Cincy Chic: What’s the difference between a mixologist and a bartender?
Mixologist Molly Wellmann: The difference between a mixologist and a bartender is that a bartender tends the bar, pouring beers and whipping up popular drinks, all while keeping the patrons happy and lively. A mixologist is an expert in cocktail creation, taking it to the point of making some of their own ingredients. For example, I make all of my own flavored simple syrups and liquors. I make different bitters and tinctures to add to drinks in order to bring out different flavors.
A mixologist is also a cocktail historian, studying the history and culture of making cocktails. Much of this information comes from research — the Internet, reading books, and talking with other mixologists and chefs about flavor combos. There’s a lot of trial and error, too.
You could say that being a mixologist is a crazy obsession rather than just a job. Really, mixologist or not, I’m a bartender first, keeping my patrons happy and relaxed. I just take it a step further. I absolutely love it!
Cincy Chic: Why did you choose the mixology side of the spectrum?
Wellmann: It started when I was interviewed at Chalk. They really wanted someone to come in and develop cocktails which would compliment their menu. This idea immediately fired my creative side.
I am a very creative person. I saw this as my creative outlet to keep me a happy, sane girl. I love to come up with new drinks and figure out the best way to bring out the right flavors while using combinations which normally wouldn’t be paired.
This past November was an especially exciting month creatively when I decided to throw a cocktail party to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and serve authentic cocktails from the period. The Dec. 5 party was a hit! I started researching Prohibition cocktails and haven’t stopped!
I love the history of it all! I research about three or four classic drinks a week and then put my own spin on them. I want to be an expert! I love to tell my patrons the story behind the drink. It’s a history lesson they don’t expect.
Cincy Chic: Where do you find inspiration for your concoctions?
Wellmann: Oh my goodness! I’m inspired by everything! I hang around a lot of people who are obsessed with food and flavor. Just listening to them talk about what they had for dinner the night before inspires me sometimes. Many times, however, my inspiration comes when I’m researching the classic Prohibition and pre-Prohibition cocktails or bouncing ideas around with my chef, Steven. There is no end to the inspirational opportunities I find.
Cincy Chic: What are some of your favorite ingredients to use in your drinks?
Wellmann: I love to use floral flavors in my creations! I think it’s so different and unexpected and beautiful on your nose and tongue. If you use it right, it’s so light that you want to keep drinking it. But I also like to use seasonal fresh produce and herbs and spices. I like to make my own liquors and syrups to add flavors. And I add bitters and tinctures to the produce and to twist or bring out flavors.
Cincy Chic: Where and when do you mix professionally?
Wellmann: Presently, I’m working at the Rookwood in Mt. Adams. I’m a proud Cincinnati girl and love the history we have here! The Rookwood is steeped in artisan history, so we are bringing "artisan" back to the Rookwood! We’re involving the menu and the bar with artisan and historical elements made with as many local products and ingredients as possible. I’m very excited about it! Actually, I think the building is happy about it too! It all just seems to fit.
I also work Saturday night at the Mainstay on Fifth and Plum [streets]. I’m there because it’s a lot of fun, and sometimes I just want to bartend and give my mind a rest! I also guest bartend whenever asked.
Cincy Chic: How have your mixology skills come in handy outside of work?
Wellmann: Well! My friends love to have me over because they know I’ll make some crazy cocktail just for them and their guests! And I make yummy juice drinks for my nephew so he won’t want to drink pop or Kool-Aid (not a fan, yuck).
Cincy Chic: Besides beverages, how do you like to mix up your life?
Wellmann: Oh, I have a lot of different interests! I’m a metal smith as well. I make jewelry. And I love to sew! I always have been a girl who can make something out of nothing! I’m also a nutritionist.
But when I’m not working, I just love to be out and about in the city with my friends. I’m blessed to be surrounded by some of the most talented and creative people this city has to offer. I also like to spend time with my family, especially my two little nephews. I like to spoil them.
Cincy Chic: What is your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Wellmann: My favorite thing is that my family is here! My family has been here for generations and we have a rich history here. This is a fantastic city! Like I said before, I’m a proud Cincinnati girl!