What do you get when you combine six 300-pound blocks of frozen water, frigid northern air and a throng of thirsty sports fans bound for the Twin Cities?
An ice bar — a phenomenon that has been around for years but is now gaining major steam — OK, frost — thanks to the Super Bowl, the growth of artisan ice companies and the usual bounty of cold air. Suddenly, the frosty novelties are cropping up everywhere, 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 creating them at the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis, the Oxcart Ale House in St. Paul, the Volstead House in Eagan and the Great Northern St. Paul Chefs Experience. 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 6 1/2 -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 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 — have we mentioned that alcohol tricks your brain into thinking you’re warm? There’s plenty of that, too.
The current spike in ice bars might be aided by that not-so-subtle big event coming to Minnesota, but 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,” he said. “The ice bar is not going anywhere.”
If you go
Check out these variations this winter:
Birch’s on the Lake: In its third year running, the Birch’s lakefront ice bar is perfecting its glacial gala. This year there will be fire pits, hammerschlagan (a nail-driving game — seriously!), occasional live music at the indoor bar heard through speakers, and an ice-skating rink. 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, Brchsonthelake.com
Crave, Minneapolis: 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 Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-332-1133, Craveicelounge.com
Freight House: 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 beverages, 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 Chef’s 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. Fifth St., St. Paul, Thegreatnorthernfestival.com
Hewing Hotel: 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 Ave. N., Minneapolis, 651-468-0600, Hewinghotel.com
The Lexington: 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. It opened to the public on Jan. 19 and then from 4 to 9 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Feb. 10. 1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-289-4990, Thelexmn.com