Cottage Street in Easthampton is a busy street on any night, and this New Year’s Eve is no different.
I approach The Library’s front door and am warned by its words that I must be properly dressed to enter. Given the holiday — luckily — I’m dressed for the occasion, so I proceed. The tinted door closes behind me and all of the boisterous conversation, the crunch of boots on snow, and the whir of traffic are instantly canceled out.
Inside, I find the Valley’s newest speakeasy-style bar, which opened in April under the same ownership as Amy’s Place. A dense, black curtain covering the front window conspires with the tinted front door to make inside happenings invisible to passersby. The long narrow establishment is dimly lit and its stylings are elegant in various shades of black, gray, and mahogany. Mellow jazz tunes with French lyrics soothe the room. The scantily colored space makes the vibrancy of the booze bottles, perched atop glass shelves, a feast to behold.
I had an inclination this place wasn’t an actual library, though there is one bookshelf in the back with assorted encyclopedias — here patrons choose between boozes, not books.
Four fifty-somethings sit nibbling and sipping at the front of the bar as they chat softly. A couple sits at the bar drinking martinis.
I grab one of the old-fashioned bar stools with bolted black cushions and sit at the cherry-stained wooden bar. After thoroughly perusing the menu, I order a Bubbly Lemon Drop ($11) with organic lemon vodka, Limoncello, jasmine tea, and Prosecco. It’s delicious and fizzy — tastes like a boozy popsicle — and a few sips in I realize why they’ve offered me pretzels. The Library makes ‘em strong.
Many of The Library’s 24 on-menu drinks are named in keeping with the establishment’s literary theme, like their War and Peace ($9) — made with citrus-infused tequila, Grand Marnier, and jalapeño-mango puree — their Hemingway Daiquiri ($9) — Bacardi, maraschino liqueur, and fresh juices — and their Catcher in the Rye ($11) — Bulleit Rye, orange bitters, and sweet vermouth.
Before trying The Library’s deliciously spicy Goblet of Fire, I thought Bloody Caesar was just another name for Bloody Mary. Turns out that the former is the Canadian version, which boasts Clamato, a clam juice-infused tomato juice, and is much spicier than the female version. Theirs, with its sriracha addition, had extra kick and was finished with jumbo shrimp and green olives. If they were open for brunch, I’d come just for that.
I joke with bartender Missy Doherty about how to drink the Suffering Bastard — made with Jim Beam whiskey, Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh lime, bitters, and ginger-ale — you must be one and the same. “People order it,” she says, laughing. “It’s kind of like a Long Island Iced Tea.”
The 32-seat bar not only shares ownership with the adjoining Amy’s Place, but also staff — the bar’s three bartenders also work next door. The bar’s three-day week, after all — the bar is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights — is not enough to sustain a staffer.
Dan Baer, whose twin brother is one of the owners of Luthier’s Co-op, is the manager. The cocktails, he says, were concocted jointly with the other bartenders. Baer says the space was heavily renovated and sound-proofed in order to offer a different atmosphere and appeal to a different clientele than other Cottage Street hot-spots. It’s classy, and it’s speakeasy, which he says can be confusing for curious people walking by.
“People put their face up to the the glass,” he says, bringing his hands above his eyes and miming the hand binoculars as he nods toward the dark glass. “It’s pretty entertaining for all of us here to watch.•
Contact Madame Barfly at firstname.lastname@example.org.