CINCINNATI — Looking now at her red-lipsticked smile, vibrant tattoos and bright, retro-chic wardrobe, you'd never guess celebrated local mixologist Molly Wellmann struggled with confidence when she was in school.
"I'll be 46 next month, and it's still like I am in the sixth grade sitting there with a girl behind me telling me I would never make it, saying that I was too stupid or too ugly," she told WCPO in a recent interview. "And she would fool with my hair and just make fun of me to the whole class."
Wellmann, owner of Japp's in Over-the-Rhine, was recently named national bar owner of the year. She is known throughout Cincinnati for her delicious, creative cocktails, but the bullying she experienced sticks with her to this day.
"I still remember that," Wellmann said. "It was not fun. It never goes away."
So she's trying an unusual new mix: A passion for kindness and a passion for great cocktails. The result? Call it a charity cordial.
Wellmann is partnering with New Riff Distillery in Newport to raise money for Kind is the New Cool, a program spearheaded by a local high school student that aims to infuse more kindness — and less bullying — into local schools.
"And with this donation, they hope to build this so that they can spread this throughout the city and Northern Kentucky as well," Wellmann said.
On Saturday, May 11 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., New Riff will have bottles of single-barrel bourbon aged four years and handpicked — even signed! — by Wellmann herself.
Wellmann believes that surviving bullying made her stronger, but she knows its hampered her in some ways as well. She wants to make sure kids know that they should love who they are, whatever that looks like.
"I think different is the best thing ever," she said. "I think you can't fail at being yourself."