It’s no wonder music plays a big role in the shifts of Le Boudoir bartender Franky Marshall — after all, it was her work as a singer that led her to the bartending industry to begin with. Soon tired of seeing back to back vodka-cran cocktails, she pursued a job opening at The Clover Club in Carroll Gardens. “I’d read about Julie [Reiner] and knew I had to apply there,” she says. Marshall worked her way up from server to bartender within nine months, and it was there that she acquired the guiding principals to staying afloat in this industry — learnings she applied to subsequent gigs at Monkey Bar, Dead Rabbit, Holiday Cocktail Lounge, and, most recently, Le Boudoir: a Marie Antoinette-inspired bar in Brooklyn Heights. Here, she discusses her proudest cocktail of the moment, her well-stamped passport, and a house rule she’d like to see more of.
BoozeMenus: What does a successful night behind the bar look like to you?
Franky Marshall: Guests having a great time enjoying their beverages of choice, which are being served by fun and talented staff. The right music is playing, and my feet and back are not aching at the end of the shift.
BM: What did the cocktail creation process look like for this bar — especially given the Marie Antoinette inspiration?
FM: Honestly, the cocktails had to come together very quickly, as I was brought on about two weeks before we opened. It was more important to me that the cocktails were balanced, accessible, and tasty, rather than having them adhere to any theme. Moving forward, I’ll probably incorporate more French ingredients and inspiration from the Dame herself.
BM: What's your proudest cocktail on the list right now?
FM: I really like the Dauphin because it's an Absinthe cocktail that appeals to people who might not love Absinthe — like myself. It's quick to make, easy to drink, and has been very well received.
BM: Since Marie Antoinette isn't technically running this ship, what house rule do you wish you could put into effect at the bar?
FM: Depending on the place, I like the "keep your voices down" rule. There's always that one loud person yapping about things that nobody cares about or needs to know. Oh — and don't touch the garnishes on the bar!
BM: You’ve worked at a wide array of notable venues. Which one do you most credit for where you are now?
FM: I have to say Clover Club. Susan Fedroff and Julie Reiner hired me as a server for the opening team, and eventually I worked my way behind the bar. I met so many industry people who came through the doors. The association with that bar gave me a welcome entrée into the cocktail world and provided some fantastic opportunities.
BM: You've also done your fair share of traveling. What has been your most memorable drinking experience abroad?
FM: That's a tough one! I've been lucky enough to do some amazing drinking in magical places. Sipping wine, staring at the vineyards and the Andes in Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina; I recently had my first Ramos in front of the grave of Henry Ramos in New Orleans; cocktails along the Charente river in a gabarre in Cognac; G&Ts while sailing the Mediterranean in Ibiza on an absolutely perfect day with our own DJs enhancing the vibe; drinking rum and smoking cigars while floating in the ocean with pals in Varadero, Cuba. I could go on and on...
BM: So with a list like that, where to next?
FM: Well, I work as a certified Cognac Educator, so I occasionally give seminars for the BNIC (Cognac Bureau). I've been invited to give some talks at a college later this month — that should be interesting. And I'll be moderating a seminar at the Montreal Cocktail Invasion in May.
BM: What is your signature cocktail today, and what was it 5 or 10 years ago?
FM: 10 years ago, I had no signature cocktail. I made a pretty good Cosmo, though. 5 years ago, maybe the Mr. Brown which I created for a Spirited Dinner at Tales. It has Bourbon, Coffee Liqueur, Vanilla syrup, and bitters. It went on the menu at Clover Club in early 2011 and it's made a comeback and is on the current menu as well. Today, I have a few cocktails in my book that I’m very happy with. Who knows, maybe my new signature will come out of this recent menu.
BM: What music is playing while you're slinging drinks?
FM: Music is very important to me, and I get very distracted by it if it's not right — both when I’m working and as a guest. I love all types of music, but I think there are specific sounds and ambiances that need to be created for specific types of environments. So it depends on where I’m slinging — having the staff control the iPod doesn't always work!
BM: What's a favorite memory from behind the bar?
FM: There are so many. I used to work at a great neighborhood bar where I, and the bar, had a ton of regulars. It was my birthday, so I invited people to come see me. The music was perfect, everyone was singing, drinking, laughing. They all brought me presents too. I remember feeling very fortunate and thankful that night.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Axel Von Ferson cocktail; Interior; Franky Marshall)