I saw my first bar trick from a man named Daddy Jack. In the first fifteen years of tending bar, my collection grew to almost 1000 tricks. It was my thing behind the bar. In the early 1990s, I was asked to teach fun bar tricks in Walt Disney World's mandatory F&B classes called Quest for the Best. This experience inspired me to publish my first book Miss Charming's Book of Bar Amusements.
Hieronymus Bosch and workshop Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Bar Tricks and Magic History
Ancient wall paintings show us that tricks have been around since 5000 BCE. The classic cup and ball trick was discovered in detailed Egyptian scrolls. India had its snake charmers and carpet flyers, court jesters performed for royalty, and throughout history speculation is high that the average Jane or Julius witnessed a few shenanigans of sorts at local village drinking houses. In medieval times, however, tricks fell into a Dark Age closet due to the association with witchcraft, and it wasn’t safe to come out and play again until the 1700s.
A bar trick is a challenging brainteaser of sorts using a variety of items found in and around a bar/restaurant. Such items could be money, straws, glasses, bottles, napkins, etc. Bartenders use bar tricks to entertain guests because most tricks take ten to twenty seconds to set up and explain, which allows the bartender to walk away to perform other duties while guests have fun figuring out a trick. There are also bar tricks that fall under the categories of wordplay and gags.
Bar Magic Tricks
A bar magic trick is magic performed using a variety of items found in and around a bar/restaurant or with store-bought magic tricks. Bar magic tricks require a little more time to prepare, present, and perform. Generally, bartenders only take the time to perform a bar magic trick when they aren’t busy helping other guests.
Other's known for performing bar tricks and/or bar magic tricks
In 2005, the Academy of Magical Arts Awards held at the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, added a new category—Bar Magician. My friend, Doc Eason is the first to win this award. William H. “Doc” Eason worked at John Denver’s World Famous Tower Comedy / Magic Bar in Snowmass Village, Colorado, from 1977 to 2004. He is also a corporate entertainer and lecturer spreading the therapy of laughter. Doc was also involved in the Fox TV show Masters of Illusion.
His awards include:
2004 W. C. Fields Magic Bartender of the Year from the Magic Castle
2008 Closeup Magician of the Year from the Magic Castle
2009 Closeup Magician of the Year and Lecturer of the Year
2012 Best Closeup Magician in a reader’s poll on magic.about.com
2016 Lecturer of the Year from the Academy of Magic Arts at the Magic Castle
Check out Doc's YouTube and website.
Johnny Platt (1903-1990)
Johnny Platt was a vaudeville magician. For fifteen years he also worked at the Gay Nineties Bar in Chicago's LaSalle Hotel. Later, he moved to Hollywood to work at the Magic Castle.
Frank Everhart, Sr. (1921-2004)
Frank Everhart, Sr. first tended bar in San Diego, CA at the
El Cortez Hotel. In 1949, he moved to Chicago and took a bartender job at the Gay Nineties Bar in Chicago's LaSalle Hotel where Johnny Platt worked as bar magician. Platt taught Everhart magic then later took over for Platt. In 1953, Everhart became the bar magician at The Ivanhoe bar in Chicago. It's said that he performed for a one-night stand then stayed for 21 years. Everhart passed away of a heart attack at age 82. Everhart's son, Frank Everhart, Jr. carried on the tradition of bar magic at the Schooner Wharf in Key West.
Frank Everhart, Jr. (1973- )
Frank Everhart, Jr. began learning magic and stage performance from the age of two from his father Frank Everhart, Sr. While in the military he discovered that he had a love for magic, so his next adventure was working as a bar magician in St. Louis, MO. While on vacation in Key West, FL, Everhart decided to move to the Sunshine State to pursue his passion. On May 15, 1997, he began working at Schooner Wharf in Key West and celebrated his 20th anniversary in 2017. Around the same time, he filed a lawsuit against a Lysol product that he believes left him blind in one eye and partially blind in the other.
Dean Serneels (1970- )
My longtime friend, Dean Serneels is mostly known for being an award-winning flair bartender, inventing the Flairco Flair bottle, the Flairco portable bar and producing a set of four award-winning bartender training DVD’s. But, he is also a bar magician and has a line of bar magic tricks. His most popular is the floating cocktail shaker.
I first learned of Michael Hayes around 1999 when surfing the web. He owned the domain bartricks.com (today the domain connects straight to an old YouTube promo video). He calls himself the "Copperfield of Bar Tricks." When I was in the middle of publishing my first book on bar tricks, he hired an attorney to sue the publisher claiming that I took one of his classes and stole all of his tricks. I've never even met the guy and his suit was dropped.
Cheryl Charming (1960- )
That's me! As you probably know by now, I collected bar tricks, riddles, jokes, trivia, history, cocktails in film, and more for a long time. I became known as the girl who does bar tricks. Walt Disney World even hired me to teach fun bar tricks to servers and bartenders and my first book was a small collection of bar tricks that patrons had shared with me. Sadly, I don't have many bar trick videos, but there is one you can see.
Bar Tricks in Media
Film | Bringing Up Baby
A bartender shows Kathryn Hepburn a bar trick.
Film | Boogie Nights
John C. Reilly plays Reed Rothchild who does bar magic a few times throughout the film.
TV | America's Got Talent
In season 9, Smoothini classifies himself as a Bar Magician.
Dean Serneels bar Magic CD. Doc Eason, me, and Dean Serneels teaching a Bar Magic Seminar at Tales of the Cocktail.
Bar trick scene from the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby.
Bar Tricks From My 1st Book
Bottle & Straw
The Egg and Shot Glasses
Items needed: an egg (raw or hard-boiled), two heavy-bottomed shot glasses.
Setup: Place the shot glasses next to each other on a table or bar top. Place the egg into one of the shot glasses.
The Challenge: Move the egg into the empty shot glass without touching the egg or the shot glasses with anything.
The Answer: Blow a short, quick, and hard stream of air into the air pocket of the shot glass that is holding the egg and the egg will pop over to the other shot glass. The air pocket is between the egg and the rim of the glass.
Tips: Hard-boil an egg to save on eggs and messes. The best shot glasses to use are the old-fashioned types that have a heavy glass bottom. Search Libbey 5127 shot glasses to get an idea. If you use another type of shot glasses, then make sure they allow at least an eighth of an inch of air pocket space after the egg has been inserted.
This is a good follow-up trick from the bottle trick above.
Items needed: a twelve-ounce bottle and a drinking straw
Setup: Set out the empty bottle and drinking straw on a table or bar top.
The Challenge: Pick up the bottle at least six inches using only the straw. The straw cannot be wrapped around the outside of the bottle.
The Answer: Bend the end of the straw, then insert into the bottle until it catches at the bottom of the neck, then lift.
Tips: All bottlenecks are slightly different, so the place where you bend the straw will be a little different each time.
Items needed: Ten cocktail straws. Other items that can be used include toothpicks, matchsticks, and cocktail pics.
Setup: Arrange the ten straws to read the equation:
1 + 11 + 111 (1+2+3).
The Challenge: Pick up one straw, then place it back down somewhere in the equation so that it equals four.
The Answer: Pick up one of the straws from the number two spot and make a plus sign from the middle straw in the number three spot. It will read 1+1+1+1.
Tips: To avoid many crazy solutions with multiplication, division, and crazy-shaped numbers, let the challenged person know that the answer will remain a first-grade elementary mathematical equation.