Molly Wellmann, Cincinnati’s tattooed, smiling, genius of alcohol, felt this city was lacking a special something – specifically, something that goes into a cocktail glass. The mixoloigist just opened Japp’s, a neighborhood cocktail bar in OtR. This week, Molly sat down with Yelp’s own Alex S to chat about adding something new to a city she loves. “Anyone here who says, 'Cincinnati sucks,' come find me!” Molly exclaimed. “I’ll show you why it doesn’t.”
Alex S: Tell me about Japp's! What makes it so special?
Molly: I’m really excited to introduce this new bar, which, to Cincinnati, is kind of a new concept. A new way of thinking about going out and drinking. It’s a polished neighborhood cocktail bar. It’s a place where you can come every single day and not break the bank drinking cocktails. If you went to the gym and want to celebrate by having a drink, come in your gym clothes. If you were going to Music Hall for a big show and came in an evening gown, you’re more than welcome then too.
It’s a place for enjoying what you’re drinking. I hired an amazing staff at Japp’s. They’re not cocky bartenders. I hired them because they have amazing smiles and are just approachable. I have had a gazillion resumes since January and I literally handpicked all these people, and some of them didn’t even have bartending experience. But bartending you can teach, personality and being approachable and having manners, you can’t teach.
My staff are there to introduce you to new things. I’m not carrying a lot of liquors that are just out for marketing purposes, like Grey Goose or Patron. I want authentic, quality liquor in this place. So if you come in and ask for Grey Goose, we’re not going to have it for you. Please don’t be upset, there are a lot of places that do have it, but this is a place for something new. If you are a vodka person, though, I’ve been introduced in the past few months to some of the most amazing vodkas. We’re going to reteach you all about vodka. Same with gin, same with bourbon, same with everything. Try to be open minded when you come in on what you drink, try something new. This is a place to learn and discover new ways to drink and new things to drink. I’m not going to hurt you.
Alex S: What makes Cincinnati such a fun place to drink?
Molly: First of all, our past. All through history, Cincinnati has been a drinking town. When they put together prohibition, all hell broke loose here. People are used to drinking here. In the past, if you were Catholic, on Sunday you’d go to church and then after you’d start drinking. There’s actually a drink called "The Cincinnati Cocktail" which is meant to be drunk all day long after church. It’s basically really good beer lightened up with soda water. That’s our cocktail. This town is a drinking town!
Alex S: Besides Japp's, name five other favorite bars around the city you love to drink at? What do you order there?
Molly: I like to go to The Rookwood, my friend Rom up there makes a damn good Sazerac and I love Sazeracs. I like to go to The Table over on Vine Street. I love to go to Mainstay Rock Bar, that’s my laidback place to drink, and of course Neons. I’m at Neons all the time!
When I go to a bar, I’m pretty picky about what I drink. I know my liquors backwards and forwards. And I put things into my body that I know my body’s going to like, even if it’s liquor. I like a good gin martini. My family enjoys Beefeater martinis and so do I. There’s not a lot of places here that make the classic cocktails that I enjoy, but if I see Chartreuse on the back of the bar or I see something that’s very unique that I know about, I’ll probably get it. I normally always will get Bullet Bourbon on the rocks, but after my birthday we got in a little tiff. Bullet won. We didn’t breakup though, we’re just kind of on a break. (laughs)
Alex S: Where are your favorite late-night spots that aren't bars?
Molly: Late night, I’m always at a bar. But to go eat, I like the taco truck and I like Café de Wheels. If I see those guys rolling around, I’m outside their truck. They’re fantastic. If you ever see them rolling around, go. Get it. It’s perfect.
Alex S: Where is the best place in Cincinnati to get some hang-over food?
Molly: If it’s Sunday, I love The Comet. Their brunch, it’s just fantastic. It’s not just the amazing food but it’s the atmosphere you get when you go into that place. It’s something I look forward to all week. But if I’m going for a fast quick fix, right now I’m living on the other side of the river, so I’ll go to Keystone. I remember going to Inn The Wood when I was younger living in Clifton (before it closed) and their potato crisp, if you ever had it, it’s something you can’t forget. And they transferred that crisp over to Keystone.
