Imagine stepping into a frozen wonderland where everything is made of ice—like the Ice Queen’s palace, but without turning into an ice sculpture yourself.
It’s freezing cold, like 23 degrees. Welcome to the ice bar. It is the ultimate experience if you like your drinks on ice.
As the name implies, an ice bar is made entirely of ice. Everything is made from ice. To keep it all frozen solid, an ice bar is kept at a constant temperature of –5ºC or 23ºF. Visitors are equipped with thermal jackets, hoods, and gloves to protect the ice from melting.
We’ll look at what an ice bar is and how the concept came about.
What Is an Ice Bar?
Simply put, an ice bar is literally a bar where everything is made from ice—from the decor, such as the tables, chairs, and the bar counter, all the way down to the glasses in which the drinks are served.
Even the speakers are made from ice! Thankfully the drinks aren’t made of ice but served in unique glasses carved from ice.
The first Ice Bar opened in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, in 1994 at ICEHOTEL. The initial Icebar by Icehotel bar is located on the Torne River, 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle.
During the early and mid-1990s, Yngve Bergqvist chose Absolut Vodka as the first sponsor for the initial Icebar. The concept was expanded to London and Stockholm apart from Jukkasjärvi.
The Icebar Stockholm was opened in 2002 and is the world’s first permanent ice bar by the same visionaries who started the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, 200 km (124 miles) inside the arctic circle intersecting through Sweden.
Icebar Stockholm is built from the same ice as the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi. The bar is redesigned every year, so it always has a fresh appearance from year to year.
Since then, the brand has expanded to include ice bars in Tokyo, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Orlando, Seoul, Dubai, and, most recently, Shanghai, China, according to WiseTour.
The Ice Bar franchise is generally given to a stylish interior designer who is in charge of furnishing and remodeling to ensure the bar always has a fresh look from one year to the next.
You don’t have to dress up like you’re going on an arctic expedition—-you’ll be furnished with a cape with a hood and special gloves to prevent you from freezing inside the bar and your body heat from melting the special ice glasses.
The ice bar is kept at a constant temperature of –5ºC or 23ºF to ensure the ice and snow stays iced and to maintain the ice bar’s structural integrity.
Guests are allocated a time slot of 40–45 minutes inside the ice bar to ensure they don’t stay too long in the freezing temperatures.
The bartenders also work shorter shifts to protect their health from the extreme temperature inside the ice bar.
The First Icehotel and Icebar Experience
Ice is harvested from the frozen Torve River in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, towards the end of winter and, at the latest, the beginning of spring—usually March.
Each year tons of ice are harvested from the river and stored in a unique facility that can hold 900 tonnes (990 short tonnes) of ice and 27,000 tonnes (30,000 short tonnes) of snow.
The entire hotel and bar are built from ice and snow, or ‘snice.’ During the winter of 1989–1990, a 250 square meter (2,690 square feet) arctic igloo, the Arctic Hall, was opened to showcase pieces of art created from ice and snow.
Some guests wanted to spend the night, but the hotel was fully booked with guests, so Yngve Bergqvist suggested they sleep in the igloo.
The guests, kitted with warm sleeping bags and instructions on how to cope with the freezing temperatures, were delighted with the experience, and the Icehotel was born.
But when spring came, the Arctic Hall and gallery slowly started melting again, returning the melted ice it borrowed from the Torne River to its source. This has been the lifecycle of the Icehotel until 2016 the permanent Icehotel 365 was created.
In 2016 the first permanent exhibition and ice hotel saw the light. You can read more about the permanent Icehotel 365 here—it is also available to day visitors.
They still build the Ice Hotel and allow nature to take its course when spring comes around—this fascinating video tells the story of how the ice is harvested and crafted into the Icehotel and Icebar.
There you have it. An ice bar is a frozen wonderland you can visit at any time of the year because it is constantly kept at –5ºC (23F).
The Icebar at the Icehotel in Sweden is also open to children who will be served non-alcoholic drinks.