What do you get when you combine six 300-pound blocks of frozen water, frigid northern temperatures and a throng of thirsty sports fans bound for the Twin Cities?
Ice bars — a phenomenon that has been around for years but is now gaining major steam — er, frost — thanks to the Super Bowl’s arrival, the growth of artisan ice companies and the usual bounty of cold air. Suddenly, the frosty novelties are cropping up everywhere from rooftops to alleyways, and keeping things cool with chilly concoctions, frozen furniture and arctic bar games (think made-from-ice air hockey and shuffle-puck tables).
Take the ice bars from Minnesota Ice. Each is built with blocks of 10- by 20- by 40-inch ice slabs, and needs about three days to freeze, said Erik Eastman, director of sales for the company, which is constructing them at the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis, Oxcart Ale House in St. Paul, Volstead House in Eagan, the Great Northern St. Paul Chefs Experience and more. Ice Occasions, the other major ice company in town, is also building outdoor ice bars around town.
Eastman says that, once the blocks are solid, a standard 6½-foot ice bar can be put together in as little as 30 minutes, using a blowtorch to freeze the blocks together. From there, Minnesota Ice can engrave designs, add color and even embed wireless LED lighting for dramatic effect. Hand-carved embellishments, statues, games and other icy constructions complete the wintry wonderland vibe.
But why subject yourself to the numbing outdoors when there are perfectly good indoor bars keeping the frozen stuff in the glassware? Well, it’s fun. It’s unique. And gosh darn it, we’re a hardy breed.
“They’re beautiful,” Eastman said. “When you see them put together, it’s like ‘Wow.’ They’re pretty. They’re super-clear, and they’re just different.”
Oh — and have we mentioned that alcohol tricks your brain into thinking you’re warm? There’s plenty of that, too.
Although the current spike in ice bars may be aided by that not-so-subtle big event coming to town, Eastman expects the nippy trend to stick.
“We’ll continue to see these because I think we’re really embracing our climate right now and wanting to be outdoors right now,” he said. “The ice bar is not going anywhere.”
Check out these variations this winter:
Birch’s on the Lake
In its third year running, the Birch’s lakefront ice bar is really perfecting its glacial gala. This year there will be fire pits, hammerschlagan, occasional live music at the indoor bar heard through speakers and an ice-skating rink set up on Long Lake. Sip out of an icy shot glass or take a drink from the luge. Bonus: There are two-for-one specials throughout. Open Fridays and Saturdays, from 7-10 p.m. through the Super Bowl.
1310 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake, 952-473-7373, birchsonthelake.com
You know you want to go ice fishing, right? The Crave rooftop patio will be offering that (well, simulated — you are on a rooftop! — but with ice fishing houses, guides and gear, and shore lunch available), as well as the full array of cold sculptures and furniture, including an ice throne for selfies. The rooftop will be open from 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily from Jan. 31-Feb. 4. Ticket prices TBD.
825 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-332-1133, craveicelounge.com
An ice bar and Stillwater’s ice castles within spitting distance of each other? Winter activities, done. Freight House’s riverside deck will feature frozen hot chocolate in ice glassware, among other bevs, and showcase one of Minnesota’s most beloved winter features. Open Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March, weather-pending.
305 S. Water St., Stillwater, 651-439-5718, thefreighthouse.com
The Great Northern St. Paul Chefs Experience
For Jan. 29 only: a special evening at the St. Paul Farmers Market, as part of the Great Northern festival’s activities. Among the food vendors and plates of wood-fired fare, you’ll find an icy selfie station and a hollow square ice bar, with bartenders whipping up cocktails from Octo Fishbar, Saint Dinette and Revival. See the Great Northern’s website for ticket pricing and to purchase.
290 E. 5th St., St. Paul, thegreatnorthernfestival.com
One of the Twin Cities’ most picturesque — and most exclusive — rooftops suddenly has another angle to intrigue: an oversized, hand-chiseled ice bar lounge, complete with ice high-tops, ice air hockey and cocktails from the Tattersall Distilling masters. Open to the public on Tuesdays (4 p.m. to midnight) through February, depending on weather. Reservations required.
300 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 651-468-0600, hewinghotel.com
There’s been a reversal on the Lexington’s new rooftop: What this summer exuded all things warm and tropical will soon be dedicated to the frigid. Grab a cocktail from the ice bar or pour one yourself — down the icy drink luge, then snap an Instagram on the giant ice throne that will be staged under the Lexington sign. Open to the public on Jan. 19 and then from 4-9 p.m. every Thu., Fri. and Sat. through Feb. 10.
1096 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-289-4990, thelexmn.com
Martin Patrick 3
Picture this: an intimate, New York-syle alleyway with string lights twinkling overhead and two ice bars wedged between a pair of brick buildings. A curated cocktail menu will be handled by the Hewing Hotel, and servers attending the standing room and handful of tables and heaters will be dressed in furs. Open from Feb. 1 through the Super Bowl; see website for hours.
212 3rd Av. N., Suite 106, Mpls., 612-746-5329, martinpatrick3.com
One of the few ice bar regulars in this neck of the woods, Le Meridien has turned its courtyard into an ice bar for a long while. Now Mercy will throw its version of an ice party, pairing fire pits and pine trees with the frozen features: a bar, a shuffle puck table, sculptures and a custom igloo dome. Open from 6 p.m. to midnight every Thu., Fri. and Sat. through the Super Bowl.
901 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-252-7000, mercympls.com
New Bohemia and Truck Park
The mutually owned side-by-side restaurants in downtown St. Paul take up nearly a full city block. Starting Jan. 19, the duo will block off the street and turn the sidewalk area into a polar paradise. Two ice bars will churn out iced drinks in ice glasses for the party, and there will be hockey-themed activities to boot. Open Fri., Sat. and Sun. The stop date is still TBD. Call for hours to ensure it’s open.
222 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-330-8267, newbohemiausa.com/saint-paul
Ox Cart Ale House
Get a winter bird’s-eye view atop a rooftop that overlooks CHS Field and parts of Lowertown, all dressed in white. On tap? An extra-long ice bar, ice high-top tables and an ice beer-pong table in case you need a reason to drink faster. Open from 3 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays through February, depending on weather.
255 E. 6th St., St. Paul, 651-528-6171, oxcartalehouse.com
Urbana Craeft Kitchen
A bustling sojourn around the Mall of America could only be improved by a pit stop afterward at this frozen libation station. Partnering with Fulton Beer, Urbana will be peddling brew, hot and cold cocktails — Irish coffee, anyone? — from its ice bar and staging fire pits for patrons to warm their fingers and toes. A portion of profits go to Second Harvest Heartland, a Minnesota food bank. Open 4:30-9 p.m. Wed.-Sat. until mid-February, weather-permitting.
3200 E. 81st St., Suite 200, Bloomington, 952-658-5039, urbanacraeftkitchen.com
It’s a bash every weekend at this whiskey-specializing bar. Volstead’s ice bar — complete with an ice photo wall and fire tables — kicks off Jan. 16-21 for a Prohibition party, and heats up with a Fire and Ice weekend (Jan. 25-27) featuring smoked cocktails on the ice bar and cigar pairings, a High Rollers event (think bottles of Pappy Van Winkle cracked) during the Super Bowl and more. Open 5-10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, through at least mid-February.
1278 Lone Oak Road, Eagan, 651-340-7175, volsteadhouse.com