle it out on this stage (Ken Hall, Tim ‘Storm’ Norman, Bill Hitchcock, “Big” Mike Graves, Billy “Suds” Sudsiri, “Alcohol” Paul Riebenack, Rob Husted, Christian Delpech, Adriano Marcellino, Danny Rossi, Jason Tremper and Pat McNamara)

FBC_BLoukmas_sm3MC Ben Rose was an incredible showman and always knew how to get the crowd involved. Barback Mike Holmes made sure the competitors had all of their bottles ready. Brenda Anderson was bartending and made sure we had our refreshments during our ‘judges meetings’ while also making sure the crowd had plenty of cocktails.

And I having judged alongside Todd Connell and Jesus Toledo for most of the competitions was the best time. This competition was about having fun and getting the crowd involved! Where else can you can you organize a competition where Flippy comes in last place and Francize drops more than 20 times in a 3 minute routine and everyone is having a great time!!!

Tell us about your involvement with “Battle of the Bartenders” and when are we going to see “Battle of the Bartenders X… the reunion tour”? Hah!! You must have been talking to Ben Rose. The memories and fun we had at all the Battles 1 thru 9 was the best!! I’m so busy with my job and travel I think it would be hard to have the time to organize and recreate those competitions again. I’ll leave that up to the new batch of Flair bartenders to organize. Just remember to make the event fun for the competitors and exciting for the crowd.

What is your favorite Mixology competition and why? The BACARDI MARTINI GRAND PRIX that takes place in Torino, Italy. Having competitors from all over the world compete at the historic Circolo dei Lettori in the Graneri della Roccia’s palace was amazing. Being able to see the different bartending styles and being able to taste original cocktails from world class bartenders was an unforgettable experience.

Who do you look up to in this Sport? In the sport of Flair and Mixology I look up to anyone that has the passion and drive to always push themselves to be better and elevate the craft to a higher level.

Out of all the roles you have played, bartender, flair bartender, organizer, competitor, judge, corporate mixologist, etc… What have you enjoyed the most? I love them all!! They are all intertwined with each other. I take a lot from each role and use them each day in my current role as a corporate Mixologist representing the BACARDI portfolio of brands.

FBC_BLoukmas_quote2Why did you compete at the Absolut Finest Call Mixology competition at the Bartenders Bash Series? Because Rob Husted threatened me!! Seriously, I love to compete and there are not that many mixology competitions around. I judge a lot of Flair competitions and it feels good to be on stage instead of sitting behind a table with a score sheet.
Tell us about your thoughts going into the Absolut Finest Call Mixology competition at the Bartenders Bash Series and all the preparation beforehand? At the first event (Hospitality Expo at Islamorada) I didn’t even think about competing until 10 minutes before the competition. So I had no time to prepare and I just looked at the back bar and made a drink using the sponsors products. It tasted great, but I knew I didn’t have a chance to win after I saw Cesar Romero’s drink! And Josh Gate’s coconut drink! I did have a fun tie-breaking mix off with Rob Turek for third place!






FBC_BLoukmas_sm8At the Bahia Cabana competition I put some more thought into it and I wanted to impress Rob Husted, Cesar Romero and Josh Gates. So I thought about what drink would impress the judges and how could I make it fun for the crowd. Also I wanted to challenge myself to create a cocktail that would impress the Flair bartenders that I knew would be watching. Both events were equally fun and relaxed. It’s nice to see a Mixology competition at a Flair event. There needs to be more!!!

How did it feel winning the Absolut Finest Call Mixology competition at the Bartenders Bash Series and what is the secret to being a good Mixologist? It was great to win! It feels good to see your hard work pay off. I didn’t think I had a chance at winning because I work with BACARDI and this was an Absolut Vodka sponsored event. I’m happy that the judges scored on the drink and presentation and not by who was making it.

The secret to being a good Mixologist is to always start with creating a great tasting drink that is well-balanced. Adding your own personal touch (garnish, glassware, and presentation) is what separates you from the other competitors.

How often do you practice? Nowadays I practice very little. I’m more into the mixology part. Every now and then I’ll dust off my Flairco bottles and attempt a move, it usually doesn’t end well!




How do you help connect with the crowd and judges during a competition while you are on stage and how is it different when you are at work behind the bar? Since I am a judge, I would tell competitors to have fun on stage. If your routine is not going just the way you wanted it to and you start to get frustrated it will show to the crowd and the judges. Relax and get the crowd involved and you will score better.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a Flair bartender in your profession?Advantage is the family of Flair bartenders around the world that you meet and befriend.

Disadvantage is the negative attitude some bar/restaurant owners have about Flair. They think it’s all about juggling bottles and not waiting on guests. They don’t realize the passion Flair bartenders have and their drive to be better at not only flipping bottles but making excellent drinks and taking care of the guests.

What is your advice to some of the up and coming bartenders wanting to compete in Mixology competitions? Have fun. Think outside the box. Make sure the drink tastes perfect and is well balanced. If you have a crazy looking drink with flames shooting out of it and it doesn’t taste great then what’s the point?

In your opinion, what makes a good Bartender? Putting the guest first, anticipate their need and of course make a great drink!


