Before Tyler Wang became a bartender, he trained to be an actor. In a sense, he never gave up the stage: he simply stepped from one stage to another.
To watch Tyler Wang behind the bar at No. 9 Park is to see an elegant performance, not only of physical technique and artistry (he mixes some truly beautiful drinks), but also in the subtle interpretation of the needs of the people on the other side of the bar.
Wang learned the art of tending bar and making great cocktails at Boston’s bartending mecca, Drink, under the tutelage of John Gertsen. There he worked alongside some of the city’s finest bartenders before making the move to No. 9 Park, where Gertsen himself cut his teeth and whose bar sparked the cocktail renaissance in Boston.
“Drink was definitely a very athletic form of bartending,” Wang says, when asked about the differences between the two. “And I feel this is a more intellectual form of bartending. You have more time to spend with people, so you’re always thinking what’s the next thing I can do, and then what’s the next thing I can do three steps down the line to make someone’s night that much better. You really have time to observe.”
And then, of course, there’s the list.
While Drink, famously, has no cocktail menu, No. 9 Park has a beautiful, inventive list of drinks (one which Taylor says is due to expand dramatically) ranging from delightful aperitifs to a full list of classic cocktails. For those who want to go deeper, there’s a progressive list that’s meant to be paired with the restaurant’s tasting menu, which ranges from light drinks for the first course to fortified drinks for the meal’s end.
All of this is created in close collaboration with the kitchen at No. 9 Park, which adds another level of complexity, absent at a bar like Drink where cocktails are king. “In the end, the idea behind [the list] is to make something that fits beside all of this beautiful food. It’s having drinks that work aesthetically and taste delicious together.”
One of the drinks from No. 9 Park’s current cocktail list which Tyler is particularly fond of is a sparkling cocktail called “La Passeggiata,” which mixes sweet and bitter orange flavors. The festively orange drink was inspired in part by Carrie Cole, formerly of Craigie on Main and now of Eastern Standard, who Taylor says is “hands-down one of my favorite bartenders.”
The drink combines Campari and Combier (a predecessor of Cointreau) with gin, Amaretto, sparkling wine and salt. The salt is the secret ingredient — it goes wonderfully with Campari — and Cole was the first bartender who Tyler saw use salt to add a little boost to her cocktails. Since he knew she also loves the bitter flavor of Campari, Tyler says, “If it was going to be a Campari drink, I thought, it might as well be something Carrie Cole would make.”
1 oz. Campari
1/4 oz. Lux Amaretto
1/4 oz. Tanqueray gin
1/4 oz. Combier triple sec
pinch of salt
Shake briefly (just long enough to get it cold) with just a little bit of ice. Pour into a champagne flute and top with prosecco.