If you’ve ever spoken to fans of Santa Barbara’s burgeoning cocktail scene, chances are they’ve referred you to Trattoria Vittoria (30 E. Victoria St., [805] 962-5014, trattoriavittoria.com) to see Ivo Peshev, the 27-year-old Bulgarian bottle thrower who is taking the international “bartending flair” circuit by storm.

“In Bulgaria, you start going to bars at 15-16 years old,” explained Peshev, who moved to America from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia when he was 20. “Flair is huge in Bulgaria. I’ll never forget the first time I saw someone do flair. I was hooked.”

Since starting his flair career, Peshev has placed first, second, or third in more than 40 California competitions, including a prestigious first place at an international event in Norco last fall. “I’m very competitive, but that’s not why I do flair,” he said. “I love it if I can make someone’s day better. Everything I do is for them.”

Peshev also prides himself on the relationships he creates from great service, and it’s very rare to find an open spot at the Trattoria Vittoria bar from Wednesday-Saturday after his shift starts at 5 p.m. If you can, snag the corner seat and order the prime rib ravioli. He recently answered a few more of my questions:

I see you have “Balance” tattooed across your forearm. How do you balance being the star and the server when you work? I try to provide genuine service to my patrons. That doesn’t mean necessarily flipping bottles in front of everyone, but making great drinks, having personality behind the bar, and being attentive and fast enough to keep up with it all. I’m here to make it easier to enjoy our great food and drinks.

What’s your favorite drink? Lagavulin 16-year-old Scotch with a nice cigar.

What’s your favorite drink to make? Actually, it’s a cosmopolitan, only because it was the first drink ever ordered after flair school and I was so excited I knew how to make it. I was 16 years old.


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