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Crafting an Excellent Event is all in the Mixology

There are few people who can honestly declare their love and passion for their job, but Molly Wellmann is one such individual.  Her devotion and thirst for what was a serendipity of a profession has led this cocktail-devoted woman to where she is now: a successful bar owner and craft cocktail consultant.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, Molly moved to San Francisco after visiting her best friend who was studying there.  While she was visiting, her friend’s roommate moved out and Molly was asked to move in.  She was up for an adventure, so she packed her bags for what she thought would be there for six months.  It ended up being twelve years.

She did all kinds of jobs including working in high-end retail for the likes of Chanel and Prada. Molly reminisces, “I sold shoes at a boutique which I loved because I am a shoe freak.  I have over 300 pairs.” When she was young, she loved fashion and dreamt of becoming a fashion designer.  She even attended jewelry school and became a metal smith after a year’s apprenticeship with a master jeweler. Although Molly loves to design, her creative skills were pulled in a different direction.

Molly recollects the day when her true calling materialized. “A friend opened a restaurant and they needed extra help, so I started as a food-runner and then I worked in the bar. I really enjoyed it and then I got an opportunity to work in a nightclub. One night, a cocktail waitress didn’t show up for work, so I volunteered to take her place.  The money was great and the hours were even better, so they ended up hiring me.”

Molly became obsessed with reading about the history of cocktails, and she would recite what she learned to club visitors.  People were showing up to drink her cocktails and listen to her wonderful historical references.

Japps Since 1879

She remembers that time well, “It really was the moment that I thought, ‘this is it.’ People were listening to me as if I had something interesting to say.”  Molly enthusiastically states, “Cocktails are truly an American thing.  The 1920’s was really the cocktail boom when American cities became bigger and the drinking establishments started to change. It was no longer just the old roadside taverns where the bartender used to own several jobs; it had developed into something grander, a saloon. The bartenders job had also developed into a position of respect. They were now experts in adult beverages and often businessmen too.”

After several years in San Francisco, she felt the calling to return to Cincinnati. The craft cocktail scene had not really reached local area.  Molly giggles, “Bar managers would hire me as a cocktail person and end up putting me in a corner. I would bring everything I needed, make the craft cocktail and tell the story behind it like I did in San Francisco.  In fact, a lot of bartenders thought I was crazy, labeling me as ‘fancy pants cocktails’ and they couldn’t understand why I was going to such an effort. The old mentality was that you showed up, made the customers the drink they wanted, and then went home. I was like, ‘No, I’m not an order-taker. I’m going to introduce these cocktails to people.’ At the end of the night, everyone was in my corner wanting to know about my drinks. So I knew I had something.”

Molly soon realized that she wanted to own her own bar. She had started to become a celebrity in Cincinnati, appearing in various local magazines and people were starting to take notice.

She was soon approached by three gentlemen who had just opened a bar and had no idea what they were doing. They asked Molly if she wanted to own a bar with them. After discussing the finer details, Molly said yes. She still owns this successful bar today, Japp’s, and one may find her there when she is not on the road consulting.

Japp’s was established in 1879, which is totally on par with Molly’s love of history and morphing old cocktail recipes into something post-modern.  The building is old, the vibe new and the cocktails have old foundations fused with new ingredients.

Molly also consults for numerous restaurants and pairing dinners. She has even been asked by a multi-national consumer goods company to construct a cocktail around a new product scent. In the events and restaurant business, she starts off by looking at the menu and meeting with the chef. If she has the opportunity, she also likes to taste the menu. She then breaks down the ingredients and pairs the flavors the chef wants enhanced with the suitable cocktail. Molly highlights, “The spirit in the cocktail is the main flavor to pair with the highlighted ingredients. I then add bitters, mixers, fruits, herbs etc. to that base in order to mix the perfect craft cocktail for that menu.”

Japps Since 1879

Probing Molly on what she would possibly pair with a spicy chicken dish she says, “It would be something cool like, tequila or a white rum. Something to cool down the fire but not take away the heat or overpower, allowing the other ingredients to shine. Pairing cocktails as apposed to wine, is very different in the sense you can add anything to that cocktail base to enhance the different flavors of the dish.”

Molly’s love and utter determination to introduce craft cocktails to event menus will leave one wanting more. The drinks will not only highlight the food’s best qualities, but they bring a class, sophistication and a sense of historical suggestion to all manner of events.


To listen and learn about the exciting world of cocktail and menu pairing and to ensure one’s event is not only exciting but historically fascinating too, go and listen to Molly Wellman during the  Culinary Experience talk on Monday, July 15th, 2019 12:30pm-2:00pm during the 2019 NACE Experience Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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