Laura Molloy née Goncarova hides her incredible talent for cocktail-making behind a funny personality. She is self-deprecating but the fact is she came to Ireland by herself straight after school and went from working in a factory to running an award-winning bar.
One way ticket to Ireland
She had spent a working summer holiday in Ireland and that experience left an indelible mark on her. “I just knew how easy it is to make friends here. People in general are much nicer in Ireland than they are in Latvia. I don’t mean to sound negative about my home country but I find that people are generally nicer here. I just fell in love with the country. When I graduated, my parents couldn’t afford for me to study criminal psychology. So I said, ‘You know what? I’ll get a one-way ticket to Ireland. If something goes wrong, I can always come back.’ The main reason for me to go away, I suppose, was because I didn’t want to stand behind a shop counter all my life.”
From factory work to bar work
Her excellent work ethic helped her get noticed by the right people, but she didn’t start out in the bar trade the moment she landed. “My first job was in a factory in Drogheda. I got promoted to a salad line where I got to label. I also was putting five olives in each bowl at one point. That lasted three weeks and I just went demented and I said, ‘No, thank you.’ Well I didn’t even say thank you, I just didn’t show up for work one day! Then I worked in Abrakebabra for a while making taco chips, which I love now!”
“I moved to Dublin after that. I started waitressing and I’d been working in some dive bars. Gradually, when I’d gotten more experience, I got to work behind the bar pulling pints.” Laura’s hard work led to a chain of recommendations that eventually led her to becoming bar supervisor for a bar on Dawson street (Samsara which is now Sam’s Bar).” She was always the last to leave the bar as she wanted to make sure everything was cleaned just right, that would mean leaving work at around 5 am. Unbeknown to her an industry legend had been studying her attention to detail, he worked in a bar nearby and would drop in with a friend post-shift for drinks, and offered her a job with him in a new cocktail spot in Leopardstown.
A cocktail career
“I still remember my first cocktail. I’d made friends with this Latvian girl, this is before my job in The Leopardstown Inn, she came in to the pub I was working in and asked, ‘Why don’t you make me a cocktail?’ I didn’t have a clue. I knew at that stage I liked Peach Schnapps, I liked Malibu and I liked Midori… now I’m making my teeth itchy thinking of the amount of sugar in those. I put every single sweet liquor that I could find, mixed with pineapple juice and probably grenadine as well. I would not be surprised if that girl is dead from diabetes!”
Her apprenticeship in Leopardstown was rare, “usually people would pay to get the education I got but I was very lucky that I got it for free.” Her willingness to work hard and learn saw her quickly evolve into a competent cocktail maker in her own right, “He taught me everything I needed to know. Two years later, he left and he left the bar for me to run it. Then on the third year, we went on to win Cocktail Bar of the Year by Licensing World. The next year, we got nominated but we didn’t get it. But, we got Star Bar of the Year. That’s something that fills me with a lot of pride,” she smiles.
Laura’s love of creating a beautiful drink was not something that happened immediately, “It was a job in the beginning. Then, the more I learned about it, the more interested I became in it. I just love creating new drinks. I also loved when somebody came up to the bar and they asked me to surprise them. I suppose surprising those people was always something I really liked. I always would ask, ‘What don’t you like spirit-wise? Do you like vodka etc? Tell me what you hate.’ They would, ‘Oh, I hate gin.’ Then I would go and make them a really nice gin cocktail and they would be like, ‘Oh my God this is delicious!’
A new cocktail chapter
The pace and physicality of bar life did not suit Laura once she got married and had a baby. However her knowledge and flair for creating drinks meant that global brand Monin offered her a role as their Irish brand ambassador. “It involves loads of traveling around the country, which I love. I’m always meeting new people. I suppose it is kind of like working behind the bar, but I just go to people instead of them coming to me. It’s great because Monin have over one hundred different flavours, from watermelon to tonka bean, you name it we have it.” The variety feeds her creativity of making new cocktails, “There is no limit to what you can create.”
Laura got into the business when it was rare for women to break into the cocktail world. She excelled in it and now she travels Ireland offering the guidance that she once got. It’s an impressive journey from a salad line!