Will Isaza, Fairsted Kitchen’s Spirit Whisperer (yes, that’s his actual title), brings a touch of flair to the Washington Square spot. Isaza took the reins as bar and floor manager in early 2015 when Alex Homans was tapped to head up the bar at Frogmore (Fairsted’s sister restaurant now open in JP.) Isaza was ready to step into the role, having honed his craft at Boston-area bars and on the bartending entertainment circuit. He’s competed across the map in flair bartending showdowns where his flips, spins and damn good drinks have won him recognition. Spend a night (especially a late night) at Isaza’s bar and you’ll see how his showmanship and philosophy combine to kick the Boston cocktail scene up a notch.
Before he could legally drink, Isaza took to the art of flair bartending, influenced by his older brother’s experience in the cruise ship business where cocktail-mixing comes with a bit of pizazz. The razzle-dazzle drink-making technique, popularized in the 80s by Tom Cruise in Cocktail, goes back to the 1800s according to the Flair Bartenders’ Association. Flair bartenders juggle barware and bottles, bounce tins off their elbows and catch spirits (spout-side up), all while mixing up accurate pours. Isaza has showcased his skills at competitions across the country and twice been chosen as one of ten USA contenders for the USBG World Flair Cocktail Championship. Having mastered the cocktail theatrics, he wanted to get back to the basics and took a break from show life to take on traditional bartending at Temple Bar and Park before landing at Fairsted Kitchen.
In Brookline, Isaza oversees the Fairsted bar menu, which is available until 2:00am every night, and includes rotating cocktails on draft and in bottles. He’s put his own touches on the drink list, designing signature draft aperitifs and low-alcohol beverages that are force-carbonated and bottled for easy sipping. A recent example, The Tropic Thunder, combined Plantation rum with ginger, pineapple, Cynar and medium-dry Riesling—popped like a soda and more than palatable. He’ll be adding a permanent draft cocktail to the regular bar menu and continues to experiment with tasty tipples. (At the 2015 Mixology Throwdown, he turned a mystery box of CSA produce into a crown-winning, farm-fresh cocktail.)
With or without flair, Isaza is an entertainer at heart and leans toward creating a bar atmosphere that encourages a good time. A bartender is, first and foremost, a facilitator of fun. While the drinks are certainly a draw, extended late night hours are a chance for the after-dinner crowd to get to know Isaza and the bar team. There may not be any glass juggling (or maybe there will be—who knows what late night brings) but Isaza has more than a few bartending tricks up his sleeve.