Alex S: So what drink goes best with Skyline chili?
Molly: My dad and I, we love to drink martinis. A good gin Beefeater martini, I’m telling you, it’s so good with Skyline chili. Not up but on the rocks so you can sip that sucker and have your three way or whatever … I kind of want that right now.
Alex S: Are they any dive bars that you frequent? And what's your go-to order when fancy craft cocktails aren't an option?
Molly: I like Down Under. I haven’t been there in a while because I haven’t had time to dive, but it’s great. Another one I like is Mayday, but I haven’t been there in a while either. I promise I’ll get there really soon! But you know, being from The West Side originally, I enjoy going to the West Side and West Side bars. There’s Fogarty’s and I like Second Street Saloon as well.
Hopefully these bars have Bullet Bourbon or Beefeater Gin, but I can usually find something on the back of the bar. Like at the Down Under, I’ll usually drink Jameson. Everyone has Jameson and I’ll always drink that.
Alex S: When you don't have a drink in hand, what are you doing?
Molly: You know, I love to sew. I’ve been sewing since I was seven years old. I’m actually also a jeweler. I can make jewelry. I went to school for it and I apprenticed for a year with a master. I can make diamond rings! … But don’t ask me for a diamond ring. (laughs)
Alex S: So were any of your amazing tattoos done here locally?
Molly: Yes, they were. I’ve been going and getting my tattoos done by an amazing tattoo artist named Chris Sanders. He works at Mothers over in Covington but before that he was at Permanent Productions (now Barber’s Electric Tattooing). I’ve just kind of followed him around and all of my tattoos have actually morphed into one tattoo. People ask how many I have and I go, “Just one.” (laughs) They all connect, they all good beautifully together. Chris Sanders, he’s my guy.
The one thing I tell people about getting tattoos is you have to be really comfortable with the person you’re sitting with, because that person is inflicting pain upon you. It does hurt. If you have someone cool to sit with, it makes it much less painful and Chris is one of those people. He really is an enjoyable person to be around while he’s poking you with needles.
Alex S: What are a few of Molly Wellman's killer cocktail recipes?
Molly: Well, here are a few of my favorites:
- 1 1/2 ounces Sazerac Rye whiskey
- Three dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- One sugar cube or simple syrup
- 1/4 ounce Absinthe
One old fashioned glass is packed with ice. In a second old fashioned glass, a sugar cube and 3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters are muddled. The Rye Whiskey is then added to the sugar/Bitters mixture. The ice is emptied from the first old fashioned glass and the Absinthe is poured into the glass and swirled to coat the sides of the glass. Any excess Absinthe is discarded. The Rye-Sugar-Bitters mixture is then poured into the Absinthe coated glass and the glass is garnished with a lemon peel.
The South Side Cocktial
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 6 to 8 mint leaves (fresh)
Measure ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake hard for about 10 seconds and strain into a chilled glass. For a prettier drink, double strain to remove more of the small bits of mint. Garnish with a mint leaf or leaves.
Alex S: Your last meal on Earth here in Cincy?
Molly: I love Terry’s Turf Club. I get the burger and the burgundy wine sauce with the mushrooms, oh my god I love it! With the brie on it? Oh, it’s so good! I love that place. I also loved the deviled eggs at Rookwood, I dream about those.
Alex S: Any city secrets to spill?
Molly: There are so many amazing things here, they’re just not right in the open. I love taking people to the Ohio Book Store on Main, that’s a really neat place. You can lose yourself there. I also like Bromwell’s over on 4th. It’s a fireplace store, but you walk in and there’s an art gallery upstairs and it’s peaceful and quiet and it’s so calm and comfortable.
I also love Springrove Cemetery, it’s a neat place to have a picnic. I know that sounds gruesome but it’s true. It’s not just a graveyard, it’s beautiful, the architecture, the gardens, it’s like nothing else. And so you get a bird’s eye view, the top of Carew Tower. I love that. And Primavista, over on the west side, that restaurant, that’s an amazing place to get a bird’s eye view too.
There are a lot of amazing places in Cincinnati, I could go on and on.