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14 of the World’s Coolest Ice Bars

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Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

If the summer heat just doesn't seem to be going away, and air conditioning isn't cutting it—or if you simply can’t wait another few months for the freezing cold temperatures of winter—you may be cheered by the prospect of retreating to a bar made of ice for a stiff drink served in a cocktail glass, also carved out of ice—even while humiliatingly dressed in a thermal coat and gloves worn by who knows how many previous patrons. Ice bars are not new—the first one opened in the 1990s, but their novelty shows no sign of wearing thin, so these themed bars have multiplied across the globe, popping up in destinations both hot (Miami) and cold (Alaska). Here are 14 of our favorites.

1. ICEBAR // JUKKASJÃRVI, SWEDEN

By L'Astorina - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Jukkasjãrvi, above the Arctic Circle in the far north of Sweden, is where the mania for ice-based hospitality was born. ICEHOTEL, the world’s very first ice hotel, was founded here in 1989 and is rebuilt every year from snow and ice from a nearby river. The hotel’s ICEBAR was launched in 1994 and, like the hotel, is designed and built by a different artist each year.

2. ICE BAR // SINETTÄ, LAPLAND, FINLAND

At similarly high latitude, in Finnish Lapland, the Arctic SnowHotel offers its own version of the ice bar. The essential elements are the same—drinks served in ice glasses, on ice tables, while sitting on reindeer pelt-topped ice chairs. The hotel also offers glass igloos, perfect for Northern Lights spotting. But even if you're not staying overnight, you can visit the ice bar as part of a day visit.

3. HÔTEL DE GLACE ICE BAR // QUEBEC, CANADA

Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace also allows curious visitors to partake in drinks at its artfully sculpted ice bar without spending the night in the ice hotel. Being located not quite so far north, Hôtel de Glace has a shorter life than its Nordic relations, opening only from January through March, though this time frame is perfect for a visit to coincide with the Quebec Winter Carnival.

4. ICE KUBE BAR // PARIS, FRANCE

KUBE Hotel - Paris/Facebook

Not all ice bars are located in ice hotels. Ice Kube Bar is part of what is otherwise a quite a normal, if trendy, hotel in central Paris. With its chic design, refreshed every year, its Finlandia-based vodka cocktails, and “custom-made soundtrack,” this one stretches for a scene that is less touristy, more, er, cool. (You still have to borrow the ugly thermal jacket and gloves though.)

5. ICEBAR LONDON // LONDON, ENGLAND

The same river that provides the ice for Jukkasjärvi builds the surroundings, and cocktail glasses, for ICEBAR’s London outpost. Open year-round, the bar’s design reflects changing themes. The recent theme of "rock" has led the designers to create a slightly alarming six foot ice skull—a warning to not exceed your 40-minute time allotment, perhaps.

6. ICE CLUB ROMA // ROME, ITALY

Ice Club Roma/Facebook

Given that England’s ice bar gets its ice from Sweden, it seems odd that Ice Club Roma—which is close to the Colosseum—imports its ice from England. With a sound and light show, this is more of a club than a bar but, kept at a steady five degrees, it probably won’t be a late night.

7. CHILLOUT ICE LOUNGE // DUBAI, UAE

Dubai would never let a gimmick pass it by. So in 2007, Chill Out Dubai opened in the glitzy city. This one does have the advantage of offering more sustenance beyond ice-cold vodka shots, however, serving up warming bowls of soup and mugs of hot chocolate.

8. ICE BAR AT SOHO SQUARE // SHARM EL-SHEIKH, EGYPT

Most travelers head for the Egyptian coastal resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to lounge around on the beach for a few days. If you are not like most travelers, head for Ice Bar at SOHO Square. Entrance includes icy vodka shots.

9. DRINKHOUSE FIRE & ICE // MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA

Drinkhouse Fire & Ice/Facebook

If you’ve ever spent any time in steamy Miami, you might be interested in one of the most recent ice bars to open. Designed by “master ice sculptor” David Berman, the ice bar at Miami’s Fire & Ice promises an “authentic” experience, whatever that means. You are only allowed to stay for 45 minutes, but can move on to the considerably cozier fire lounge afterward.

10. MINUS 5° ICE BAR // NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Those sweltering in New York’s City summer heat also have icy options. The Minus 5° Ice Bar, which is popular for corporate gatherings, is located in Midtown Manhattan with additional outposts in Las Vegas and Orlando. If booking on the company’s dime, note that the Total VIP Experience offers an upgraded faux fur coat and a souvenir hat.

11. ICEBAR ORLANDO // ORLANDO, FLORIDA

ICEBAR Orlando takes the title for biggest permanent ice bar in the world. Upon arrival you are greeted by an "Ice Princess," a possibly underdressed member of the staff who helps you into your borrowed thermals, and afterward you can warm up in the FIRE lounge nightclub.

