Their best shot

Life as a bartender is a cocktail composed of one part charisma, one part skill. Spiked with a strong shot of patience, of course.

How does a server develop skills that keep customers entertained? “A lot of flipping bottles and breaking bottles,” said Torrey Fairris, 27.

He’s one of the six T.G.I. Friday’s bartenders who will compete in the Columbus restaurant’s annual bartending competition next Wednesday.

The event, a culmination of pre-tests spanning everything from uniforms to food knowledge, is the local installment of the T.G.I. Friday’s World Bartender Championship. The international event has taken place for nearly 20 years.

Next week’s local winner will move on to the regional finals in Atlanta.

“It brings out their personalities so much. They have so much fun,” Dianna Phillips, restaurant accountant for the Columbus T.G.I. Friday’s, said of the participating bartenders.

But fun — driven by the restaurant’s emphasis on “flair” bartending — isn’t the only goal.

All proceeds from the event go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The restaurant “leases” seating in the bar area — stools for $25, tables for $100. The event’s appeal? Bartenders make complicated tricks look easy, and each competitor infuses some of his or her own personality into the tricks.

“They pretty much make up their own routines,” Phillips said. “They’ve worked really hard to be able to compete.”

Bartenders attribute their success to a variety of factors.

“They don’t know what to expect from me,” Fairris, who’s been bartending eight months, said of his spontaneous bartending style.

John Maxwell, another T.G.I. Friday’s competitor, said pacing is just as important.

“I try to be quick. The girls can flirt and the guys have to be quick,” said Maxwell, 23, who’s been bartending for three years.

Contact Sonya Sorich at 706-571-8516 or