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Meet RedEye's Best Bartender 2012: Jenny Kessler

February 23, 2012|By Emily Van Zandt | RedEye

Haven’t heard of Masa Azul yet? You will.

The little southwestern restaurant tucked away on a quiet stretch of Diversey in Logan Square has only been open a few months, but its already racking up bragging rights: Jenny Kessler, who designed the drink list and tends bar there, is RedEye’s Best Bartender 2012.

Kessler was named the winner at Wednesday’s Best Bartender competition at Moe’s Cantina River North after earning the majority vote from a combination of judges’ scores as well as online and text votes from the audience and RedEye readers.

“I was really suprised,” says Kessler. “I felt like we were the smallest business competing and we’re only five months old ... so those things were going against us.”

Kessler’s family and co-workers took to the internet to campaign for votes, sending emails, tweets and posts as often as they could.

“I have a huge family and my mom headed up putting the word out and sending email blasts,” says Kessler. “A lot of industry friends have come out to support me.”

With the win under her belt, Kesssler will continue to serve up her take classic cocktails with a major focus on small-batch mezcals and tequilas. Look for the drink menu at Masa Azul to change in the next month or two with the addition of more stirred cocktails.

One thing Kessler won’t be doing again soon is making cocktails samples for hundreds of party attendees. Wednesday’s contest put her skills to the test.

“I got there early to mandolin a case of limes,” says Kessler who estimates she served between 400 and 450 drink samples through the night. “I had a five-ingredient cocktail and it was really fun to challenge myself and see how many drinks I could get out there.”

Want to check out her drinks for yourself? Stop by Masa Azul on Fridays and Saturdays from 5-11 p.m. or Sundays from 5-10 p.m. And tell ‘em that RedEye sent you.

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