A love letter from one best friend to another. By Holly Graham.

I don’t usually write articles from a first person perspective on DRiNK, let alone personal opinions, but when my best friend finally gets the recognition she deserves and wins 2023’s Bartender’s Bartender award at Asia’s 50 Best Bars, you have to change things up a little. You don’t necessarily need to hear about her awesome venues, another publication can tell you that. You need to know about the person, because this award is about her.

I met Beckaly many moons ago, when I was the food and drink editor of Time Out Hong Kong. I was writing an article about Hong Kong bars and reached out to her via email. To this day, she and I will both tell you we knew there was instant connection, even via email thread.

I began to frequent her bar The Pontiac more, and one night, several people recognised and remembered the moment she and I got on top of the bar, head banging and screaming metal lyrics (I think System of a Down) to each other. It was BFHG (best friends Beckaly Franks and Holly Graham) for life.

Over the course of our friendship, I’ve watched her work her ass off. For others. For inclusivity. For women. For her staff. For everyone. As a strikingly beautiful, tall blonde babe with piercing blue eyes and a “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me attitude”, her personality is often construed as intimidating and unapproachable. But all she wants to do is love and be loved. I’ve seen her staff call her mama, pour their heart out to her, and put their full trust in her as a mentor.

When Beckaly unleashed The Pontiac on Hong Kong, the city – and even Asia – hadn’t seen anything quite like it. It’s loud, it’s rock and roll, it’s inclusive and it’s a fucking VIBE. Often touted as a gay bar, Beckaly doesn’t label it as such, rather as a safe, inclusive and judgment-free space for all. It’s something that has constantly inspired me and is a culture I hope to recreate when I open my first bar in Tokyo later this year. Her other venues continue to open and continue to be awesome.

While I’ve mentioned she is mislabelled as intimidating and unapproachable by some – don’t get me wrong. If you fuck with her, her people or her community, she will vehemently protect them and fight for them. There is wholeheartedness in everything she does – and I may be biased as her best friend – but trust me, I see it every single day. Her people are firmly under her wing.

Rather than call her a force of nature – which she absolutely is – I think it more apt to call her a force of nurture. She has taught me and hundreds of others so much. And if it wasn’t obvious, I am wildly proud of my best friend winning the Bartender’s Bartender award. I couldn’t think of anyone better.