Clover Club's Franky Marshall on Holy Bars, Clean Glasses, and the Perils of Being a Hot Female Bartender

Photo by Andrew Kist
Franky Marshall: Yin to your yang.
In the restaurant industry, the issue of sexism doesn't seem to want to go away. Behind the bar, however, women have always had a place. But, as the role of bartender evolves, women are finding themselves having to strike a balance between gender equality and providing the yin to their male colleagues' yang (the gentle play between men and women being what fuels a good bar atmosphere). At Clover Club, Franky Marshall manages to play it at once hot and cool.

How was the Manhattan Cocktail Classic? Have you recovered?

I'm still recovering. Definitely the gala was the highlight. I wish I could have been there as a guest. It seemed like a really great event. It was quite fabulous with all the moods created in the different rooms and that kind of thing.

You were working it?

I was working the Michter's Rye stand. I worked for them at last year's ball, too. We made some really nice cocktails. The trade-off is you don't get to go to the party and have fun. But that's OK.

Are you a brand ambassador for them or anyone else?

No. It's a possibility, but I'm considering other options for where I'd like to go in the business. Because you can't bartend forever. At least I can't. Not unless you get one of those hotel gigs where you're union and you can just stir very slowly for $20 an hour. The thing is, with [a brand ambassador] job, you're basically a salesperson. You're spreading the word. It's a lot easier if you believe in the product. Personally, I'd like to have integrity about it. I just couldn't [do it otherwise].

How did you get into bartending?

A classic story: I went to school for music. I chose bartending because I had to pay for school somehow. And even before college, I started to work in the restaurant industry. I started out as a server, then worked my way up, so to speak, to behind the bar. It was financial need. And greed.

Then you became more cocktail geeky?

Exactly. I've worked in all kinds of bars in the city. From dive bars to hotel restaurants, and neighborhood places. Finally, I just decided I needed to learn more than how to make shots and Cosmos. Mind you, it was a great experience. I'm glad I worked in all different types of bars. But I decided I wanted to learn a lot more. I started reading about the whole cocktail culture and I wanted to challenge myself.

What was your first gig in the cocktail world?

The first gig, besides drinking in those types of bars, was when I first applied at Clover Club. Nobody knew me in that world and I didn't know anybody, so I just applied off of Craigslist. I got a job as a cocktail server there, and it just blossomed from there.

Is it difficult to navigate the hierarchy, going from server to bartender?

Not really, as long as you pay some dues. You have to show you that you are really interested in doing it because not a lot of people have that inclination. I wouldn't say it was difficult, because a lot of those people who are at the top started out being a doorman or a bar back or a cocktail server, so it is quite common. But you do have to put in your time. Most people, unless you have a great recommendation from someone, won't be hired off the street as a bartender at a cocktail bar.

In kitchens, the old issue of sexism keeps resurfacing. Do you find it more challenging to be taken seriously behind the bar than your male colleagues?

It can work both ways for you. Being a woman can give you a bit more entry because there's a lot of men and there's always supposed to be that dynamic between men and women [in bars] ... as opposed to a sea of men. However, I still hear people say things [about the top women in the field] like, "She's one of the best female bartenders around." It's not just "one of the best bartenders." I still hear that qualifier.

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