On a recent trip to Stockholm, I dropped in to the Absolute Icebar Stockholm. It was cool, very cool! I had always wanted to stay at an ice hotel (and had read up on the one that is built in Quebec each year), but I didn’t really know what to expect. It was far more than I expected, and honestly, much colder than expected.
The Absolut Icebar Stockholm is hosted at the Nordic Sea Hotel where they have dedicated an entire section of the hotel to maintaining the bar. It began in 1994 and has been a permanent exhibit since 2002. Even though Stockholm doesn’t suffer from scorching heat in the summer, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to maintain the Icebar year-round.
Each year, the Icebar operators cut blocks of ice from the frozen River Tome in Sweden. From these blocks of ice, the bar is carved, ice painting and sculptures arise and furniture is crafted (which is covered with much-needed blankets). Each glass has been sculpted from a block of ice. It is an amazing site to see! This year’s theme was aquatic mimicking life in the ocean. It was truly beautiful and a site to see. To maintain the Icebar, the temperature is kept at a cold -5 degrees Celsius or 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not knowing what to expect, I was a little shocked when they threw a heavy cloak over my head with attached gloves. It still hadn’t hit me how cold it would be in the Icebar. We were led into an antechamber where I could see the cold radiating off the door and could see the first ice painting. I had never seen an ice painting before, a series of perfect etchings in the ice. That should have warned me of the impending cold but I was oblivious. I walked through the threshold and the cold hit so that I gasped. Even though I had grown up in a cold area, I forgot what the true cold feels like and this Icebar radiated cold. Burr!
We had 40 minutes in the Icebar but I knew I wasn’t going to make it that long. I quickly sidled up to the actual ice bar where the bartender was lining up the drinks. Honestly, I don’t know how she stood it – I am thinking that they must have had a secret heater to keep her warm because she didn’t look cold and was incredibly cheerful. If I were in her shoes, I can’t say that I would have been that happy. She was pouring Absolute Peach Vodka with orange and pineapple juice. Honestly, I wish that she had been pouring a hot toddy but that probably wouldn’t have been good for the ice glasses.
I reached for the glass. Ouch, it was cold. It dawned on me why the cloaks came with gloves! I quickly put on the gloves. The alcohol in the glass was causing a slight thaw on the side of the glass. I lifted the glass to my lips. Another shock. It was so cold, it made my lips quiver. Is this what it was like for little kids when they their lips stuck on flagpoles? I took a sip! The drink was so delicious. I walked around the Icebar, getting colder and colder. Yet it was oddly entrancing. I soon realized that my time remaining was limited—I was cold. There is a reason I live in California and part of it has to do with the cold. I gulped down the rest of my drink, finished viewing the remaining ice art and flitted out the door.
Despite my strong desire to flee the cold, I found the Icebar to be a unique and rewarding experience. The Icebar was cool! It is an experience that I would highly recommend. It was like being in another, surreal, icy world. But I will say that my desire to stay in an ice hotel has been diminished and now understand why a night in the ice hotel also comes with a regular hotel room.
If you are interested in a new drinking experience, try an icebar. There are some permanent yearly installments in Los Vegas (Minus5 Ice Bar), Los Angeles (Vodbox at Nic’s Martini Lounge), Copenhagen and a few other locations. Additionally, check out cold areas in the winter for those icebars that are only open in the winter before they melt away.