Madame Barfly: The Library in Easthampton is about the booze, not the books

Last modified: Friday, January 08, 2016
Cottage Street in Easthampton is a busy street on any night, and this New Year’s Eve was no different.

I approached The Library’s front door and was warned by its words that I must be properly dressed to enter. Given the holiday — luckily — I was dressed for the occasion. The tinted door closed behind me and all of the boisterous conversation, the crunch of boots on snow, and the whir of traffic disappeared.

Inside, I found 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 50-somethings sat nibbling and sipping at the front of the bar as they chatted softly. A couple sat at the cherry-stained wooden bar drinking martinis.

I grabbed one of the old-fashioned bar stools with sat down. After perusing the menu, I ordered a Bubbly Lemon Drop ($11) with organic lemon vodka, Limoncello, jasmine tea and Prosecco. It was delicious and fizzy — tasting like a boozy popsicle — and a few sips in I realized why they 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 the War and Peace ($9) — made with citrus-infused tequila, Grand Marnier and jalapeño-mango puree — the Hemingway Daiquiri ($9) — Bacardi, maraschino liqueur and fresh juices — and 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. The Library’s, with its sriracha addition, had extra kick and was finished with jumbo shrimp and green olives. If the place was open for brunch, I’d come just for that.

I joked 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 said, 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 the nearby 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 glass,” he said, bringing his hands above his eyes and miming hand binoculars as he nods toward the dark glass. “It’s pretty entertaining for all of us here to watch.

Madame Barfly can be reached at adrane@valleyadvocate.com.