FBC_BLoukmas_quote3Tell us about your experiences working on the outside of a bar rather then in a bar? Gone are the days of working 10pm – 4am. And always having cash on hand. I now have to be alert and professional looking by 9am. A lot of times I’m up even earlier depending if I have to catch a flight or I’m at the grocery store getting ingredients for a tasting on that day.
The first couple of years after bartending the money was not as good. It was a big change in lifestyle. I couldn’t go out to eat every day for lunch and dinner. Or go to the bars every night. I had to watch my budget. Now the money is a lot better and I’m used to waking up early in the morning. I still have some of my drunken friends call or text me at 3am, but I get them back by calling them early in the morning!





FBC_BLoukmas_sm4If you could help influence bartenders worldwide to change somehow, what would it be and why? I wouldn’t want to change bartenders worldwide the great thing is to see bartenders from all over have their own style and personality.

Do you think being a good Mixologist behind the bar has to slow down your service as well? Great drinks can be made at high volume. It’s all about preparation. You can make a freshly muddled Mojito just as fast as making a margarita as long as you have all of your ingredients and tools at your station.
You can pre-squeeze your citrus juices at the start of your shift. Make sure your mint leaves are pulled from the stem. Use simple syrup instead of granulated sugar. I was at an event in London this past weekend and we served over 9000 fresh muddled BACARDI mojitos to a crowd of thousands. It was taking longer for the guests to get a draft beer then it was to get a fresh Mojito!





How is the Mixology scene different here in the states rather than over seas? That’s a tough question. It all depends where you are in the world, the biggest mixology scenes are New York, London and San Francisco with Chicago, Miami, Boston, Sydney and Germany starting to make big news.
London and New York focus on private Speakeasy style of bars that have classic themed cocktails and San Francisco uses the market-fresh approach to creating seasonally inspired cocktails.

What obstacles do you see the world of Mixology encountering in the near future and in your opinion, how can we overcome them? The economy is having some bar owners rethink the whole Bar Fresh idea. They are looking at cutting costs and reducing waste. Keep the drinks easy to replicate and make sure the bartenders are selling these signature cocktails. The Mojito is one of the top selling drinks in the US, every bar should serve them. The profit margin is exceptionally high on a Mojito.
Guests are drinking less and instead of having two cocktails with their meal they might have only one. It’s the bartenders who should have confidence in themselves that they can make a great cocktail and not just settle with serving beer or wine because it’s easier. The bars make more profit with spirits and if the bar’s profits are up then they will not have to cut costs on premium liquor or mixers.

FBC_BLoukmas_quote4What are your thoughts on Molecular Mixology? I love it!! Innovation will only make this industry better. I know most bars are not able to use liquid nitrogen or dry ice. But with a little preparation most bars can do other forms of Molecular Mixology such as foams and caviar. Rob Husted has written a couple articles on this topic in past issues of Flairbar.com. Make sure you check them out.
Where do you see the future of Mixology heading? I see more chain restaurants embracing Mixology and wanting their bartenders to be able to make the best drinks. Training will be more focused on proper drink making techniques and using the best ingredients available.
Innovation in flavored spirits as well as non-alcoholic mixers will continue to be pushed to the limit. Organic and Artisanal products are being seen in more bars. The classic products (B&B, Benedictine, and Drambuie) are now being explored again by bartenders wanting to recreate the classics. The good thing is that everyone (liquor companies, restaurants, mix companies) are moving towards premium products. And that is always a good thing!







FBC_BLoukmas_sm7Do you think corporations and sponsors investing in bartenders is an effective way to promote and educate their products and why? Of course, the more bartenders are educated on the sponsor’s product the better they are able to sell it to the consumers. Sponsoring a bartender event (Flair or Mixology) gets your product in the bartender’s hand and also that bartender is more likely to use your product when they get back to their bar. Because bartenders will need that bottle empty to practice with for their next competition.

What can we see in the future from Bacardi? More innovation. We have a new Dragon Berry flavored rum you need to try it!! It’s a strawberry flavored rum infused with Dragon Fruit. Also, more of an emphasis on bringing back the classic cocktails. Everyone has seen the huge resurgence of the Mojito, many thanks to BACARDI for spending a ton of money to help bring back that cocktail! Look out for the other rum classics to make a comeback just like the Mojito.






What are your plans now? I’m going to Europe for a Hard Rock event and while I’m over there I plan to travel to Amsterdam to see Philip Duff’s new mixology bar called Door 74. I heard it’s amazing and I can’t wait to have a couple of cocktails prepared by Mr. Duff!

After that, I’ll be at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. This is a can’t miss event for anyone that has a passion for bartending and mixology. You will probably be reading this interview after Tales happens. If you didn’t go, you missed the best event of the year!!! I’m sure Rob Husted will have a complete recap of Tales in his next issue of Flairbar.com.

What is your favorite drink? It all depends where I am and who’s bartending. If I’m at a Mixology/cocktail bar I’ll usually have a forgotten classic cocktail such as, a Corpse Revival 2 (Little Branch in NYC made an excellent one, thanks Michael). Or I’ll have an original cocktail; Kiwi-Honey Daiquiri (Kenta at Pegu Club) that drink was perfect! If I’m at Ken Hall’s bar (Noir) in Vegas I always have to try his Blackberry Bourbon drink. If I happen to stumble into Rob Husted’s bar (Club Safari) on a Sunday night he is always making new and innovative cocktails that I have to try. And of course I always like to sample BACARDI Mojitos from all over the world. You can make them many different ways and I like to see how bartenders are putting their own twist on the Mojito. But, if I’m at a neighbor bar or nightclub I usually stick to a Dewar’s & water or a Grey Goose & club soda.



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