Last Week at Rotary

Thursday, March 23, 2017

MOLLY WELLMAN

Mixologist

Molly is a self-taught mixologist in Cincinnati. She has immersed herself in the knowledge of classic cocktails and fine spirits; studying the history and proper preparation of classic cocktails from books mainly. She specializes in cocktails invented in the 1700′s to the 1950′s. She uses classic cocktails as a base for creating new and innovative drinks containing simple syrups, bitters, liquors, and fresh juices that she “concocts.”

Molly is honored to have been able to work at many popular restaurants and bars throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. She is now co-owner of Japp’s Since 1879, Neons Unplugged, and Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar. Molly was recently featured in Cincinnati Magazine, Cincinnati Enquirer, Metro Mix, and Cincy Chic, as well as many well-read blogs. She was currently voted best mixologist/bartender for CityBeat magazine for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Molly was born and raised in Cincinnati. After 12 years in San Francisco, she returned to her beloved hometown to be closer to her family. Molly is the author of”Handcrafted Cocktails.”

Doug Bolton introduced Molly Wellman to our Rotary Club by reading from a recent description of Molly in The Dallas Morning News.

“The siren red lipstick that frames Molly Wellmann’s bigger-than-Texas smile serves as a dazzling beacon for the rest of Molly — her equally colorful body art, blinged-out wardrobe and overflowing personality.

With the unbridled energy and enthusiasm of a 6-week-old puppy, she sashays around Japp’s Cocktail Bar in Cincinnati while engaging me in a comfortable conversation like we had been best friends for years.”

Molly is a seventh generation Cincinnatian. She is also an author, a nutritionist, and an entrepreneur from the word(s), “Go Girl!”

Returning to Cincinnati in 2008 after “a turn” in San Francisco fashioning diamond rings, studying nutrition, learning hospitality, and bar tending all the while, Molly landed a job at Chalk Food and Wines Bar. Soon after her arrival at work, she began noticing that the bar output didn’t match the fabulous dishes that were coming out of the kitchen. She spoke to the chef about how she might pair drinks with his creations and he let her into the kitchen. He gave me a Jack LaLaine juicer. I began to study about cocktails and spirits along with their history, and soon the customers were flocking (“bellying up”) to have another and to hear more about their history. I learned to combine drinks with their story.

When Chalk’s closed, I moved on to Rookwood and then onto Lavamatic. Actually I was fired from Lavamatic because my drinks didn’t agree with the menu. I began thinking about what I could/should/wanted to do. I guest bartended often times and was asked to cover the end of the bar (off in the corner sometimes). Because I had my own syrups for cocktails, everyone loved my drinks. Customers flocked to my station. I finally wound up at Neon’s. It was there that someone asked me if I would like to open a bar. I said, “Yes, but………..” and he quickly said, “We do.” Thus a wonderful partnership was born. I make the drinks. One partner covers the real estate and the third is an attorney. I can train bar tenders. We all have a story. Did you know Japp’s is a more than 100 year old wig shop?  So my drinks aren’t just “a drink,” but a step back into history. They offer “an experience.”

We opened the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar five years ago in May in Mainstrasse. We offer 450 different bourbons and whiskeys. Imagine how tough is my job having to go out and “taste” all these new bourbons!  I hasten to add, “It’s not just the drink, it’s what’s behind the drink!” Old Kentucky has become one of the best bourbon bars in the country. I’ve gone from being a novice to becoming an enthusiast.  I’ve learned that “the secret to a great bar is to know what you are selling.”

Once the Old Kentucky Bar was up and running we went into East Walnut Hills. We are taking advantage of the entertainment and growth in the area. Did you know Cincinnati was formed at a tavern in 1801 by Square Commander Griffith Yeatman (yes, of Yeatman’s Cove fame…. the very same!) and the mayor. A reporter lived next door to the mayor. Together the three of them planned the whole city around a punch bowl in the bar. Thus a punch house was born where people can share their hopes and dreams. It became known as Myrtle’s Punch House. Some of the recipes being served are more than 500 years old. It is a great place to gather. Some skeptics have asked (with disbelief), “Will people really order punch?” Well, the answer is “YES!!! AND it keeps on growing!”

Last year we decided that we wanted to add food to our bars. Since none of us can cook, we needed to hire someone. Coincidentally, Lisa Cateman, the former owner of Melts in Northside was available. We bought her company and are now planning to expand Melts at a new location nearby in Northside, at Hamilton and Blue Rock. It is a LEED certified, 3,000 sq. ft. space, which I have not had experience with before.

We are also moving another restaurant into the lobby of the Contemporary Arts Center. We are looking forward to seeing whether friends and family will like it.

Questions/Answers

  1. Where did you grow up? On the west side in Western Hills mostly. Of course what you really want to know, the famous Cincinnati question, “Where did you go to high school?”  I went from St. Johns, and St. James to McAuley HS and finished at Colerain HS.
  1. How do you get to serve “barrel picks?” Do you have to go to various distilleries? I find it, then put it in a bottle and uniquely label it, then offer it at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar.
  1. Do your places offer music?  This is important to know: There are no televisions in any of our bars so people can interact uninterrupted. At Myrtle’s we have music every weekend and at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar we have it every evening.  At Japp’s we have music on Fridays during Happy Hour. We have all kinds of music: from gypsy to jazz music.
  1. Tell us about your tattoos?  My husband is a tattoo artist. We were married one month ago. But before that at a shop on 4th street, Chris Sanders has been doing them for four years. When I was 15 years old, I heard a story on PBS about an early era princess who was found in Siberia. They showed her skin that was very well preserved and she had beautiful tattoos. I thought they were so regal. I waited until I was 20. Now that I have them, I’ve found they are very addictive. Each one represents a part of my life.
  1. What are your favorite bourbons?  Bullet that tastes like Old Forester. There are birthday bourbons like a 10-year old Henry McKenna. A good mix is Manhattan and Old Grandad 100 (suggestion offered to Jack Berger after the meeting).  We have a lot of choices for non-drinkers. All juices and syrups make a good drink.
  1. How do you keep from getting drunk?  It’s always around. For example, I have bourbon tastings every week. I teach cocktail classes that are going on constantly. I have to keep my wits about me.
  1. I have heard that the way you can tell if a bar is good is to look for sugar cubes as the sugar they offer. Is there anything to this? Yes, no one serves packets of sugar— except in emergencies.

Concluding the program along with President Jack, we learned that Molly is the woman in the Cincinnati Bell commercial that aired for the first time at the Super Bowl. Also she has/had her own radio show every Thursday at 5PM called “Five O’Clocktails” on NKU’s Public Radio station (that is currently being sold). She told us that she has enjoyed this because she could talk at length. Finally, this full-time “entrepreneuress” has written a book entitled Handcrafted Cocktails.  President Jack offered this final piece of advice, “Never get drunk behind the bar, do it in front!”