“If you are a cocktail geek, this is pretty much the first place to go to in Philly,” said Jason Elliot, general manager of The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company.
Over the past eight years, the bar has been known as a subterranean speakeasy. Antithetical to speakeasies, the Franklin Bar (112 S. 18th St.) recently added a sign, albeit small. “We don't really push the speakeasy image like we used to,” Elliot explained. “I think people are more interested in just bars with really good cocktails and less of the dramatics.”
Elliot has a point. Staying true to the creation of delicious craft cocktails and a vibe that is somehow uniquely original despite trying to replicate the past found the Franklin celebrating its eighth anniversary on June 18.
And celebrate this spot plans to do behind a new cocktail menu it unveiled last Friday.
Although the bar is no longer trying to capture the hidden quality of a speakeasy, they “don't do anything to deter that attitude. That’s what people expect out of the place,” Elliot continued. The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company was named in tribute to Philly gangster Max “Boo Boo” Hoff, who headed the largest alcohol running ring, under the guise of an investment company, during Prohibition. Elliot said that they wanted to keep the historical spirit of the place, but focus more on drinks than a theme. “The only real difference is that there is a bit more marketing going on. We try to reach out to the press more,” Elliot joked.
To drum up more business and publicity, a few years back the bar renovated its upstairs room, which used to house overflow weekend customers, into a tiki bar.
The tiki bar, which Elliot said was inspired following a trip to Belize, is fully equipped with all things tropical — grass thatch, colored twinkle lights, leis, paper umbrellas, and even a brass pineapple punch bowl. And while, according to Elliot the upstairs bar has been a hit with locals, he affirmed that “downstairs will always be more popular.”
“The bread and butter is between 25 and 35 [years of age], [plus] we get a lot of hipsters,” he said.
But it’s the amount of work and detail that goes into each cocktail – the ingredients, how to serve, what you could conceivably pair it with – that all comes into play before it ever reaches the front of the house. According to Elliot, every other week the bar team gets together to discuss alcohol and to make new cocktails. The bar does not have a food menu, but does provide peanuts, charcuterie and arguably one of the best cocktail menus in the city.
“The guys do a lot of experimenting, they fool around with a lot of different ingredients,” said Elliot. “Each menu costs about $4,000 to $5,000 in research, in terms of just burning off liquor and trying different things.”