Stillwater, which calls itself “the birthplace of Minnesota” (insofar as the official process of establishing the Minnesota Territory as a state began there in 1848), is making further history—after a fashion. Minnesota’s first-ever ice bar is currently planted on the patio of the Freight House restaurant and nightclub.
The bar is in a portable ice lounge owned and operated by a company called Minus5, which maintains both portable and permanent ice bars at various locations around the world. It’s a pretty slick system—which is to say, it’s not actually slick at all. The bar, the walls, the table, the chairs, the several ice sculptures (Paul Bunyan, check; bear on hind legs, check), and even the glasses are completely made of 46,000 liters of water, frozen solid. For $12.95, you’re outfitted with a heavy parka and a pair of gloves and given a ticket valid for one of the several vodka drinks on the menu. (From the Minus5 FAQ: “Why do you not serve other alcohol, i.e. beer? Because it would freeze.” The FAQ also features the surprising fact that the ice glasses are actually made in New Zealand and shipped to each Minus5 location in their frozen state.)
Further drinks are available for purchase, but my girlfriend and I were more than ready to leave after about ten minutes. Two other couples were in the ice lounge when we were there on Saturday afternoon, and the six of us pretty much grinned for the entire time, commenting multiple times on the irony of paying to experience a temperature that in six months’ time we’d be cursing. It was definitely a novel experience, ample excuse to take a road trip to Stillwater. We brought our ice glasses (you’re allowed to keep them, as well as the gloves) out to the regular bar, where they comfortably lasted for another drink. When patrons at the bar asked us about the glasses, we recounted the Minus5 experience so enthusiastically that I think we convinced them to try it out themselves.
While we were in Stillwater, I decided to try another boozy novelty: the signature beef stick Bloody Mary served at Brine’s Bar and Restaurant. I guess you could also describe that as a “novel experience,” though novel only in the barest sense that dropping a beef stick in a Bloody Mary is novel. The drink itself was strong but straightforward, with the beef stick added as the beverage’s sole garnish. (I guess a pint glass containing a beef stick is not a neighborhood where a celery stick would care to be seen.) My recommendation is that if you’re looking for some meat to gnaw on with your Bloody Mary, you should instead make for the Green Mill, where Bloodies are served with a veritable appetizer tray of meat and cheese skewered through and balanced on the top of the glass. Better yet, go to the Bryant-Lake Bowl and order the garlic-heavy variety of their BLB Bloody with a smoked turkey sandwich on the side.
Jay Gabler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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