Bartending, surfing, and exercising by day, by night she picks up her flair bottles and shows off her moves.
After taking an EBS course, she went on a whirlwind of an adventure and found herself on the island of Bali, after meeting her boyfriend Denny.
We spoke to them both about life in Bali and all things bartending…
How old are you and where are you originally from?
Kristina:I’m 30 years young. Age only matters in dark spirits;) I’m originally half Thai/half Norwegian. Born and partially raised in Thailand, then I grew up in Norway from the age of 5.
Denny: I’m 26 and made in Ukraine.
Where do you work for a living/what do you do?
Kristina: Currently I’m freelancing, juggling between modelling assignments here in Bali and flair- master classes and events around Asia with Denny. We can do anything from private parties to big company events and weddings. Basically, we’re working making cocktails for everything from 1 hour to even 10 hours and making shows. Modelling is mad money. Not as fun and cool as flair, but easy and quick.
Denny: At the moment I’m managing a bar in Bali and doing flair events, everything from private shows to big company parties and weddings. We’re also doing master classes and flair shows around Asia, and I’m also judging competitions.
What else besides work do you guys do in Bali?
Kristina: Well, since we’re living in Bali at the moment, which is surrounded by waves, it became natural to surf. And now we’re hooked! For me, I always liked “boards” – skating, snowboarding. I grew up with this, so to be able to surf every day is truly a blessing. We get the chance see the sunrise/sunset from the ocean, sometimes get burned by the sun or jellyfishes, other times feel the pouring rain while waiting for a wave, grow skills, work out, have fun and feel alive!
Denny: Bali is so big and different. It’s so much to explore around here from waterfalls, volcanoes and hidden beaches to the underwater world. I was always interested in nature and traveling so Bali gives us all the opportunities to travel and explore even without leaving the Island. We’ve chosen a place to live at the moment that friends can go for a holiday, and they do, so we often do these expeditions just because of friends on a visit. And surfing of course! It has become a huge passion.
How did you get into bartending?
Kristina: This is a funny question because my bartending career started right here with EBS. I never considered working as a bartender, but I needed a job with my studies and I remember that I wanted to earn as much as possible, in the least amount of time (because I was studying full time). So bartending made perfect sense.
In Norway, the bars and nightclubs are open mostly during the weekend, so it seemed like a good idea to work Fridays and Saturdays behind the bar. One day I Googled bartending and found EBS’s homepage and booked the 4-week bartending course. This was 6 years ago in 2009. Back then you guys had 6-7 schools around the world. I was lucky to have some of Norway’s best teachers in flair, mixology and bartending such as Adam McDonald who’s creativity has no limits and Steinar Jensen who’s energy just got people going.
Denny: I was in university (management of hotel and restaurant business) and needed more pocket money than my parents could give me, so I started looking for a job and came across a sign on the street from a restaurant saying “waiter wanted”. I applied, but obviously, they only needed a bartender. I knew nothing about this but decided to try. My first day working as a bartender went beyond disaster!
I was alone in the bar working on their grand opening day, managing the service bar and guests. I’d never made any cocktails or coffees in my life before, I was only handed a book of recipes saying how many grams of ice the different drinks had and so on. So there I was having tickets with different coffees and drinks from here to the moon, waiters shouting at me wanting their drinks, guests waiting and me, Denny Bakiev, trying to make one drink at a time (like the book told me to!), measuring the weight of the ice, while the cappuccino foam decorated the bar by itself. It was a total nightmare!
At the end of the shift I decided that this was not for me, it was too hard, but my boss said I did good and asked me to give it a try anyway. After some time working there and getting more accustomed as a bartender, a friend of mine invited me to go watch a flair competition. This was in 2007 and it was the best in Ukraine competing that time. I remember I fell in love with this art right away and asked right after the competition if I could practice with them. That’s where my flair life began.
How long did it take you to get to a respectable level in flair?
Kristina: I learned my first flair move at EBS in 2009, which was a hand stall. But then I could go several months before I even touched a bottle. Finally, by the end of 2013, I decided that 2014 was going to be my year – doing what I love and compete abroad. So in the beginning of 2014, I started practicing as much as possible, every day and even at night times. Only diamond can cut diamond. It might seem extreme, but I sacrificed my job and many friends to practice flair. I set up a practice room with a matress-covered floor, which must sound familiar to those truly dedicated to flair.
At a point, I started recording myself for improvements and posting some videos on Facebook and managed to get feedback. Two months in, promoters started inviting me to their flair competitions and by this time I had also met Denny. So summing up my answer to this question: a couple of months straight and Denny.
Denny: 1 year. I did my first competition in 2008, taking 3rd place (out of 4 competitors; mwuahaha!). After this, I went back to my practicing room and in 2009 in “Planet of Bartenders” in Kiev, I took 2nd place. This was the first international competition and also the biggest in Ukraine then. After that, I started competing abroad and had my first comp in Warsaw, Poland. I didn’t make the final in this one, but after that I always made final, was in the top three, and started to win.
In 2012 and 2013 I got invited to Monte Carlo with 10 of the best in the world, which was huge for me as well, besides the competitions I won. It’s worth mentioning that I always had a passion for making flair videos, editing with music and stuff, so that helped me create a name for myself.
What would you recommend to anyone wanting to get into flair?
Kristina: I forgot to mention earlier I also took a pure flair course in 2010 through EBS in London, hosted by dangerous Tom Dyer, legendary Jay Du Toit and amazing Chris Kellet. This gave me inspiration enough to practice for years ahead.
Kristina: “So based on my experience, I’m definitely recommending EBS as one of the solid ways to “enter the flair world” since they offer worldwide flair courses perfect for beginners, but also good for intermediate- to advance levels coached by some of the best flair bartenders in the world.”
Denny: I would like to reply to this question by sending people over to the tutorial I did on my fan page, where you can read all about my advice on every step there is.
How has bartending affected your life?
Kristina: Bartending and its community really keep you young at heart, and I’m not talking about the parties. I rarely drink, but I think you pretty much got the picture from my answers on the above questions and I can add that it has only affected me in positive ways – having the opportunity to travel, meet people, making friends and work around the world.
Denny: I got the chance to travel, meet people and make friends. Traveling changed everything. I couldn’t even speak one word of English before I started traveling. I remember reading in the menu when I first started traveling, “fried rice?!?”. And of course being able to work around the world is a great benefit.
Are there any plans beyond to what you are doing now in Bali?
Kristina: There’s always plans, and the best never rest! Regarding flair, we have a project going on which in time will manifest itself. For our main goal, the title of this interview pretty much says it all.
Denny: I think it’s a dream for many bartenders to open their own bar at the beach in some tropical place, something like in the movie “Cocktail”.
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