Drinking with Ms. Franky: Jamaican Rum, Egg Hating & 20 Languages

Every now & then, you see an interesting person from across the room and ask yourself, “who is that?”  That is exactly how I felt when I first met Ms. Franky Marshall. A true hospitality vet, Franky was part of the opening staff at legendary cocktail bars, Clover Club and The Dead Rabbit.  She has also been behind the stick at Monkey Bar and The Tippler and has a resume of accolades and hardcore cred.  She is the former Vice President of the USBG of New York, was named one of the “Top 10 Female Mixologists” by The Drinks Business Magazine, has been a Presenter/Moderator at Tales of the Cocktail, The Prague Bar Show, Portland Cocktail Week, and Golden State of Cocktails. She became a BNIC Certified Cognac Educator in 2014, is a graduate of Bar Smarts, and holds a Certificate with Distinction from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.  Although she is clearly extremely talented with shaking & stirring drinks, it is her confident signature style and genuinely warm aura that makes Franky truly memorable. There is just something about her energy that makes you want to get to know her … with that being said, let’s get to know her better and go drinking with Ms. Franky Marshall.

I need a spot where I can get a healthy pour of good wine in a clean glass.

Favorite NYC place to hang out for a drink or two?

You know, I’m not really one to ‘hang out’ or be a regular at bars. I prefer to try places that are new and/or “noteworthy” and see what they’re up to. I find places that are inviting, that have atmosphere and character most appealing. Other than that, I need a spot where I can get a healthy pour of good wine in a clean glass.

Favorite go-to drink order?

What I drink depends on where I am. I’ll order according to what I think is going to be best at the establishment I’m in. That said, wine and champagne are my session drinks, sherry… But I’ll only order those in certain bars. If end up in a random place with a limited selection, whisky neat can be a safe choice.

First job in the industry?

My first service industry job was serving food to residents of a retirement home. It was a very challenging, eye opening, stressful experience for a teenager. The residents were very demanding, had extremely specific ways they liked their food served for various meals, and were quite vocal about it, to say the least. In fact, they would just yell at you if you did something differently than the way they were used to.

Between that and working as a server in Chelsea – which interestingly, had a lot in common with the home – it provided great training in how to deal with the high-maintenance and needy. After those two jobs, I was ready for anyone and anything.

Drinking With Ms Franky Marshall

First boozy drink you ever had?

The first alcoholic drink I ever had was most likely Jamaican rum – probably Wray & Nephew Overproof. My family is from Jamaica, and we always had rum around (and scotch), and I remember my mom telling me she used to give me a teaspoon of the stuff every now and then in the crib because I never slept at night. After that, I hardly drank all though high school and college!

What ingredients or techniques are you most excited about right now?

Right now, I’d love to be working with and learning more about kitchen equipment that could be useful for the bar. I miss working in restaurants and having access to the toys that chefs use on a daily basis.

Coffee or tea?

Both! I like coffee with pastries for breakfast (which, if I have breakfast at all, is normally sometime in the late afternoon) or sometimes with dessert after a meal. I’m a decaf drinker, so I don’t drink coffee for the boost, rather for the taste, so it’s gotta be a good cup or I’ll just skip it altogether. I really like Blue Bottle on West 15th.

Tea is a savior anytime of day, and I love it because it’s so versatile. I actually have 23 different varieties at home right now. When I travel, it’s BYOB (bring your own bag), so I always have the tea I want available when I need it. “Buccaneer” by Serendipitea is one of my favorite black teas.

Coffee gets a splash of half and half, and black teas get a drop of milk – too much masks the flavors. Never any sugar in either.

What’s your hangover remedy?

Since hangovers usually render me horizontal and wishing the world were a better place, my “remedy” involves many hours of sleep, followed by starchy foods and lots of water. I definitely don’t subscribe to the “hair of the dog” philosophy.

Do you have a guilty “drink” pleasure?

I drink (or don’t drink), guilt free, depending on my moods. I try to make sure that anything I put in my mouth belongs there.

Where do you like to drink when you’re traveling and who are industry favorites who have delivered memorable experiences?

I don’t have a “favorite” – there’s so many good people out there. A few great experiences I’ve had while traveling over the last year or so:

