When David Wondrich, renowned cocktail historian and writer praises you and anoints you “bar queen of Cincinnati” it should mean something pretty powerful to the people in your city. That’s exactly what happened to Molly Wellman after she transformed a former wig shop called Japps into what was most definitely then, and certainly still is now one of the best places to grab a crafted cocktail in Cincinnati.
The History of Japp’s
The story of Japp’s starts back in 1879. John Japp is the founder of what was then Japp’s Hair Store. After moving to Cincinnati with his wife they opened the store on Main Street, which was a popular shopping district at the time. Mr. Japp ran the store himself until his death in 1934, and after that his family continued on into the 1980s, crafting the highest quality wigs, handmade, with real human hair.
In the 80s the building was then purchased by Bob Schnider who eventually leased it out to Neil Barstow in the 90s who turned the store into a bar. The bar was bought and sold a few times until 2002 when it was shut down for good. (let’s not forget what OTR was like in the early 2000s – it was a rough time for this city.)
In 2010 Molly Wellmann leased Japps and created Cincinnati’s first real craft cocktail bar, which finally opened in the summer of 2011. She catapulted not only the bar, but Cincinnati’s cocktail culture in the space, and announced in the summer of 2022 that she was selling it to 3EG a local bar group as she moved on in her career.
What’s Japps All About?
Japp’s is an incredible cathedral to cocktail culture in Cincinnati. The bar went under a big renovation in the summer of 2018 that brightened up the indoor space and opened it up quite a bit. When you walk in it’s all still anchored by a big bar along the left side of the room. Across from the bar is an elevated banquet and tables which overlook the room if you’re one of those folks that enjoy people-watching in a dim bar.
The back of the bar is an open lounge space, with comfortable seating and a warm gas fireplace. It’s the space for you to huddle together in conversation with good friends, or family.
Me? I’m all about the bar. Grabbing a comfortable stool at the big wooden bar you can see first hand what they do best at Japp’s. Cocktails. Geared towards pre-prohibition style drinks that tell stories, there isn’t much that I haven’t enjoyed in a glass at Japp’s. From the Manhattan or the Aviation to the Sazerac, the skilled bartenders at Japp’s will find your drink, even if you don’t yet know what it is.