There are many different paths that lead to bartending, but Mea Leech’s story stands out. She graduated with an Accounting degree from Michigan State University. But while attending school, she was also the lead singer of a band that toured extensively and had large major label support. This brought her travels from Michigan to Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and eventually New York. Once there, she moved to work on the other side of the industry as a business manager at a world-renowned mastering studio, taking a bartending gig on the side. Eight years later, she has never looked back.
Mea moved to Chicago two years ago to study with Charles Joly at The Drawing Room. She also attended The Academy of Spirits & Fine Service – Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, where she’s been named a Mixology Innovator of the Month. Currently, you can find her serving up culinary-inspired craft cocktails behind the bar at Nico Osteria. A self-described cocktail nerd, Mea believes in the value of studying—reading cocktail books, talking to other professionals and exploring the history of the American bartender. While she works hard to further her skills, she’s grateful to the mentors and friends who have helped make her feel like a part of Chicago. After all, hospitality is important to Mea. “I have a passion for hospitality. When people walk into my bar, I feel like the hostess of a dinner party, welcoming them into my home. This is what I do and I’m happy to accommodate people. I love my job so much. I have the personality and the passion for the work. When people sit down at my bar, they don’t leave.”
She frequently travels to further her spirit education. She’s been to the West Indies to learn about rum, and she’s planning trips to Kentucky and Sweden for whiskey and vodka, respectively. “I want to be a master of anything I do. That’s very important to me.” When she’s not furthering her studies, she’s playing music. She started with piano at age three, violin at five and guitar at eight. She comes from a musical family. Her grandfather played drums for Dizzy Gillespie, and her uncle drummed for Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent. But whatever Mea does, she puts everything she has into it. If you’re in Chicago, be sure stop by Nico Osteria and ask Mea for an Angel’s Envy cocktail. Chances are, it’ll be unforgettable.