Making your bar stand out among the happy hour crowd certainly isn’t easy. That’s why The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia decided to turn the happy hour concept on its head with its Extra Credit supplementary menu — a bar menu that offers an educational cocktail journey any time of day.
Colin Shearn, general manager and bartender at The Franklin, says the Extra Credit menu is a way to explore new ideas as well as old ones. “They’re not educational, per se, but you could learn from them as a customer,” Shearn explains. Extra Credit launched this month and Shearn plans to change it every couple weeks. The first menu named "You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss," featured the evolution of the Martini from the Turf Club (Old Tom Gin, Italian vermouth and Angostura Bitters) and the Martinez (Old Tom Gin, maraschino and Jerry Thomas Bitters) to the dry Martini, while the next menu offers various forms of the hot drink, skins and toddies.
Shearn shies away from referring to Extra Credit as a happy hour menu. Although from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays drinks are available for $9, the special menu is available all the time, with drinks costing $12. “As long as we’re open, it’s available,” he says.
Shearn and Head Bartender Al Sotack designed the menu, as well as the cocktails, brainstorming 12 cocktail . “We kicked around ideas, trying to put something on the menu that’s a little out there,” Shearn says.” From a “Yuletide Nogs and Tom & Jerry’s menu” that includes popular egg drinks, to Daiquiri and Manhattan variations, Shearn and Sotack have six months of ideas ready to use in future Extra Credit menus.
Though the information can seem overwhelming to guests, it also gets the conversation going. “It’s another way to draw people in to what we do,” Shearn says. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a knowledgeable staff on board. Because The Franklin’s regular cocktail menu features anywhere between 27 to 38 drinks, the staff is already well versed in cocktail lingo and history. Besides some brief talking points, Shearn says the staff is able to read the customers who seem interested in specific cocktails, engaging them in conversation and directing them to the Extra Credit menu to try something new.
Extra Credit is a fun concept that not only challenges Shearn and the team at The Franklin to explore new drink ideas, but it’s a rewarding experience for the bartenders who get to offer something outside the normal cocktail arena, for the servers who get to educate their guests and for the patrons who get to try something new. And if you learn something on the way, that’s not too bad either.