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Berkshire Mountain Distillers’ Cultural Cocktails program raises a glass to summer

Whether you're in the mood for a Red Lady (blood orange, grenadine, lemon juice) or a Downhill Daring (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Cocchi Americano, Benedictine, bitters), you'll be pleased as punch with BMD's new cocktail lineup.

SHEFFIELD — The unofficial start to summer is officially on the horizon — bringing with it permission to don white pants and shoes (without committing a fashion faux pas) and imbibe the season’s most refreshing cocktails. This weekend, the Berkshires’ first legal distillery since prohibition kicks off its 15th anniversary celebration with the eponymous Berkshire Mountain Distillers (BMD) Cultural Cocktails program. BMD has partnered with 15 cultural organizations and more than 20 bars and restaurants in the region to celebrate all the season has to offer.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers founder and owner Chris Weld. Photo courtesy BMD

“We are thrilled to launch this year’s Cultural Cocktails program as a tribute to the remarkable cultural institutions we celebrate here in the Berkshires,” said BMD founder Chris Weld. “We are so fortunate to live and work in a region of creative and inspiring businesses and Berkshire Mountain Distillers is honored to be a part of a supportive community that cherishes art, culture and the crafting of a great cocktail.”

The curtain went up on a pair of early season debuts — including the Berkshire Sunset, a local spin on the classic Negroni, which was flowing at Naumkeag on May 5 for the opening of “ViewEscapes,” George Rickey’s kinetic sculpture exhibit. Two days later, the 007-inspired CATA Ta-Da (a spin on the Vesper, Bond’s drink of choice in “Casino Royale”) whet the whistles of a sold-out crowd at Community Access to the Arts’ gala performance on May 7. This is the very type of celebratory chord BMD’s collaboration is hoping to strike with the symphony of world-class Berkshire cultural institutions.

The Boydian Slip. Photo: Martin Albert, courtesy Berkshire Mountain Distillers

BMD worked alongside the marketing teams of some of the Berkshires best-known arts organizations to name this year’s featured cocktails after benefactors, performances, exhibitions, special projects, works of art, a visiting dance company, and a famed artistic director.

At Barrington Stage Company, the Boydian Sip is aptly named for Founding Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. “It’s perfect timing for us, as we celebrate Julie’s 28th and final season before she retires!” said Barrington Stage General Manager Maggie LaMee.

The overarching aim is to bolster connectivity among local entertainment, culinary and hospitality industries while generating excitement in bars, venues, restaurants and arts organizations. Pioneering a craft cocktail movement as another way to experience the Berkshires, BMD is working with several dozen hospitality businesses to launch this campaign and raise awareness of the Berkshires as an exceptional region for art, culture and cocktails.

The Red Lady. Photo: Martin Albert, courtesy Berkshire Mountain Distillers

“We’re thrilled (and a little scared) to see [our drink] become a signature Shakespearean cocktail,” said Jaclyn Stevenson, Shakespeare & Company’s director of marketing and communications, about The Red Lady. The drink was inspired by the words of the “relentless, blood-thirsty and ambitious” Lady Macbeth, someone Stevenson said “is not to be trifled with.” Berkshire Mountain Distillers has taken the edge off of Macbeth’s biting personality with Elizabethan edible flowers and citrus flavors.

Other cocktails in the series include Nectar of the Garden (Berkshire Botanical Garden), BIFF Red Carpet, Colonial Cosmo (Berkshire Theatre Group), Shakered Not Stirred (Hancock Shaker Village), Sweet Francine (The Clark), Limon Technique (Jacob’s Pillow), Mahaiwe Marquee, Bricks + Bourbon (MASS MoCA), The Edith Wharton (The Mount), Downhill Daring (Norman Rockwell Museum), and WTF-tini (Williamstown Theatre Festival).

These signature drinks will be available at their corresponding cultural sites, as well as at Berkshire Mountain Distillers and the recipes for all of them can be found on the BMD website. You should also look for them at your favorite restaurants in the region, including Mezze in Williamstown; The Break Room in North Adams; Mission in Pittsfield; Alta, Brava, Gateways, and Olde Heritage Tavern in Lenox; Cafe Triskele in Lee; Baba Louie’s, Mooncloud, The Miller, Prairie Whale, and The Well in Great Barrington; The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge; John Andrews in South Egremont; and Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield. A full list of participating eateries is available online.

Cultural Cocktails runs through October 10.

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