Peruse The Franklin’s extensive bar book and you’ll be enticed by 36 libations grouped into six categories. From classic sips (“Required Reading,”) to approachable ones (“Easy Going,”) all the way to evocative, potent potables (“I Asked Her For Water She Gave Me Gasoline,”) Bar Manager Al Sotack and Head Bartender Colin Shearn make memorably complex drinks de rigueur at the fifty-seat, buzzworthy Philadelphia cocktail den.
There is one ingredient, however, decidedly missing from the back bar: “Vodka is boring and has no place in cocktails,” declares Shearn. He notes that vodka doesn’t fit in with the pre-Prohibition spirit of the bar, which shares its name with a bootlegging operation run by gangster Max “Boo Boo” Hoff. Staff does admit, though, that Tequila—which does factor onto the menu—wasn’t around then either.
But the staunch antivodka attitude is not meant to convey an elitist attitude. Staff at the Rittenhouse Square-neighborhood hotspot loves simply to turn customers on to drinks they may not have considered ordering before. In other words, you can’t easily skip right over the gin section because of a bad past experience.
Most liquid options are priced at $12, like the easy-drinking “House of Lords.” Its blend of Jamaican rum, Pimm’s No. 1, Cynar, Crème de Pêche and lime first shows its fruity, approachable side, and finishes with a rum kick and touch of bitterness. The whiskey-based “Blues Explosion” is tempered by grapefruit and maple syrup, and served in a perfectly carved rock. But the most impressive concoction may be the “Six-Inch Gold Blade,” which keeps evolving in complexity. Scotch’s smoky peaty notes hit first, followed by enticing bitterness from the Amaro, Campari and Punt e Mes, finishing off with a funky earthiness from mole bitters.
The recently launched “Extra Credit” program features $9 drinks aimed to give a little beverage education on topics like the evolution of the Martini, or hot drinks. A new small plates menu tempts with nibbles like housemade pickles and charcuterie, black olive and lemon biscotti and Peking pork rinds.
Every cocktail at The Franklin, explains Shearn, has direction—a term he prefers to balance. “You can balance a drink to the point of bland,” he says. The Franklin’s direction and bar philosophy? “It’s simple: the right drink at the right moment for the right person.”