Beckaly Franks is a name well-recognised by cocktail lovers in Hong Kong, best known as the co-owner and head bartender of The Pontiac, the city’s pioneering craft cocktail dive bar. Many who have visited the bar may also know her for her deep, icy-blue gaze, her bewitching wardrobe and an encyclopaedic knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll — not to mention she makes a killer Hobnail, one of the signature cocktails created at The Pontiac ever since it opened in 2015.
Cutting her teeth at Portland’s celebrated bar Clyde Common, Franks moved to Hong Kong four years ago to open The Pontiac together with veteran bar proprietor Harsh Roopchand: The bar quickly rose the ranks and gained a coveted spot on the first Asia’s 50 Best Bars list.
As the brains behind an award-winning bar concept that seamlessly melds high mixology with an irreverent and badass yet simultaneously inclusive vibe — Franks and her tribe of mainly women bartenders have created Hong Kong’s answer to a Coyote Ugly-style bar: you don’t want to miss its ‘midnight special’, where the ladies hop up onto the bar to dance and pour drinks into the mouths of eager revellers.
This year, inspired by a desert road trip across the US West Coast, Franks and The Pontiac’s sibling-proprietors Harsh and Rohit Roopchand embarked to Bali’s Alila Seminyak to open the bar’s highly anticipated ‘follow-up album’, The Pontiac Stardust.
But what many might not know about Franks is her deep love for Bonnie Raitt; her affinity for tall heights; and her eclectic collection of art in her smokily perfumed apartment. Back in Hong Kong, we spent a few minutes with Franks for our weekly 27 Questions column to learn more about the enigmatic bartender.
Name: Beckaly Franks
Occupation: Bar Owner, Creative Director, Manager, Mama
1. What is your life motto?
“Commit to the lit”. Committing to the lit means more than committing to the party. It means committing to yourself, your ambition, your potential and the Light inside you. Don’t ever dumb down your shine, commit to the lit!
2. Who is your role model?
Lady Gaga. I can easily say without a single doubt that she is the most inspirational human on the planet: from her work ethic, intelligence, activism, equality-driven agenda to her music and art. I’ll meet her someday, and we will live happily ever after.
3. What was your first job?
Ha, who can even say. I created a fake store in my room and sold pickles when I was about five. Does that count? I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t working or working towards something. The hustle is part of my DNA.
4. What is your drink of choice?
Usually Fernet Branca and a glass of white Burgundy. Other than that I am an agave babe. Make me a terroir driven cocktail and play with my hair.
5. When was the last time you drove a car?
I drive every time I go back to the US. My beauty, Baby Danger, still lives in Portland, Oregon. She’s a black 1974 Chevy Nova with silver racing stripes. I also miss just scooting around in Bali. I need to have the freedom a vehicle provides. The music, the wind and the road.
6. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
Depends on which apartment and where? In Portland I curated my dream flat. It was full of the art I had collected over a decade and looked somewhat synonymous to a 70s film set. I had a smoked glass black panther coffee table on top of a red shag carpet…just to give you an idea. In Bali I had a pool so that was awesome! Here in Hong Kong, my favorite thing is the way my flat smells. Either Indian incense or Palo Santo is burning at all times. That makes me feel at home.
7. What is your unique party trick?
The tattoo of a quote that runs the length of my spine. I’ll give you a hint, it’s a Goldfrapp lyric.
8. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My Desert Island List includes Trent Reznor and/or Bonnie Raitt, crab and any curry, growers Blanc de Blanc and Fernet Branca.
9. What is your biggest regret in life?
Not becoming a musician.
10. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?
The lack of social anonymity.
11. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
Anywhere there is a good drop zone. I want to get my skydiving certificate in the next year. Likely Barcelona!
12. What is your greatest fear?
I don’t have one. I’ve failed and succeeded. I’ve lived and died. My hope is to be present enough to make a difference and achieve a greater consciousness.
13. When did you last ride the Star Ferry? What were you doing/where did you go?
When I went to Mong Kok to have custom bar tools built. The next time will be this Sunday to take my Colombian Capricorn to the DarkSide for her birthday… pun always intended.
14. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Pitch Perfect, in bed, with cheetos.
15. What is your typical Sunday like?
None of my Sundays are typical. Last Sunday I was dancing with my crew at Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand and the Sunday before that I was working and attending Drink Magazine Bar Awards in Shanghai.
16. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?
The laughter I have with the truest loves of my life at Wonderfruit is so mentally and emotionally charging. For me it’s not about the festival, it’s about being genuinely happy in those moments. I will forever want to relive it.
17. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
As I edge closer to 35 and have been fortunate enough to have travelled to many different places, I can say that it’s not about where but with whom.
18. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?
For me it’s when the city’s pace becomes to feel normal and you can start to clearly see how abundant Hong Kong is. It’s not an easy city sometimes but she is brilliant and offers you the world if you respect yourself.
19. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?
Trent Reznor, Bonnie Raitt, Lady Gaga, Cate Blanchett, Obama, Corey Taylor
20. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?
Most of them :) But we will go with ‘Nick Of Time’ by Bonnie Raitt.
21. If you could banish someone from Hong Kong forever, who would it be?
Gonna plead the 5th on this one for I try to put positive energy out there. But if she reads this…you know who you are girl. “This is our turf. We have seniority here. You better get off our corner.” —Pretty Woman
22. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.
YUP. I wear my chemistry on my sleeve so I tend to connect rather heavily. It’s not common but when I know I know. The first woman I ever fell for was a photographer and I knew from the second she walked through the door snapping shots from behind the lense that I loved her. Eight years later and we have now been to multiple countries together and are still good friends.
23. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?
This is going to sound emo but I’m very emo so… My business partners are my best family and teachers. They are sound and supportive. Not everything is easy but I have learned more about patience, acceptance and how to be a professionally progressive business person through them. It’s been invaluable.
24. What’s your favourite childhood memory?
Driving out to the country with my mom in her beaten up red Nova to go ride horseback for the day. I love western riding and hope to have horses and possibly a ranch someday.
25. What is one thing you’ve never revealed to your parents?
I’m going to change the narrative of this question a bit. I will say that I never had to “come out” to my family and for that I am grateful. I grew up in a very accepting environment and was always encouraged to be exactly who I am.
26. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?
This is a great question! When she wears Santal 33 by Le Labo, nothing compares. The flavour notes of Santal 33 are cardamom, iris, leather, violet, sandalwood, musk etc.
27. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
There is a bar in Sheung Wan where I am able to hide in plain sight. So often I go there. My creative incubation space is my buddy’s recording studio, The Record Room. Other than that, I like to get to high places, so I hike to the top of a mountain or find a roof to perch on.