The world’s first permanent IceBar was established in Stockholm on the premises of the Nordic Sea Hotel. The temperature is kept at a consistent -5 C all year long. The ice is harvested from the Torne River in northern Sweden, well above the Arctic Circle, at Jukkasjärvi, Lapland.
Each year since 1990, the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi has erected an ice building that can accommodate 100 guests. The hotel also features a reception area, a bar, a main hall and a church, and it remains open from December to April. The IceHotel.com site describes the Torne River ice in this way:
“The slow, natural freeze-in gives the Torne River ice unique properties that cannot be created artificially, for example, with common tap water. Ice from the Torne River is perfectly crystal-clear and completely free from bubbles and cracks. And, thanks to its pristine natural source, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, it is also free of pollutants. This results in high-quality ice that is ideal for sculpting and building. Since it is natural and contains no additives, it makes superb ice for drinks.”
During the busy tourist season, visitors to the IceBar in Stockholm must make a booking well ahead of time, and are allotted a 40-minute stay. A warm cape, lined-gloves and an Absolute vodka drink is served in a glass made of ice.
The bar is relatively small, but who would want to linger very long inside anyway. It’s the experience of a lifetime, and once is probably enough.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We’d walked past the IceBar in Oslo a couple of times, but didn’t think we needed to check off something that wasn’t even on our bucket list in the first place. However, once my sister Donna joined us in Stockholm and learned that there was an ice bar in the city, and in fact, the original IceBar, she was very keen to go. That’s all we needed to get us interested as well.
We spent our last day in Sweden travelling by public ferry through the islands in the archipelago to a small town called Vaxholm. We left the city at 4:00pm and enjoyed the first sunshine and blue skies during our entire visit to Stockholm. The sun was setting as we journeyed back by bus. We headed straight to the IceBar.
We had read on the internet that it was necessary to book a visit in advance, but we weren’t at all sure what time we would return from Vaxholm, so we decided to just ‘wing it’. When we arrived at the Nordic Sea hotel, we found that we could walk right into the IceBar without a reservation. Now keep in mind that it was September 30th at 6:30pm. It’s not what you would call high season or high times for a frozen drink.
We were given our capes and gloves and ushered into the ‘cold storage’ room. What a delight! We were like three kids in a candy shop. When we entered, there were only two other people in the bar besides the bartender, so we had a great opportunity to fool around taking photos before ordering our drinks.
We don’t usually drink vodka, but when we were offered mixed drinks that included mango or raspberry, two of our favourite fruits, Anil and I were quick to make our order. Donna was a little unsure, but decided to try a lingonberry drink because the wild berries are picked from the forests of Sweden.
The drinks were delicious, though Donna found hers a little bitter. I offered to switch with her, but she gracefully declined. We noticed later that there was one drink that was blue in colour and she wished she had ordered it, if for no reason other than the fact that it complemented the colours of our drinks.
We were told we could stay for 40 minutes, but the novelty wore off about as quickly as our body temperature dropped. The capes were warm, but we still felt chilled, and instead of ordering more drinks to warm ourselves from the inside out, we decided to make an exit. What a surprise to walk out into the warm air once again.
I’d read that summer visitors love the IceBar for a chance to escape the heat or to experience the cold temperatures if they hale from the tropics. Despite the fact that we’re cold-blooded Canadians, it was still a treat to visit an IceBar, if only for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.