Mixologist brings craft cocktail lounge to Main Street

In the same way a passionate teacher can inspire their most reluctant pupil, Molly Wellman can make you love what you're drinking.

The self-taught mixologist is literally obsessed with cocktails. Her face lights up if you ask her a question about what you are drinking and she'll tell you where and when it was invented, and why. 

Last Thursday, standing inside Japp's, a turn of the 20th century wig shop at 1134 Main Street that was a bar during the 90s, Wellman described the new bar she'll be opening there this summer. It will give her a chance to practice her craft in a room which was built in what she calls "the golden era of craft cocktails."

Wellman and Michael Redmond, an owner of The Famous Neon's Unplugged - another Main Street bar mainstay that was revived in the past year, recently signed a lease on Japp's. They will re-model the space and re-open it this summer as a classic craft cocktail lounge.

The new Japp's will serve craft cocktails (no shots, Wellman says) and have period decor, with the help of a trove of wig signs and posters original to the shop. The expansive glass case behind the bar will be stocked full of liquor and the copper bar will be brought back to its original shape, Wellman said, so that its glow will make patrons look more beautiful. She said Japp's will feature some of the historic cocktails in her repertoire, but also give her a venue to get creative with new recipes.

Wellman's passion for cocktails began two and a half years ago, when she returned from San Francisco to "settle down" in Cincinnati. She landed a job at Chalk in Covington, where she was tasked with learning how to make classic cocktails. As she describes it, she immediately became obsessed.

"I was like a sponge absorbing as much knowledge as I could - living, eating, breathing...drinking these cocktails," she said. "Any bar I could get behind and make a fancy cocktail, I did."

Since then she has become a sort of celebrity bartender with over 2,000 friends on Facebook who are kept abreast of her guest bartending appearances, and her reputation landed her the deal at Japp's. Wellman is grateful for her popularity, but she says it's the liquor that people love so much, and the stories behind the drinks.

"Some people go to the bar and they'll order a gin and tonic and slurp it down and get another one," she said. "But with me, before they know it they're like 'oh wow, I'm drinking something that was invented by British soldiers to ward off malaria,' and they hold the glass a little differently when they walk off."

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler.
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