An ice bar is a phenomenon that originated in Scandinavia and has since spread to cities around the world, especially to those metropoles known for their tourist industries. The bar is typically frozen to around 23°F (-5°C) and patrons are furnished with coats, hats, earmuffs and gloves before they enter to fight the freeze. An ice bar’s aesthetic is in keeping with the chilly temperatures, with all the furniture, fittings and ice sculptures fashioned from crystal clear ice, often harvested from the Torne River in Sweden and shipped across the world. Vodka is usually the drink of choice and a number of the bars that have opened recently have done so under the auspices of the Absolut Vodka brand, who emblazon the bar with the Absolut logo, suit out their staff in the Absolut livery and stock the shelves with their range of sub-zero vodkas.
The first Ice Bar was unveiled in 1994 at ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. This inaugural bar is situated on the shore of the Torne River, 124 miles (200km) within the Arctic Circle. Since then, the franchise has spread and there are now ice bars to be found in London, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Orlando, Seoul, Dubai, and most recently Shanghai, China. The Ice Bar franchise is usually assigned a fashionable interior designer who is charged with outfitting and refurbishing the bar every year so that no two years does the bar sport the same icy aesthetic.
A typical Ice Bar will allocate its patrons time slots of around forty minutes each and fit them out with winter wear, or as is the case with the bar recently opened in Mayfair, London, a thermal cape to keep them warm. Patrons enter the frozen chamber of the bar via an airtight door that keeps the frozen air in and the thaw out. The hermetic chamber affords the bar an otherworldly vibe, which is added to by the chill-out music that enters the bar via ice speakers. Drinks are usually vodka based and a typical menu offers a range of Absolut vodka based cocktails that include the aptly named Absolut Icy River, Absolut Aurora Borealis and Absolut Below Zero.
The Ice Bar entry fee is approximately $30 US Dollars (USD), which includes one free drink, rental of the thermal outfit and an ice glass. Alcoholic drinks are priced at around $12 (USD), while non-alcoholic drinks start at $6 (USD).