Hidden bar features changing cocktail menu

The Franklin Bar is named after a former money-laundering and bootlegging space in the 1920s.

Customers sit inside the The Franklin Bar on Sansom and 18th streets on Feb. 12. | YU CHEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In front of an unmarked entrance on Sansom and 18th streets stands a doorman dressed in a brown leather jacket and wool-blend newsboy cap, guiding guests through a basement door. 

Inside, the bar’s interior is dimly lit with candles and a bartender of the day creates new concoctions. 

The Franklin Bar, established in 2009, is named after the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company, a former rum money-laundering space that was America’s largest bootlegging ring during prohibition during the 1920s, BBC reported.

“The fact that it is in the middle of Philadelphia and you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of Philadelphia, you are really checking into a different time, a different place, a different era,” said Derik Yarnell, 51 and a first-time customer. 

The Franklin Bar pictured outside is located on Samson and Chesnut Streets. | YU CHEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The bar sells many types of original experimental cocktails, like lime-cucumber-prosecco-brandy refreshers and rosemary-blueberry-coconut liqueur “wildcards.”  Customers can order classic cocktails and riffs, in addition to custom drinks.

“When it first started, the consultants and the head bartenders didn’t want any vodka in [the menu],” said Emmanuel Sanchez, 28, Franklin’s general manager. “They kinda wanted to change the culture a little bit and like slowly like teach people about other spirits.”

The bar changes and updates its menu every two to three months. During the turnover process, they set up a roundtable of bartenders, where everyone gives input on new drinks to feature. Staff members also search for inspiration for new cocktails by visiting different bars in the city.

“They are very deliberate about cocktails,” said Leonard De Guzman, 32, a customer. “It’s no wine, no beer, it’s very clearly a focus on cocktails, one of a section on the menu is even ‘Spirituous,’ right, a spirituous full one.” 

Austin Ayars, 24, a bartender and a waiter, said Franklin is the first bar he’s worked at that focuses on cocktails, instead of food.

His favorite is The Celebrity Chef, a Japanese cuisine-inspired cocktail contains wasabi, lime juice, orgeat, orange flower water and almond drink, he added.

“We do a lot of classics but we also have a very heavy prep-program, making different syrups, ingredients, and fusions that you won’t typically see at other bars, so that allows us to experiment with a lot more ingredients and flavor profile,” Ayars said.

Andrew Peterson, 25, another bartender, said the bar is unique compared to others that rush in making drinks.

“We do the opposite,” he said. “We take as many times and care about the cocktail as much as we can.”

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