Molly Wellmann of Cincinnati is an author, businesswoman and mixologist who has received national attention. (Courtesy) 

Molly Wellmann is many things – a successful business woman, club owner, bartender, mixologist, speaker, author and history buff. Oh, and award winner. The Nightclub & Bar Media Group selected her as the 2019 Bartender-Owner of the Year.

The prestigious award recognizes the movers and shakers of the industry across the nation, those that have shown excellent expertise in their field, but also strive to improve the nightclub and bar industry. A self-taught mixologist born raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she has shaken up the cocktail scene by throwing out the sugar-laden artificial flavored syrups and replacing with simple syrups handmade with refreshing herbs and spices on top of a stove.

Her goal is to bring back the good old fashion cocktail our grandparents remember.

She states in her book Handcrafted Cocktails that drinks should “reflect the same quality as those made a hundred years ago, when bartenders used quality, fresh ingredients and balanced the flavors instead of making them too sweet.”

Her love of history began with reading old books about her hometown Cincinnati, rich in history of German immigrants bringing their beer and sausage making skills with them. 

During her younger years, Molly worked as a bartender in San Francisco but perfected her skills when she returned to her hometown. Eventually, she purchased an old hair and wig store and turned the place into a thriving vintage bar named it Japps.

“I wanted a place that presented an entirely new bar experience for twenty-first century patrons by creating an environment that referenced a bygone time when people drank and socialized at a bar without needing to scream to be heard” she said.

Alcohol has affected almost every civilization around the world for thousands of years. Humans have been drinking beer and wine since 8,000 B.C., and distilled spirits since around 800 B.C. Legends say the fermentation process was discovered by accident when water leaked into stored grain, and then drunk making someone feel better. Used as a medicine for many years, the fermentation process soon spread across the globe creating pleasure drinks. The Persians fermented grapes, the Asians rice and the Europeans grains.

A cocktail is defined as a drink in which multiple ingredients are mixed, consisting of one or more spirits (hard liquor) and at least one fruit juice. A mixed drink is any drink that includes one spirit, such as a whiskey soda or bourbon added to tea. Molly’s philosophy in making drinks is to balance the sweet, the sour and the bitter along with the complementing spirit so the end result is delicious and interesting.

A minimum of three items make up a cocktail - the spirit, a modifier and a perfume.

The Spirit: The secret to a good cocktail starts with the best quality spirit. People around the nation debate which distiller makes the best whiskey, bourbon, vodka, tequila or rum. Today, a large selection from around the world is available resulting in making the decision more difficult. Wines also qualify as a spirit and champagne is often used for commemorative cocktails.

Only your taste buds will help you choose the right brand to purchase. However, advice from a bartender is a good place to start.

The modifier: The modifier is usually a sweet or savory syrup, but could be a vermouth or flavored cream. During Prohibition, black market liquor was hastily made with poor ingredients, making the drink taste bitter and sour.

Adding sugar was the easy solution, but sugar takes a while to dissolve. Bartenders began to boil the sugar with water beforehand, in order to serve the drinks quicker.

Most bars purchase pre-prepared syrup full of fructose corn syrup and artificial flavoring. Molly’s prefers to make her own syrup and includes a variety of recipes in her book. Her simple syrup recipe is three basic ingredients: 1 cup of water added to 1 cup of sugar plus flavoring all brought to a rolling boil. Molly’s favorite items for extra mega flavor are orange peel, split vanilla beans, sliced ginger root, fruit, cinnamon, cloves or dried lavender. Turn down the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

The perfume: The perfume could be freshly squeezed citrus fruit, flavored water or bitter. Bitter is a spice made by infusing herbs and spices and the dominant flavor of a high-proof spirit. Bitter ingredients are placed in mason jars and stored in a dark place for at least seven days.

Bitters can be purchased pre-pared, but Molly prefers to make her own. Her favorite is Allspice Bitter made of whiskey, vanilla beans, allspice berries and wormwood.

Molly has become a cocktail chef, unearthing old favorite recipes and creating new drinks by adding her own twist that craft unique flavors. In her book, her research on cocktail history is mingled with recipes from America’s past.

Rosy Cheeks

The first reference to gin is in a 13 th Century Flemish manuscript as a spirit distilled from grains flavored with “genever’ - Dutch for juniper berries. By the 1600’s, gin distilleries thrived in Amsterdam when gin was used by chemist for treatment of ailments such as gout and dyspepsia. Gin became popular during the Thirty Years’ War when British soldiers fighting on Dutch land found extra courage by drinking gin. Gin is made the same way today, with the berries creating a unique flavor.

  • 1½-ounce gin
  • ½ ounce spiced cranberry simple syrup 
  • 1 egg white
  • Juice of half of a fresh lime
  • Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add the ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and rest until foam floats to the top.

Recipe courtesy of Molly Wellmann, 2019 Bartender-Owner of the Year

Beet Around the Christmas Tree

Tequila was first produced in the 16 th century in Tequila, a city in central Mexico and distilled from the rare agave plant. Mexico authorities have a long history of regulations on tequila to ensure the spirit’s quality and authenticity. True tequila is made from the blue agave plant which only grows in the central western state of Jalisco, Mexico. Tequila had denomination of origin, meaning is must be produced in Mexico in designated states. The trendy “worm” is found in tequila’s “lower-quality” cousin, mezcal and does not add flavor to the spirit.

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1-ounce fresh beet juice
  • ½ ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¾ ounce vanilla simple syrup
  • Soda to top

Add all ingredients but the soda to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain over ice in an old fashioned glass. Top with soda and garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Recipe courtesy of Molly Wellmann, 2019 Bartender-Owner of the Year


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