Ninety or so years ago, The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company was the front for the country’s largest alcohol distribution ring during prohibition. Today, liquor is legal and readily available but there remains one front at The Franklin. That front would be the nondescript brick façade and unassuming black iron steps which do their best to hide what everyone should know—Philadelphia’s best cocktails are made right here.
The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company is more than a bar, it is a removal from everything but your cocktail. If the time is taken to enjoy it for the art that it is the result is a slip back into a simpler time. Nearly every ingredient harkens back to drinking’s golden age. Their gin is not Tanqueray or Beefeater but Old Tom, which is a sweeter spirit that was popular in 18th century England and is distilled in only a handful of places worldwide. Every juice, syrup, and bitter is handmade—as evidenced by the tray of ice on the bar that contains only fresh whole cuts of fruit, no bottles or cartons. Even the ice is produced the old fashioned way, by taking an ice pick to a large block, the result is large jagged chucks that float in the center of your drink like ice bergs in a sea of spirits.
Despite the high class of the drinks, the bartenders and waitstaff at The Franklin are void of pretension. Knowledge of their craft, the drinks, and the history of the bar are demanded of them and info on each is happily conveyed to any patron willing to listen. The print menu, though placed on each table, is somewhat of a formality. The best way to get the perfect drink for you at The Franklin—tell the server what you look for in a cocktail and ask no questions, the chance of disappoint is slim.
The drinks bring out the energy of the joint. Conversation across the (albeit slim) aisles between tables is plentiful and usually consists of friends passing around their drinks for others in their party to try or strangers making new friends by imparting a terrific drink recommendation. Every age group is represented and exudes excitement, with the ever-changing menu and diverse flavors both the scotch connoisseur of thirty years and post-grad taking a night off from PBR experience something for the first time with each visit.
Prohibitions golden rule was to make sure the experience inside said what the exterior was not allowed to say—that rule applies today at The Franklin. Walk down the rickety stairs and leave the bustle of the street level where it belongs, eight feet above your head, and step back into the golden age of the cocktail.
112 S. 18th Street, Rittenhouse Square, (215) 231-9911