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Interview with Tyler Wang: Kirkland

Posted by Josh Childs  September 19, 2013 08:37 AM

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Tyler Wang could easily be called a top mixologist (a definition I'm not particularly fond of by the way), but prefers, as his new title indicates, lead bartender at the very recently opened Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville. His theater major background comes into play as he is on stage nightly, his skills honed by advice and mentoring from Jackson Cannon and two years at Drink under the tutelage of legends John Gertsen, Misty Kalkofen and Scott Marshall. From there he was onto No 9 Park, continuing an extremely impressive resume. At Kirkland (which opened Monday) he sees the future of bars- a simple, local joint with Tony Maws incredible food at the forefront. We sat down over coffee at Block 11 in Union square last week.

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How did you get started in the business?
I worked at Haru by Prudential, and began to fall in love with the business, and wanted to continue on but didn't really know much about classic cocktails, at all. I turned 21 and someone told me to go to ES and Hugh served my first ever- a Sidecar. Jackson then made me an egg flip and was surprised I actually enjoyed it. It was all downhill from there (wry smile). I'd continue to go in an ask questions, reading endlessly through their books while a drink in hand. I was lucky to stage with them, but Jackson also thoughtfully sent me to check out Drink- I interviewed, and became part of the family there- (big credit to him) and dove in with John and crew. Eventually I made the step to No 9, and was so happy to continue my education.

How did you end up leaving Barbara Lynch's Grupo?
They are the best.
But I was looking for other experiences in the business, Patrick (Sullivan) and Misty (Kalkofen) together with Tony coming to me was heart warming and humbling to say the least, the best possible team I could imagine.

General philosphy at Kirkland?
Hospitality. I want to work in a place I want to go on my day off and I'm really excited to continue that first and foremost. Cocktailwise, Tony has stressed simplicity. 6 cocktails, changing seasonally and being able to execute efficiently. We want to take care of the guest. There will not be 6 minute plus cocktails. Prep heavy, we hope to get creative drinks to people in a timely fashion as fresh and beautifly as you can get. I want to do what makes people happy. We're about pacing ourselves to work faster.

So not an extensive cocktail list?
With the current climate of bars in this city, we don't need to be a temple of cocktails. we need to care and take care of guests- If they want a Vieux Carre we certainly can make it. Thats it. What more do we need to aspire to?
Eventually you realize a simple 3 ingredient drink can be very satisfying. Be many things to a customer. Complex drinks, yes. But really come in and have a beer too. Pop a great bottle of wine. Balance: a place you can geek out one day, quick house shot another.

Restaurant first?
Yes, absolutely. Although I'm looking forward as dinner winds down and music goes up, we are a bar too. The space is beautiful, a bit of a English pub, racing green, not dainty in any way. Heavy wood.
While Tony's reputation will bring customers from everywhere, as a neighborhood bar, I also want to pay particular attention to and be part of the community- which I'm part of- I live only 4 1/2 minutes away.

A cocktail you're doing you can tell me about?
The Cityline (we're on the border of Somerville and Cambridge) pineapple celery soda will showcase what we're doing.
Pineapple syrup, celery seed, citric acid, co2, Mezcal, that's it… I'm really excited.

For the record so am I, and now you can go in and try one too.

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