  • London is an amazing town to have creative, beautifully presented cocktails made by some inspiring, boundary pushing bartenders. Places like Artesian, Nightjar, White Lyan… I was lucky enough to go to those places when Alex Kratena & Simone Caporale, Marian Beke & Luca Cinalli, and Ryan Chetiyawardana were working their respective bars which made those visits even more memorable. And don’t forget Duke’s for the tray service and The Savoy/The Connaught for different kind of elevated hotel bar experience.
  • Paris has a young, thriving bar scene right now. There are some talented folks (French, American, and others) operating bars with great drinks and environments. I haven’t yet been to all the new places that have recently opened, but I enjoyed Café Moderne, Lockwood, Marie Celeste, Red House, Dirty Dick… I’ve always loved the feel of the piano bar at La Closerie des Lilas, it’s a great escape.
  • Prague has some beautiful bars as well. During the bar show George Nemec and Pavel Sima took us to amazing places like the gorgeous Black Angels and Hemingway Bar, Bugsy’s, Blue Light, a gentlemen’s club… We did not stop. They even sent us off with bottled cocktails to take on the plane. Incredible time.
  • Glasgow nearly brought me to my knees. A random meeting at Edinburgh Airport led a very nice gentleman to tell another very nice gentleman that I was heading to Glasgow and should be shown around. I was taken to Kelvingrove Café, The Finneston, Blythswood Square, The Pot Still… All the bartenders I met there took excellent care of me. Somehow on my last night, I ended up dancing to techno in someone’s kitchen before running off to the airport. That was a close one.

Best spot eats when you are drinking or dare we say, drunk?

For late night sustenance, I like Coppelia, the “24/7 Latin Diner” on 14th St. The Lomo Saltado and empanadas are tasty and satisfying.

When it’s late and nothing else is around, it’s off to the deli for a grilled salsalito turkey (no preservatives!) With peppers, onions, lettuce and tomato, melted cheddar on a toasted sesame seed bagel – hold the mayo.

Where is your fave spot for a super chill night out or date night recommendation?

I haven’t been on a date in a helluva long time! However… I recently had dinner at Via Carota in the West Village. The food and service were very good, it has a cozy atmosphere and importantly – good lighting!

I think the Metropolitan Museum is a good date spot as well. Maybe not for a first date, but from, say – the 4th onwards. There are lots of nooks to get lost in, the roof has a great view, and just being surrounded by all of those inspirational and beautiful works can restore your faith in humanity. (Temporarily anyway.) Also, it’s always good to get to know a potential partner’s aesthetic early on, before it comes time to decorate the apartment.

Favorite NYC gems that might not be on everyone’s radar?

  • Arthur’s Tavern in the West Village. Great old space with live music 7 nights a week, cash only, bartender has been there for 13 years. I sat in with a band there a few years ago.
  • Frank’s – an old school bar with a good music selection and great vibe in Fort Greene, BK.
  • If you find yourself in the neighborhood, The Distinguished Wakamba is fun, and there’s a dance floor!
  • The raspberry almond croissants at Millefeuille on LaGuardia place are worth it.

What are you most proud of in your career thus far?

I’m proud that I’ve remained adaptable, open to learning new things, and I’m not afraid of change. I like to take risks and if sometimes things don’t work out, I’ll choose another path. I don’t always take the easy road.

Do you have mentors or someone you look up to in the industry? Who can we thank (besides yourself) for your delicious work?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have many people give me advice and offer help over the years. Folks have (mostly) been kind. I’m grateful that Julie Reiner and Susan Fedroff hired me at Clover Club when it first opened. I’d had years of prior bartending experience, although not “cocktail bartending”, really wanted to get involved in the cocktail world, but didn’t know anybody. I started as a server, then moved onto the bar within about 8 months. I learned so much working there. I was introduced to industry luminaries, and was given some fantastic opportunities that I didn’t even know existed at the time. That was the beginning of my journey into this rarefied cocktail world.

If you weren’t part of this crazy booze world, what would you be doing?

I studied vocal music, so i’d probably still be singing. Of course, i will always be a singer, it’s just a matter of getting back on stage and trying to make some kind of living at it again. Music is not easy career choice, that’s for sure. Either that, or I’d still be in school just taking classes for the hell of it.

What are some interesting things that people may not know about you?

  • A few things I gave up in high school: soda, blue jeans, McDonald’s, group think.
  • I haven’t owned a TV in at least 10 years.
  • I’ve always wanted to be a spy, or at least own some spy-worthy gadgets.
  • I’m a pretty good whistler.
  • I genuinely love food and eating well. When I’m traveling, I usually make restaurant reservations, have dining destinations mapped, and “must-eats” planned out long before I get on the plane. I hate eggs though, unless they’re hidden in a dessert. The sight of a runny egg makes me shudder. I like to eat sushi with a knife and fork and salad with my fingers.
  • I’ve lived in France, I speak French; my Spanish is pretty good; and I can say something – a word or phrase – in about 20 different languages. Traveling has always been a passion, and I can’t wait until my next trip!

Straight update & shameless plug time: what are you working on these days? Let’s hear it!

I wrote an article for The Diageo Bar Academy on things to consider when looking for a new bartending job. It was my first official writing gig, so that was exciting.

I’ll be moderating two seminars at Tales of the Cocktail this summer. One will be on cognac, with Hoke Harden and Allen Katz; and the other will be another of my talk with a pro series. This one is called an awesome threesome, and features three distinguished women in the business: Claire Warner, Ann Tuennerman, and Lorena Vasquez. I’m excited!

Other than that, I’m just working on me.

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