Franky Marshall | Spirits Educator

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When Ms. Franky Marshall entered the craft cocktail scene, she knew she was all-in. “There was no looking back. I got caught up in it, and I still am,” she says.

Marshall got her start waitressing in restaurants in New York during her high school years, but quickly realized bartenders were having more fun. She embellished her résumé to land her first bartending gig, despite lacking drink-mixing experience entirely. In the years since, she’s worked at establishments of every veneer—cocktail bars, dives, upscale hotels, restaurants and nightclubs alike. She joined Clover Club’s opening team in 2008, at the dawn of the craft cocktail revival. “In those days, it was just starting out with all these learning experiences and brand sponsored events—it was all so new” recalls Marshall.

But Marshall knows there’s more to bartending than learning how to make a perfectly crafted drink. “It’s no longer just about showing up,” she says. Having worked across the entire spectrum of the hospitality industry, she understands the importance of honing people skills, joking that her high school job feeding the elderly was the best training she could’ve asked for. “I don’t get fazed by how people act, or their rudeness anymore, I’ve seen a lot!” she says.

These days, Marshall is the one doing the teaching, educating the industry about Cognac and Pineau des Charentes while traveling the globe giving seminars on the role of the modern bartender.

So what does Marshall do when she’s not spreading the Cognac gospel? Here, she tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share the best thing she’s ever drank, the weirdest cocktail experiment she’s attempted and her go-to hangover regimen. —Tatiana Bautista

Current occupation:
Modern bartender, educator, consultant, unrepentant hedonist.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A jet-setting spy.

Best thing you ever drank:
One of the most memorable was a post-massage tea I had at a spa in Bali. It was ginger tea with spices, just a hint of sweetness. Ginger drinks are ubiquitous, I know, but this one was different than anything I’d had before or since, and just so delicious. Every now and then I smell something similar, and I try to replicate that flavor, but just can’t seem to get it. I regret not asking how they made it (or for a second cup).

Worst thing you ever drank:
I’ve actually never drank one, but I imagine it to be an energy drink. I cannot stand the smell of them and not sure how people keep them down (with or without the vodka). Why would you want to do that to yourself? I’d rather re-energize naturally. 

First time you ever got drunk:
It involved teenage girls gone wild, a bottle of SoCo, me laid out on the back seat of a car which then got pulled over, and someone explaining to the officer that I was just taking a little power nap. Nothing to see here!

If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I have music constantly playing in my head all the time. I’m basically my own streaming service, except sometimes I don’t actually get to choose the songs, they choose me. And this question is cruel. I love music too much to ever be able to choose just one album.

What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Of the ones I can discuss, let’s see… I used to collect worms when I was a kid. Not sure why. 
It’s not a hobby, but I really enjoy helping map-consulting tourists find their way. If people look lost, I’ll just walk up them and ask them where they want to go. Having been in that position a number of times, I sympathize.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Well, I actually knew this years ago but believe it even more now because it’s proven to be true. Eventually, with time, most issues won’t matter anymore. Stay focused, tune out the noise and negativity and keep moving forward.

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I have a very high threshold when it comes to weird and am attracted to the unusual. Often when people describe something as “weird,” it’s because the ingredients or pairings are unfamiliar or untested. In time though, many of  these things become acceptable, even desirable. So honestly, I’m not even sure what’s considered weird anymore.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
I really love exploring, playing tourist here in New York and abroad, learning things. Practicing on my piano keyboard, which takes up far too much space in my bedroom. And then thinking about eating and drinking.

Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Guest: “I need something that matches my current mood: rain.” *Slowly pushes glass of water towards guest.*

Your favorite bar, and why:
I don’t play favorites, but I did have a good experience at Bar Hemingway in Osaka last year. It’s fashioned after bars that exist in certain parts of Spain, complete with a pata negra for carving, sherry, Spanish wine and memorabilia. The owner/barman studied in Jerez and speaks Spanish, so we were able to have a nice conversation. I happened upon it while looking for another place and it was around 4 p.m, so an excellent time for some pan con tomate and a glass of fino. Finding that bar was a great surprise, and it was the perfect place to be at that moment.

Best meal you’ve ever had:
I don’t have a “best” as they’ve all been unique in different ways. One of the most memorable palate awakenings was a simple tomato and cheese sandwich I had while on a train going from Barcelona to Madrid. I was not very excited at the prospect of eating that sandwich, made by my companion, a vegetarian. But when I took a bite, the tomato exploded with such a deep flavor and velvety texture that was unforgettable. I was shocked because I had never realized how incredible a tomato could taste, and then the combination with the cheese and the right amount of bread, almost brought tears to my eyes. Dios mio!

What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
If it’s a place that I know or feel I can trust, then whichever drink on the menu that sounds the most interesting and doesn’t involve eggs. Or a Bamboo.

Wine bar?
A reasonably priced low intervention wine, any color. Then another.

In a dive bar?
It took me a while to get my dive bar order together. I don’t enjoy drinking cheap beer for the sake of irony. So, one of the two gins on the back bar with an ice cube, and lemon—which is pushing it, I know.

Your preferred hangover recovery regimen:
Lots of sleep and water. If I can get out of bed, then I’ll go get some Jamaican soup, followed by fried things. If I can’t get out of bed, then more sleep, and prayers to the old gods and the new.

The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
No lists. I hate places that don’t have a wine list, so you’re forced to describe what you “feel like” drinking. What happens is that after a taste or two, you often feel obligated to settle for something that you don’t really want because you’re conscious of taking up more of the bartender’s time as other guests are waiting, and they start to give you that “choose something already” look. It also puts the guest in an awkward position of having to ask or just sit there dreading how much each glass is going to cost since wine prices can be unpredictable. I’ve been in this situation a couple of times recently and was in shock when the bill came. Also, you might have something that I didn’t know I wanted, that wasn’t offered, that I discover as I’m about to leave, so now I regret not ordering that instead of what I settled on in the first place. Just give me a damn menu and let me choose what I want damnit!

The last text message you sent:
“Sorry, who is this? :*)”