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Sip on Something Southern with Franklin Distillery

Article by Kellie Walton Benz

Photography by Christina Stainbrook

Originally published in Brentwood Lifestyle

Tennessee has come a long way from the days of prohibition to the booming beer, wine and spirits production that now takes place statewide. While still technically a dry state, Tennessee has earned a rightful place as a leader in the American liquor industry. 

In 2022, a local newcomer entered the spirits scene when longtime friends Michael Stainbrook and Michael Ward launched Franklin Distillery, a modern-day distillery crafting spirits reflective of the American South. 

“We always shared an interest in home brewing, and we’ve had this dream in the making for nearly a decade,” said co-founder Michael Ward. “We started exploring a homemade gin by using a few southern-grown botanicals in a neutral vodka in an attempt to craft something along the lines of gin.” 

With their flavor nailed down, the pair sought the help of a distiller to help bring their recipe to market, and now, Franklin Distillery’s Southern Gin and Southern Vodka can be found in stores, bars and restaurants across town. 

“Franklin Distillery has crafted approachable spirits that are in a class all their own,” Ward shared. “By identifying the aromas, flavors and botanicals first and then crafting spirits to celebrate them, we’re able to bring forth the comfortable and inviting essence of the South.”

The 88-proof gin is made by distilling a unique blend of 14 botanicals, which include juniper, watermelon rind, pear, lime peel and more, brought to proof using pure Tennessee water filtered through limestone. In 2022 alone, the product collected a bevy of awards from the SIP Awards, Bartender Spirit Awards, ASCOT Awards and more. 

“It’s important for us to stay true to our essence and bring forth the flavors, aromas and aromatics of the region,” Ward added. “In keeping with our roots, the 14 botanicals that make our gin unique are sourced throughout the region.”

Also on the market is Franklin Distillery’s award-winning Southern Vodka, a spirit that earns its Southern distinction thanks to its innovative use of Florida-grown citrus in lieu of potatoes or grains. While not flavored, gentle hints of citrus from oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit may delight the senses while sipping. 

Franklin Distillery’s vodka and gin can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, or are bright additions to any cocktail. Try the Southern Bee’s Knees, a honey-hued combination of Southern Gin, lemon juice, honey and sparkling wine, or mix the Southern Vodka in with your favorite Bloody Mary mix. 

The products are carried at a number of retailers across Middle Tennessee, just look for the red circle logo donning the coordinates 35° N 86° W. Wondering where this will lead you? The answer is the heart of Franklin, right in the town center. 

“Franklin has a historic downtown surrounded by rolling farmland and up-and-coming development,” said Ward. “These coordinates are representative of both the heart and precision that go into Franklin Distillery spirits.” 

Growth is hopefully on the horizon for Franklin Distillery, as the pair dreams of opening a brick-and-mortar distillery in Franklin. Plus, additional spirits including a rum and a bourbon may soon be in the lineup. 

“Our hope is that you’ll make our spirits, yours,” Stainbrook added. 

For more information on Franklin Distillery’s story, current lineup or future development, or to find a store near you, visit franklindistilleryco.com

Sidebar: 

Franklin Distillery’s Cherry Lime Spritz is the perfect cocktail for celebrating Valentine’s or Galentine’s this month. Here’s how to make it!

Cherry Lime Spritz

2½  ounces Franklin Distillery Southern Vodka 
1 ounce Lime Juice
½ ounce Luxardo Maraschino or Cherry Liqueur 
.25 oz Simple syrup 
1 dash Orange bitters 
Club soda
Garnish: limes and fresh cherries 

Combine Franklin Distillery Southern Vodka, Luxardo Maraschino, simple syrup, and orange bitters into a martini shaker with ice. Shake for a few seconds, then strain into a highball glass over add crushed ice. Top with club soda and garnish with an abundance of fresh lime wedges and cherries. Cheers!