the world’s “coolest” bar?
Stockholm, Sweden — Wearing a shiny silver poncho and black
ski gloves, courtesy of the drinking establishment, I ordered a
cocktail from the bartender. She poured a vodka and fruit juice
concoction into a glass and offered a frigid smile.
Holding the glass clumsily between gloved hands, I turned, leaned
against the bar and felt chills run up my spine. After all, the
bar had been carved from a gigantic block of ice. In fact, my glass
was made of ice. The wrap-around sofa, twin cocktail tables, walls—every
feature of the lounge (except the floor and ceiling) had been built
entirely from clear Swedish ice.
Coldly conceived and aptly named, Icebar might be the coolest bar
Located just off the lobby of the Nordic Sea Hotel, Icebar welcomes
more than 100,000 visitors each year. The $22 entry fee includes
cold weather clothing and one Absolut vodka cocktail. Guests are
limited to 45-minute shifts. Wearing identical ponchos and gloves,
they enter through an airlock that prevents the 23-degree air from
My shift at Icebar was indeed a chilling experience. When I stepped
inside on an unseasonably warm day in April, the sudden drop in
temperature was like a cold slap in the face. Approximately 15
guests were already mingling. Some sat on the ice sofa, which was
covered with reindeer pelts. Others stood at the ice bar, sipping
vodka drinks served “in the rocks” (in ice glasses)
rather than “on the rocks.”
I walked around the igloo-like room, touching the ice walls with
my bare hand and staring through the crystal clear ice furniture.
At one point, the voice of cornball rapper Vanilla Ice popped into
my head. Lyrics from his 1990’s hit “Ice Ice Baby”,
made me clench my teeth and shiver.
Icebar’s entire interior comes from the Torne River, 125
miles north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland. The water
is so pure that when it freezes the ice is completely transparent.
The clear ice is harvested from the river, sculpted on site and
shipped to Stockholm in refrigerated containers.
The world’s first Icebar was constructed in 1994 at the Ice
Hotel. Located in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, on the banks of the
Torne, the hotel, like the bar, is made entirely of river ice.
The property is built each winter. Every spring, the hotel melts.
Icebar Stockholm opened its doors in 2002. It’s a collaboration
between the Nordic Sea Hotel, Ice Hotel and Absolut, the Swedish
vodka company. Hailed as the world’s first “permanent” Absolut
Icebar, the Stockholm franchise is open year round.
Absolut Icebar franchises have since opened in Milan (2004), London
(2005), Tokyo (2006) and Copenhagen (April, 2007). In June, the
latest Icebar will be unveiled in Shanghai, China. At each location,
the air temperature is maintained at a constant 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
Every 6 months, when a new shipment of sculpted ice arrives from
Sweden, each location is totally redesigned.
Due in part to the success of Absolut Icebar, sub-freezing watering
holes are popping up everywhere. In Paris, there’s Ice Kube.
The $50 entrance fee includes all the Grey Goose vodka you can
drink. But guests have only 30 minutes in which to consume.
You can go glacial at Ice Club in Warsaw, get your chill on at
Xtracold in Amsterdam, or freeze to the beat at Arctic Icebar (it’s
inside Uniq Nightlife nightclub in Helsinki, Finland). Boasting
5 locations in Australia and New Zealand, Minus 5† (Celsius), plans
to open a frosty drinking outpost in Grand Cayman Island, West
I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) spend the entire evening
in a sub-freezing drinking environment. But for 45 minutes, it’s
a cool experience. Just remember to hold on to your drink. Thick
ski gloves and slippery ice glasses don’t mix.
Stockholm to Sydney, here’s a sampling
of sub-freezing ice bars. Admission price for
a 30 to 45-minute session includes cold-weather
clothing rental and one drink, except where noted.
(To call from the U.S., dial the international
dialing code 011, followed by the number.)
Absolut Icebar (Nordic Sea Hotel): 2 Vasaplan,
Stockholm, Sweden; Tel: (46) 8 5056-3000; www.absolut.com/icebar;
$22. For information about the Ice Hotel, visit
Minus 5†: 2 Opera Quays, East Circular Quay,
Sydney, Australia; Tel: (61) 2 9251-0311; www.minus5experience.com;
Ice Kube Bar (Kube Hotel): 1-5, Passage Ruelle,
Paris, France; Tel: (33) 1 4205-2000; www.kubehotel.com;
$50, includes unlimited Grey Goose vodka drinks.
Arctic Icebar (Uniq Nightlife nightclub): 5 Yliopistonkatu,
Helsinki, Finland; Tel: (358) 9 278-1855; www.uniq.fi;
Chill On: 296 Russell St., Melbourne, Australia;
Tel: (61) 3 9663-3877; www.chillon.com.au; $23.
Ice Bar (Kaffi Reykjavik): 2 Vesturgata 101 Reykjavik,
Iceland; Tel: (354) 552-3030; www.kaffireykjavik.is;
Ice Club: 61 Ul. Pan´ska, Warsaw, Poland;
Tel: (48) 2 2654-5634; www.icebar.com.pl; $3.50,
drink not included.
Xtracold: 194-196 Amstel Amsterdam, Netherlands;
Tel: (31) 2 0320-5700; www.xtracold.com; $20.