The Art of Bartending: Franky Marshall
Our columnist sat down with the talented New York bartender over pints of Guinness and platters of oysters.
Ms. Franky Marshall and I met in my favorite interview room—the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal—we feasted on pints of Guinness and platters of Kumamotos, and reminisced on our decade-long friendship.
“I’ve known you so long,” I told her, “but I don’t think I know anything about you at all.”
She grinned. I think she likes it that way.
What I did know about Ms. Franky (which is what her friends call her), though, was that she’s a much sought-after New York-based bartender, a certified Cognac educator and an entertainer by soul. In fact, she usually looks like she’s ready to step on stage with a streak of bright color in her hair and dramatic makeup. She has a real joie de vivre and a worldliness that’s evident the second you meet her.
Perhaps, that’s because Ms. Franky’s mother took her to Europe when she was just a wee lass, and as a result she feels right at home on that side of the Atlantic. She has lived in Strasbourg, Montreal, and Switzerland, and her command of the French language is just about as perfect as any non-native. Far better than mine, that’s for sure.
Like many people, Ms. Franky’s bar career started when she needed to make money to help get her through college. She started out as a server but quickly realized that she was filling ketchup bottles and running back and forth from kitchen to dining room, while the bartenders looked like they were just standing around acting cool. She knew then and there that she’d be far better off behind the stick.
After working in a few “treacherous bars” where nobody was sure which vodka was in the Stoli bottle, Ms. Franky started applying for work at craft cocktail bars. Eventually she got a gig at Brooklyn’s renowned Clover Club where she was lucky enough to be interviewed by owners Julie Reiner and Susan Fedroff, two of the canniest bar minds the world has ever seen.
Ms. Franky soon started working there as a server, carefully watching the top-of-the-line bartenders making their cocktails, and digesting every move they made. I doubt that she could have had a finer introduction to the world of craft cocktails.
“Ms. Franky received more personal notes on credit card slips telling us how fantastic she is than any other employee,” says Reiner. “She gave her guests an experience like no other server we have ever had.” High praise, indeed. And Reiner always tells it like it is.
Like many twenty-first-century bartenders, Ms. Franky likes to move around a lot, and when I met her at the Oyster Bar she had just left a good job at a Brooklyn bar, and was about to embark on a two-week trip to Japan, hoping to learn more about Japanese bar culture.
So here’s the thing about Ms. Franky. She’s strictly old-school when it comes to tending bar. What do I mean by old-school? Let’s let Ms. Franky answer that one:
“I try not to be rigid in my approach. It’s important to be adaptable to my surroundings, the kind of bar I’m working in, and of course to the guests,” she says. “I don’t feel there is just one way to bartend, one way to make a cocktail, or one way to show hospitality. It all depends on many factors: context, environment, the people sitting in front of you, etc. Working this way has made me a happier and better bartender.”
And that quote takes me right back to the 1970s when I started tending bar in Manhattan—these were the qualities we looked for in bartenders back then. Ms. Franky, though, brings all this into the 21st century with her top-notch cocktailian skills.
It’s a privilege to know you, Ms. Franky.
“Barkeep! Another dozen Kumamotos, please!”