No Blue Moon: Frank's Bar
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Music plays a significant part in my life, so it's safe to say that a cocktail bar built around Frank Sinatra's is right up my alley. I first visited Frank's Bar in early November and went home pretty impressed. Located at Level 3 of Avenue K, this semi-speakeasy is small and intimate with an ambience that exudes a charm befitting a secret drinking den the rat pack themselves would have liked to steal away to when seeking temporary shelter from the glitz and glam.
For us here in the present, it's the sort of cocktail bar one can easily lounge in thanks to a cosy vibe. Big band-era music is fed through the speakers for guests to enjoy, just loud enough to serve as background music and for you to notice from time to time but not loud enough to turn your conversations into shouting matches.
Service here is hospitable, and to my surprise, there seems to be a sizeable amount of staff that populate the bar for such a small space. There is, however, a trickle over from the Italian restaurant Natalina adjoined to the bar, of which it gets its namesake from Sinatra's mother's name. Nevertheless, staff are amiable and friendly, especially the bar manager Giovanni Magliaro, who is quick to dish out a smile and recommendation based on your preferred tastes.
One great thing about the menu is that cocktail prices are intentionally set at RM45, save for the Drowned In Sound which is priced at RM60, but you'll understand why at the end of the review. The RM45 price point is apparently to remove the barrier for guests to decide what to drink and facilitate better experimentation.
Before you head over, I do suggest you make a booking, unless drinking at the bar is your intention. If you've only got one or two hours to spend here, I've got just the drinks for you to order.
You can’t go wrong with a well-made highball. If you’re in the mood to unwind and relax from the get-go, go for the classic – a cool, clean, and crisp drink sure to quench your thirst and whet the palate for more potent cocktails. Or test the bar’s creativity with the basil trumpet, Frank’s take on the highball made with Widges gin, Mancino ambrato vermouth, apricot, basil shrub, and finished with soda water. Equally refreshing, albeit with a slightly denser body, this is one aromatic beverage. The apricot and basil presence makes for an inviting fragrance, and the herbal-fruit combo grows on you the more you sip, the flavours reaching its apex the closer you get to the bottom of the glass. Through it all, there’s a hint of spiciness lingering that’s reminiscent of ginger.
The Follow Up
You'll want to order either one of these drink next, which flexes a bit more of the bar's creative muscle by putting tropical flavours front and centre. I'm uncertain if Sinatra himself would enjoy the interplay of sweet and sour taking place in both these cocktails, but I sure did.
The tropical swing is a twist on the pina colada, featuring Diplomatico Mantuano rum, Giffard Caribbean pineapple liqueur, pineapple juice, lime juice, coconut tea syrup, and Angostura bitters. This drink had a somewhat light body with a lot of flavour going for it, but it never overpowers. Its flavour profile is the main attraction, a fruity, sweet, and sour concoction sure to be a hit with the tropical flavours Malaysians adore.
The floral lah, on the other hand, swaps the fruity-forward tastes for a more botanical approach. Tried and True vodka is used as the cocktail's base, followed by saffron-infused Mancino secco vermouth, green apple sour syrup, and lavender kombucha. As mentioned, the neutrality of the French-distilled vodka (44% abv) helps to bring that lavender and saffron notes to the forefront. It's a sipping drink, allowing you the discover the complexities of the alcohol at your own pace. I especially loved the use of green apple to balance the beverage with some bite, which helped to make it stand out.
The Other Follow Up
Demanding quite the attention when it arrives, the artist's mind cocktail comes with an almost enveloping smoke bubble to mask its composition of Dewar's 12-year whisky, Montenegro amaro, ginger and lapsang syrup, and lemon juice. This drink is sour, smoky, and spiced in that order, a drink that uses subtle hints of ginger and lapsang tea to impart robustness into a whisky and bitter presence balanced by the tartness of lemon.
The mash-up classic takes a different route. Pandan-infused Diplomatico Planas, Mancino rosso amaranto vermouth, Campari, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and clarified milk makes for a delightfully punchy beverage. I really liked this one, thanks to that clarified milk that imbued the drink with a somewhat milky, mellow mouth feel at the start and the zestiness of lemon juice at the end. The pandan-infused rum created a delightful base that hits close to home, and the vermouth and Campari combo is responsible for bittersweet mids.
The crème de la crème for the drinker who loves a spirit-strong cocktail – featuring Mitchter's bourbon and rye whisky blend, Campari, Mancio rosso amaranto vermouth, orange and chocolate bitters, and barrel-aged in for four hours a day American oak barrel to the tunes of Frank Sinatra for 14 days. According to Giovani, the sonic ageing process of Sinatra's music, specifically chosen songs that are between 110 and 200 BPM that plays through a pair of Skullcandy headphones, does affect the blend resting in the barrel. The bar says that by ageing their signature cocktail with music, it helps to speed up the ageing process and enhance the flavour of the barrelled liquor through the power of music. I can neither scientifically confirm nor deny this, but I can ensure it's one bloody tasty drink.
The bourbon and rye presence is quite telling, but the composition of bitters and vermouth really does a number on taking this cocktail a few steps further by rounding out the overall flavours by turning the impact of each sip into a bold, luscious, and oaky nectar. It's the perfect nightcap, a fitting encore to an otherwise excellent lineup of musical hits that pleased with flavour, creativity, and panache. There's a good chance that when I do go back to Frank's Bar for my next visit, you can count on me ordering this again.
One additional exciting element about the drowned in sound cocktail is that Frank's Bar will be inviting guest bartenders to make their own version of this cocktail via collaborations. The current and inaugural collab currently happening now is the the caribbean dream, a twist on the classic bobby burns cocktail using Dewar's Caribbean Smooth and barrel-aged using Caribbean Calypso's beats.