12. ICEBAR MELBOURNE // MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

IceBar Melbourne/Facebook

As you might expect from our friends down under, IceBar Melbourne has quite a party atmosphere. The fun-loving bar hosts themed nights that include “Menopause Mondays” and challenges guests to down a chili-based HOT SHOT, awarding a prize if they last 10 minutes without asking for milk or water.

13. ICE BARILOCHE // BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA

Located in the Argentine Patagonian town of Bariloche, Ice BarIloche (see what they did there?) is South America’s first ice bar. Ice sculptures are created by local artisans and the atmosphere is family-friendly; there's even a resident yeti with whom you can take some photos.

14. AURORA ICE BAR // FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

After touring Alaska’s Aurora Ice Museum, open year-round at Chena Hot Springs Resort, you can chill out at the Aurora Ice Bar for one of of their signature appletinis, while warming up by the ice fireplace. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot the Northern Lights.

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Courtesy New District
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Food
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
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Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]

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Wally Gobetz, flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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A Brief History of the Pickleback Shot
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Wally Gobetz, flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It's sour. It's briny. For some, it's nauseating. For others, a godsend.

It's the pickleback shot, an unusual combination of drinking whiskey and pickle brine that has quickly become a bartending staple. Case in point? Kelly Lewis, manager of New York City's popular Crocodile Lounge, estimates she sells at least 100 pickleback shots every week.

Pickleback loyalists may swear by it, but how did this peculiar pairing make its way into cocktail culture? On today's National Pickle Day, we hit the liquor history books to find out.

PICKLEBACK HISTORY, AS WE KNOW IT

As internet legend has it, Reggie Cunningham, a former employee of Brooklyn dive bar Bushwick Country Club, invented the shot in March 2006. He was half bartending, half nursing a hangover with McClure's pickles, when a customer challenged him to join her in doing a shot of Old Crow bourbon whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice as a chaser. As he nostalgically tells YouTube channel Awesome Dreams, "the rest is history."

Cunningham went on to introduce the pairing to more and more customers, and the demand grew so much that he decided to charge an extra dollar per shot, just for the addition of pickle brine. After that, the mixture spread like wildfire, with bars across the world from New York to California and China to Amsterdam adding "pickleback" to their menus.

THE PICKLEBACK'S UNCLEAR ORIGIN

Two shot glasses topped with small pickles.

Neil Conway, flickr // CC BY 2.0

Sure, Cunningham may have named it the pickleback shot, but after reviewing mixed reports, it appears pickle juice as a chaser is hardly novel. In Texas, for example, pickle brine was paired with tequila well before Cunningham's discovery, according to Men’s Journal. And in Russia, pickles have long been used to follow vodka shots, according to an NPR report on traditional Russian cuisine.

Unfortunately, no true, Britannica-approved record of the pickleback's origin exists, like so many do for other popular drinks, from the Manhattan to the Gin Rickey; it's internet hearsay—and in this case, Cunningham's tale is on top.

SO, WHY PICKLES?

Not sold yet? Sure, a pickle's most common companion is a sandwich, but the salty snack and its brine have terrific taste-masking powers.

"People who don't like the taste of whiskey love taking picklebacks because they completely cut the taste, which makes the shots very easy to drink," Lewis told Mental Floss. "Plus, they add a bit of salt, which blends nicely with the smooth flavor of Jameson."

Beyond taste masking, pickle juice is also a commonly used hangover cure, with the idea being that the salty brine will replenish electrolytes and reduce cramping. In fact, after a famed NFL "pickle juice game" in 2000, during which the Philadelphia Eagles destroyed the Dallas Cowboys in 109 degree weather (with the Eagles crediting their trainer for recommending they drink the sour juice throughout the game), studies have seemed to confirm that drinks with a vinegary base like pickle juice can help reduce or relieve muscle cramping.

WAYS TO PARTAKE

While core pickleback ingredients always involve, well, pickles, each bar tends to have a signature style. For example, Lewis swears by Crocodile Lounge's mix of pickle brine and Jameson; it pairs perfectly with the bar's free savory pizza served with each drink.

For Cunningham, the "Pickleback OG," it's Old Crow and brine from McClure's pickles. And on the more daring side, rather than doing a chaser shot of pickle juice, Café Sam of Pittsburgh mixes jalapeños, homemade pickle juice, and gin together for a "hot and sour martini."

If pickles and whiskey aren't up your alley, you can still get in on the pickle-liquor movement with one of the newer adaptations, including a "beet pickleback" or—gulp!—the pickled-egg and Jägermeister shot, also known as an Eggermeister.

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