Not sure if you want to take the plunge into the dizzying world of the University’s 200+ societies? Don’t know your Blowsoc from your Bladesoc? The Socumentaries team endeavours to sample as many societies as possible so you don’t have to.

Soc-umentary – A factual article about a society, presenting the facts with little or no fiction. As in, ‘Did you see that socumentary about Fashion ? That shit cray.’

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This week, I checked out FlairSoc. And flair they have. Bottles, tumblers and cocktail glasses of it.

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I roped my friend Jo in to coming along with me, in the hope that it wouldn’t only be me accidently dropping bottles willy-nilly. (Coincidently this backfired because she turned out to be pretty good).

We arrived at The Hub, eager and fresh faced, where there were already a few people gathered. It reminded me of a school disco: the confident kids were stood in the middle, trying out a few tricks. The awkward newbies were sat on sofas around the edge, trying to look casual. Jo and I joined the wallflowers.
The session kicked off with the pros forming a circle and the novices being taken to one side to ‘learn the basics’. Pfffft. Basics? Not when you have the hand-eye co-ordination of a garden snail.

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First we were told to drop the bottle on the floor, just to get used to it…we’d be doing that a lot apparently. They’re pretty heavy and are made of “very tough plastic” I was told by Phuong, Training Sec, or “scienced Plastic” according to equally unsure Brad, Vice President. Glass bottles aren’t used for obvious reasons – although I did end up thinking how many future pre-drinks would see our newly acquired Flair skills demonstrated with  Tesco Value vodka.

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Check out Jo’s impressive levitation skills above.

Each of the Flair Soc execs taught us at some point; flittering between helping us, helping the more experienced bunch, and showing off a bit themselves! They’re great teachers with a lot of patience. Although I was assured by Richard, Treasurer, that I wasn’t their slowest member.

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So with a bit of a confidence boost we moved on to some harder stuff. Well, everyone else did. I was still working on the first move, which was a spin. As in, spinning the bottle in the hand. Harder than it sounds. We also tried tricks that involved throws, rotations and rolls. There were some great sequences of moves that combined to look pretty impressive (when done right) and I can totally understand the passion the members feel for what they do. It’s incredibly satisfying to pull off a trick flawlessly!

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The hour flew by and at 7pm President Alex invited us all down to Mooch before we headed off to Brass Monkeys for mixology (which is an extra £5, optional on a Tuesday). We took the opportunity to sit down and ask the execs a few questions…

Hi guys! Thanks for letting us join you – it’s been a lot of fun! Tell us exactly what Flair is?

Alex: Flair is basically a term to mean ‘show off’ or ‘fancy’. So Flair bartending is all to do with showing off some tricks while serving drinks. It began about 30 years ago in America with bars wanting to give their service something special to compete for customers. It definitely grabs attention – at Welcome Fair people approach us because they see us doing tricks.

I can imagine Freshers are pretty keen on the idea! What’s your advice for people wanting to join? Do you need a natural talent or is it something you can learn?

Brad: you need hand-eye co-ordination, which can be learnt. Everyone has different rates of learning. If you wanted to get really good in a month you’d probably have to train about 3 hours a day, so over the course of a year you could pick it up through FlairSoc and definitely get to a decent level!
Richard: You really don’t need a natural talent.
All: Diligence and practice!

I noticed you’ve got a lot more guys than girls – why do you think that is?

It might be the physical aspect: Flair is a way of looking macho. Basically, you can show off without being a dick!

So have you ever embarrassed yourself while trying to look macho and showing off?

Richard: at my first session I cut my finger on the tumbler and bled everywhere. And I once went flying in to a window. It didn’t smash, but I did.
Phuong: the bottles actually say ‘perform at own risk’, so it’s not uncommon to hurt yourself!

We’re excited for Mixology; has this always been a part of FlairSoc?

Alex: It was introduced 10 years ago. We have members who come just for Mixology and we’re looking in to offering some extra places on the course to other societies.

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Next we headed for the buses. Little did we know it would turn in to a 40 minute wait for a 34 that didn’t turn up. We soon gave up and walked to catch an Indigo – a fun team bonding experience anyway!

FlairSoc hire out the whole top floor of Brass Monkeys each Tuesday evening. The cocktails tonight were Gin based and the demo was led by Publicity Sec Beth and member Priya. I was a little downhearted upon remembering that I like Gin about as much as a night out at Gatecrasher.

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The first drink, called a Cucumber Collins (enjoyed above by Marcus), consisted of 4 chunks of cucumber, a double shot of gin, shot of lemon juice, a shot of sugar syrup and top up of sparkling water. Once the girls had given us a demo of what to crush when and how to shake what where, we got a go. It was a two at a time job, so not the quickest process, but it just felt like a chilled evening at a bar. See some expert crushing in action below.

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I was pleasantly surprised with mine – it tasted like sugary cucumber (nicer than you might think!). The second drink, a Bulldog and Baileys, was a double Irish Meadow, shot of Gin, 25ml of sugar syrup, 75ml of milk, whipped cream and cinnamon on top. Yes, ironically neither Baileys nor Dog feature. Tasted a bit like a milkshake.

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FlairSoc was a long’un – if you want to do it all you’ll be going for at least 4 hours. But it didn’t drag on at all. The execs described Flairers as ‘an eclectic bunch of misfits’ which pretty much hit the nail on the head if I’m honest. They were welcoming, chatty and very down to earth. And being nice must have been difficult with me getting camera-happy while they were trying to nail a tricky move.

FlairSoc, great for: non-athletic athletes and lovers of alcoholic drinks that actually taste nice.

 

Sam Carey   

 

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