The City’s Most Pretentious Bar

After a few false starts, I finally made it into The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company. No, it’s not a embattled financial institution, as the name would suggest, but a drinking den in the former Bar Noir space on 18th Street. There’s no sign on the basement-level door, no markings of any kind. And if you try calling the phone number listed on their website, you’ll find that it doesn’t work.

None of this is a mistake, mind you. It’s all part of the Franklin’s strategy to market itself as an old-time speakeasy, which is also the reason they don’t serve vodka, one of the world’s most popular spirits. “Vodka is a neutral spirit,” explained a bartender. “Back then, people didn’t drink it.” (Note: They do have a credit-card machine. Priorities.)

This gimmicky approach had me prepared to hate the Franklin. Another customer at the four-stool bar agreed, adding to the list of complaints the lack of purse hooks at the bar and in the bathroom. “Don’t they want ladies in here?” she asked.

But then the drinks started coming, and suddenly my hard heart was softened by exquisitely prepared $12 intoxicants with names like The Doc Daneeka and The Billy Penn Club. The whiskey sour, with a freshly cracked egg white, was sublime and refreshing. The Sazerac downright dangerous. You’ll also see retro-gin classics on the leather-bound menu, including the 50/50 (half gin, half vermouth) and the predecessor to the modern-day martini, The Martinez.

Pretentious? Absolutely. But I am now inclined not to care, and you’ll surely find me bellied up to the bar or lounging on the long leather banquettes in the days ahead.

The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company, 112 South 18th Street.