“Stepping out of the Shadow” – Vahe Manoukian Interviewed

Updated: January 15, 2015

From starting out watching his older brother competing on stage during a Flair comp to competing on stage against him and eventually beating him… Mr. Vahe Manoukin. He is part of the newer generation of Flair bartenders and now in the pages of Flairbar.com, we get to know a little more about Vahe with “Stepping out of the Shadow” as he shares with us his insights on the world of Flair bartending & Mixology… So sit back, relax and indulge in a Finest Call cocktail made in a Flairbar.com tin sold on BarProducts and enjoy… ;-)
Age? 27.
Where are you from? Born in CA. Raised in Mass.

How long have you’ve been Bartending? 5 yrs now!

And Flair Bartending? 5 yrs… Flair is what made me want to bartend.

Where do you work? I work at Carnaval Court in Las Vegas.

What got you into Flair Bartending? Visiting my brother for Legends 9 and watching Area 51 getting ready for all the different rounds really struck me as something that I could really get into! Plus watching Vache at work having so much fun and making great money played a factor as well. That’s when I decide I needed to work at this bar!


FBC_Vegas_GroupHow did you start out learning to Flair? Well the night after Legends Amanda Gager showed me one move and that was it, I went home to mass. and every night after work I would stay up till 6am trying to figure out ways of getting the bottle into the tin. Christian sent me his dvd with a personal message on it and that was awesome as well. I didnt have anyone around me to Flair with so it was a lot harder back home compared to when I moved here. Mom loved hearing the vacuum at 4am haha

Tell us about the Flair Bartending scene in Las Vegas? It’s back on the up and up in my eyes. I wish it was still at the point that it was when I moved here with all the talent from overseas that moved here and we had comps every month and legends and nations. Right now its back on the rise with all the bars opening, you see more and more people moving to town to Flair and more comps popping up.

What makes you stand out from other Flair Bartenders? Tough question and really don’t know how to answer that one. Seems like a good question for the crowd to answer. Only thing I can think of is that if I’m at a comp watching and they ask me to compete, I’d jump right in. Where some people might not feel comfortable without practicing or with their own bottles and tins, I’d just have fun with it!

What do you hope to get out of Flair? It was always to get into Carnaval and work side by side with my brother (check).

What is your favorite Flair Bartending competition and why? UFBC!! It’s my favorite because it was my first competition ever, the rules were simple, the prizes was amazing, it was 3 days long AND it was at Carnaval!

Who do you look up to in this Sport? Long list… Vache, Dario, Danilo, both Delpechs, Tom Dyer, Juan Pablo, Tomek, Marek, Tim Plummer, Justin Keane, Flippy, Rene Garcia, and some others. They all bring something the other doesn’t in my eyes. They all have different areas they excel in. Mix all their skills with Flippy’s personality behind a bar and you will never lose!

FBC_VManoukin_quote1Tell us about being the younger brother of a professional Flair Bartender? Nothing beats having a brother in the same area of expertise  as you. Always there to help and correct my mistakes. He drilled the smalls things into my head that everyone knows but just has to hear.

Do you feel pressure to live up to certain expectations and how do you deal with it? At first I did. I was Flairing 6 months before  my first comp and everyone kept coming up to me saying they heard I was amazing etc etc. mind you I just learned 3 bottle pattern haha. ALOT of pressure. Glad I didn’t disappoint with my 3rd place.. Didn’t help that UFBC was a 3 day comp and I had to compete against people like Alex Searle and Antonio Mantelli.

Is there a sibling rivalry between you and Vache behind the bar as well as at home? Little bit. We’ve competed twice against each other. We each won once. Part that stings is that when he won my mom was there. Wanted to win that one. No rivalry at home though. We got each others back no matter what. Nothing tops family.

Do you feel being a younger sibling of a professional Flair bartender has more disadvantages like putting more pressure on you to perform or advantages like having a teacher to take you under their wing to help advance your training? Definitely an advantage to me. I have someone that’s been doing this 5 yrs longer then me. He knows things I never thought of and he always puts those things in my head. Compete with class, be humble about everything, always smile and always breathe while Flairing. Simple but you need to hear it over and over before it sinks in.

What would it mean to you to beat your older brother Vache? I’m happy with the 1 and 1 record. I wish he still competed but he always has different adventures on his mind, can’t keep him grounded!

When you meet other younger siblings of professional Flair bartenders like Sebastian Cao for example… is there a bond there that you both share and try to help each other while competing? When me and Sebastian first meet we became friends instantly! There was a bond because we both moved here right around the same time and just started really getting into it. To the point we challenged Vache and Rodrigo to a older brother younger brother tandem comp hahaha. Kinda glad that never happened to be honest. We always cheer for each other every comp.

How did you get hired at Carnaval Court and how has it changed you as a bartender? That was a process! From day one I wanted this job. They threw me behind the bar randomly and said this is your audition. My leg would not stop shaking!! Not till over a year later from that I got a call for another audition. Both went really good but they didn’t need any bartenders at the time. Then I got an invite for level testing last year and was hired a month after that. Stressful level test!


What is the secret to getting a great bartending job in Las Vegas? No secret really. Just got to go through the motions of what needs to be done before you can work at some casinos. Union classes mostly. Being humble is a big factor though. If you come off a certain way and the bosses ask their employees about hiring you, you want them to praise you, not say your to cocky or big headed to fit well into the team. At the end of the day, we are all bartenders.

