Dubbed the Hostess City of the South, Savannah allures guests with some of the tastiest treats the region has to offer. No sweet tooth leaves town unsatisfied after visiting its colorful candy stores or ice cream parlors. But there’s one hidden gem for people whose favorite treats come in a martini glass.
Tucked away on Bull Street near beautiful Johnson Square, Jen’s & Friends marries Savannah’s alcohol infatuation with the sweeter things in life. From candy-inspired cocktails emulating gooey chocolate bars like Snickers and Twix to the sugar-coated sweetness of Nerds and Pixie Stix, this cozy bar has a treat for everyone as they nestle into one of Jen’s seats to satisfy their sweet tooth.
It all got started with the serendipity of a peanut butter cup gone awry.
Jen McEvoy, owner of Jen’s & Friends, is no stranger to bartending competitions. While competing at an event for a vodka company, she had an epiphany when hosts asked her to describe her creation.
“The funny thing is that I don’t like big crowds, and even though I feel very protected behind the bar, public speaking wasn’t the most comfortable thing for me,” Jen began. “So instead of talking, I had these peanut butter cups that I decided to throw into the audience to get them rowdy, and one of them landed in the glass. That’s how I came up with the concept of putting candy in a martini.”
A couple years later, she conceived Jen’s & Friends and began with one hundred martinis, along with a handful of beers. Thirteen years later, the tiny hole-in-the-wall has exploded into a utopia for tipsy dessert-lovers with over 300 martinis and a beer selection any enthusiast would envy.
The bar’s best-selling drink to date, the Rice Krispie Treat martini, tempts patrons with a marshmallow fluff-covered rim sprinkled with the signature cereal flakes. Garnished with a snack-sized Rice Krispie, the martini bubbles as guests prepare to take a sip. What’s inside the concoction that makes it so tasty? Well, that’s Jen and her friends’ secret to keep.
Aside from the sugary temptations inside their martini glasses, what continues to fuel Jen’s & Friends success is the spirit of comradery that radiates from the people behind the counter.
“Having a wonderful staff who love what they do, take it to heart and make you feel like a true friend makes people feel so special and welcomed,” Jen said. As of 2018, Jen’s & Friends employs a whopping total of four people: her “best girl” Annie Miller, her “mini-me” Ally Wilczewski, longtime friend Eric Lambright, and Jen herself. Lucky guests may catch an appearance from her husband Steve, who provides behind-the-scenes help and serves as an occasional pop-up bartender.
Annie, who is approaching her seventh year behind the bar at Jen’s & Friends, sees her work as more than a way to simply pay the bills. “For me, it’s not like clocking in and beginning work,” she said. “It’s like making sure everything is perfect to host a wonderful gathering for [people] to come and take away something special. When you enter as a stranger, you will leave as our friend… and maybe a little buzzed with some marshmallow on your lip!”
Ally, who has been part of the family since May 2015, has been cultivating relationships with guests since mixing her first martini. “We are involved in each other’s successes and struggles — in and outside the bar,” she explained. “We truly stand behind our motto: enter as strangers, leave as friends. And if you keep entering… you become family.”
Jen’s & Friends is located at 34 Bull St. For more information, call (912) 238-5367 or visit JNFSavannah.com.
Article and photographs by Blake Ciccio.