Heard of the Ice Hotel in Sweden? Take the same concept but apply it to a bar instead of a hotel, and the result is Ice Bar Tokyo (and the other 20-something ice bars scattered around the world). Located in Roppongi, Tokyo’s tourist district in the Minato ward, the building kept at -5°C (23°F) because the entire interior is made of ice sculptures.
The bar, the chairs and tables, the artwork, even the cups, all of which are hand-carved and actually imported from the Ice Hotel in Sweden. Customers are even bundled up in an authentic Ice Hotel jacket; upon paying your cover charge the staff graciously helps you suit-up. From there you proceed through a intermediary room kept around 10°C (50°F).
Ice Bar Tokyo was definitely a cool ass place, no pun intended. The drinks were small and a little expensive but obviously you are paying for the scenery. It was a ¥3500 cover charge just to get in (roughly $45 USD, a normal Tokyo club cover charge) and drinks were ¥1200 each ($15 USD). But let me reiterate: they were ridiculously small! Even though the ice cups are physically big chunks of ice, there is only a narrow hole drilled at the top of it, about an inch in diameter and maybe four inches down — basically nothing more than a Texas-sized shot.
All of the ice glasses are imported from Sweden at great cost. Your first ice glass comes free with your first drink and needs to be reused for all subsequent drinks. If you need a new glass due to melting or breakage it costs ¥800 for the glass plus ¥1200 to fill it. Keep your gloves on and you should get 5-6 drinks out of it before warmth from your lips has melted it to the point of needing a new glass. (Or perhaps a new, warmer bar.)
This cool bar sends a shiver of satisfaction down your spine
The only downside is that Ice Bar Tokyo is owned by Absolut Vodka and drink selection is limited to around 20 cocktails, each containing a multitude of flavored Absolut vodkas mixed with assorted juices. Regardless of the fact I hate vodka now (too much of it when I was a younger), it was intriguing enough to spend an hour and a couple hundred dollars there in the freezing temperatures while it was warm outside. It was also interesting to see how frequently the bartenders would swap out with the front staff for the brief opportunity to warm up 😉
IceBar Tokyo is one of novelty places you visit once and then never return. Now that I went once, there is no urge to go back. Just going to be exactly the same overpriced selection of vodka drinks. the initial thrill is gone now that I have seen it. However it has visitor appeal, you know, its a fantastic place to take someone who is new to the city or never been to an ice bar. Just be prepared to shell out a hundred thousand yen at the absolute minimum.
Other notable cities around the world with ice bars: Barcelona, Monterrey, Mexico City, Panama City, Orlando, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Athens, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Saint Petersburg, New Delhi and Dubai.
UPDATE Sadly on September 30th, 2011, IceBar Tokyo closed their doors as part of the effort to control energy consumption in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake is eastern Japan that caused the Fukushima disaster. With so many other businesses and families working hard to control their power consumption, it is unjustifiable for IBT to waste such vast amounts of energy maintaining a frozen bar that is only open a few hours a day.