FBC_VManoukin_quote2In your opinion, what makes a good bartender? The abilities that make a great bartender in my eyes is you have to know how to make great cocktails first of all (you’re a bartender), you have to be able to give customers an enjoyable experience. They can go anywhere for a drink, make them come back to you! Your personality is what makes you great in this field of work. Nobody wants to talk to a grumpy bartender. If you’re not having fun behind the bar, how do you expect the customers to stay and have fun with you! Flair always helps :)

Do you think our sport of Flair bartending is on the rise or decline and why? I think we are on the rise again. The Flair scene in Europe hasn’t stopped rising in the past 5 years but the states definitely felt the recession hard. We are starting to have more and more events in the US lately and Vegas is having more and more Flair bars opening up.

How often do you practice and how do you practice? Lately I’ve had to slow down on the practicing because of a shoulder injury but I’m always trying to come up with new moves and upgrades for move already in the repertoire. When it comes to how I practice it depends on if its for a comp or just for fun. Comp practice is doing the routine over and over and over again. Start with practicing to the music I plan on Flairing to, then to just random music then back to the routine song. Can’t listen to the same thing for hours on end haha.

FBC_VManoukin_quote3What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a Flair bartender rather then a regular bartender? Flair is an advantage for sure. It gives the guest entertainment while they drink! Plus makes them wanna drink more so they can see more Flair which only means more money in the register and in your pocket. Only disadvantage is if you go work at a club where you just put your head down and pour, you’re gonna wanna Flair because you’re so used to it and can’t. Flair also just makes work more fun in my eyes. I never just want to pour a drink!

What is your advice to some of the new bartenders wanting to learn Flair Bartending? Practice practice practice! It’s gonna hurt, there’s gonna be times you just want to stop, but when it starts coming together you’re never gonna be able to stop. Best advice I got, always smile and always make sure you’re breathing!

In your opinion, what is Mixology? The ability to CREATE great cocktails and successfully modify classic cocktails with a modern twist. I don’t need to see smoke rising from my martini glass or fruits injected with random things to think your a mixologist. Honestly, I hate that word. A BARTENDER should take pride in his job and try to create cocktails without the need of a fancy title or white lab coat to feel important.

FBC_VManoukian_sm2Do you think Flair bartenders embrace Mixology? I Believe they do, I don’t believe that mixologist embrace Flair enough. I’ve sat at a bar where because the casino labeled the bartenders “mixologist”, they think they own the place and have bigger egos then the worlds best athletes. If your a bartender you should be able to make great drinks and be able to entertain your guest with or without Flair. Not be mad if a girl orders a Vodka soda from you when you think your skills are beyond that of a simple drink. Of course not everyone’s like that. I have friends that work at the same bar and laugh at the title and just flat out do their job, and do it extremely well!

If you could help influence Flair to change our sport somehow, what would it be and why? I don’t think we need to change the sport. Just need to branch out to different sponsors. We always jump to liquor brands which is good but I think we need to branch out beyond that. To local and major businesses, maybe like a guitar center for example. We use their stage set up and sound system and throw their banner all over the bar. I think that if Flair can get a major energy drink behind it, it can take off! The sports amazing, and it will never have a World Series on ESPN but why not a spike series about a year round comp. like the FBA used to have. And since the FBA is not what it used to be, I think it’s time we do something about that. Maybe embrace WFA more in the USA or start something new. I haven’t been up to Toronto but I hear the TFL is doing some amazing things up north.

Tell us about your involvement with the recent Kahunaville Flair Tropic? Great comp! I joined last minute the night before which I’m not proud of. Living with Vache and Dario they drill the point of being ready for a comp. luckily the comp went well and I took 1st.

Click Play above to watch the Kahunaville Flair Tropic that Vahe won.

What were your overall thoughts on the event? I like it! I like the idea of a 6 min round with the first minute and a half being working Flair followed by 4 and a half mins exhibition. It was nice to be able to compete again in Kahunaville. Been on that stage a lot since I moved to Vegas 5 years ago!


FBC_VManoukian_sm3Do you have any ideas for a new competition? My genius idea for a comp was called random tandem. When everyone lived in Vegas a couple years back for the rock n Rita’s launch. The idea was to have a drawing with bingo balls creating random tandems, and the comp would be a month after the drawing. Everyone was in! And right before we started the process for it, it all fell through due to uncontrollable circumstances. Everyone loved the idea, imagine the combinations that could have been. Flippy and Danilo for example.

What do you hate about bartending? I don’t hate anything about the job. Only thing that can suck at times is if your having a bad day and it’s showing behind the bar. I don’t like being a bartender you can tell how they’re day is going. You have to be able to put what’s going on in your life in the back seat and do your job.

What obstacles do you see our sport of Flair Bartending encountering in the near future and in your opinion, how can we overcome them? I think the biggest obstacle is getting Flair on tv, we all know ESPN won’t promote any sport that promotes  liquor. I think if we can get Spike TV behind us, Flair would take off!

Are there different avenues for sponsorship that we should pursue? Definitely! like I said in earlier questions, we need to branch out and find anyone that can help in any way possible. I think my example guitar center. I think that that one could work.

What are your thoughts on Finest Call products and Why?   I support them and their product and love the amount of support they have given Flair through thick and thin! One sponsor that loves Flair for what it is!



Favorite drink? To many to tell. Guess it depends on which bar I’m in and the mood of the night! I’ll just say lucky lemonade! Carnaval Court original. Come visit and have one :)



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