A taste of the Berkshires at MGM Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD — Seasoned night owls know that indecisiveness can kill a promising night. One minute, you're debating which show to attend. The next, you've missed both opening sets.

For noncommittal evening planners in the Berkshires, a remedy has arrived: MGM Springfield. Sure, it's a bit of a drive, but those weighing multiple interests can probably find most of them covered at the 14 -acre casino complex: The colossus now includes an ice rink, comedy club, movie theater, bowling alley, arcade, restaurants and, yes, a 125,000-square-foot gambling floor. And if you walk past some of the 2,550 shiny, ringing slot machines, you'll discover a bar offering a taste of the Berkshires.

"It's off to the side," MGM Springfield director of beverage Michelle Longoria said of Lobby Bar, the swanky, book-lined spot near the casino's hotel entrance that touts "The Shire" among its signature cocktails. "It's not too busy, so you can really enjoy a drink."

You can learn about one, too. Friday "Study Hall" nights at Lobby Bar not only feature live music but also an emphasis on examining the ingredients of the bar's literary-themed craft cocktails, sometimes through tastings, beginning at 6 p.m. Bartenders and participating vendors are willing to shake, stir and educate in a space with book-lined walls.

"Why are they crafty?" Longoria said the bar seeks to explain about its drinks.

"The Shire" ($12) is a mix of Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, MGM Berkshire Gin and MGM Orange Bitters. The latter two elements are custom products that Berkshire Mountain Distillers made for the casino. In April, MGM Springfield staffers visited the Sheffield distillery to survey its offerings.

"We picked what we wanted," Longoria said.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Owner and Founder Chris Weld was impressed by MGM's focus on its custom beverage items. He hopes that his company's involvement with the casino will attract more business from those residing well beyond Berkshire County lines.

"It obviously gives our brand exposure in a broader geographic realm," Weld said.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers' Ice Glen Vodka and MGM Single Barrel Rum also appear in bars around the casino. At Lobby Bar, Ice Glen Vodka is part of a $12 cocktail, "Peter Cottontail," that includes cotton candy, lime and St. Germain.

Nearly all of the bar's drink names pay homage to its library-like surrounds. "Tequila Mockingbird" (Fortaleza Tequila Blanco, Dolin Dry Vermouth, lemon, strawberry); "Romeo and Juniper" (Plymouth Gin, tonic, coriander, rosemary, juniper, lemon) and "Gone with the Gin" (Barr Hill Gin, clover honey, orange, lemon) are a few of them. Longoria noted that these cocktails can come in glasses corresponding to their monikers. A Tequila Mockingbird, for example, might arrive at a table in a bird-shaped vessel.

Open from 3-11 p.m. every day except Saturday, when it's open from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Lobby Bar is aiming to attract more of an after-work crowd. Those professionals may find themselves wandering down the hall towards Roar! Comedy Club in the coming months. Michael Yo, Rachel Feinstein, Greg Fitzsimmons, Dan Soder, Nikki Glaser, Ben Bailey and Carly Aquilino are among those who have been booked through June. But they can first imbibe some carefully crafted cocktails that Longoria hopes fill a mixology void in the area.

"It's bringing something different to the community," she said.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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