Bring on the arctic air, because Maine is quickly becoming an ice bar hot spot.
In the coming weeks, ice bars will pop up in five communities, each offering a festive, frozen twist on the traditional cocktail bar experience.
The trend began nine years ago when the Portland Harbor Hotel held its inaugural benefit ice bar. Since then, the event has regularly sold out and attracted more than 2,000 people over the course of three nights.
“The appeal is that in the winter, there’s not really a lot of interesting things to do,” said Gerard Kiladjian, general manager of the Portland Harbor Hotel. “In the winter, there’s pent-up demand for people to go out and find something to do.”
Like most ice bars, the Portland Harbor Hotel Ice Bar, which takes place Jan. 24-26, features a bar carved from ice, ice luges for shots, ice sculptures and fire pits. Cocktails, such as the Coastal Caramel Latte martini and the White Pine martini, will be mixed with Smirnoff Vodka, and a separate bar will feature beers from Shipyard Brewing.
Inside, DJ music will accompany food from Zapoteca, Spread, Buck’s Naked BBQ, GoBerry and Eve’s at the Garden.
Tickets to the Saturday-night event have already sold out, and space is rapidly filling up for Thursday and Friday.
“The nice thing about this event is, we really stimulate the economy downtown as well,” Kiladjian said. “The food (we offer) is just for grazing. A lot of people start at the ice bar, and then they go out to dinner.”
As a result, restaurants in the Old Port and surrounding districts tend to be packed on ice bar nights, making reservations a smart idea. Tickets to the Portland Harbor Hotel Ice Bar cost $20, and part of the proceeds support Community Counseling Services, the Root Cellar and Share Our Strength of Southern Maine.
THIS WEEKEND and next, the Samoset Resort in Rockport hosts the inaugural FROST Ice Bar and Lounge. The free event marks the first winter that the resort has been open since being purchased by new ownership about four years ago and undergoing renovations.
“We wanted to bring some excitement to the community,” said David Day, director of food and beverage for the Samoset. “January is usually such a gray month. We want to continue this year after year.”
While most ice bars have a cover charge, Day said, “We are community-driven, and this is the wrong time of year to be charging people to come to an event where they’re going to be spending money anyway.”
Guests will head down to the resort’s lower level, where the La Bella Vita restaurant and the Enoteca Lounge overlook the golf course and the ocean. The ice bar will be set up on the outside deck.
In addition to the ice bar and luge, the deck will feature chairs and barstools carved from ice and draped in faux polar bear skins, plus shot glasses chiseled from ice.
Drinks, which will be mixed with Cold River Vodka, Vermont Spirits and Ripe mixers, include such concoctions as Old Man Winter (Vermont Gold Vodka, lemon juice, agave nectar and sparkling soda) and the Polar Bear shot (white creme de cacao and peppermint schnapps).
On the deck, executive chef Tim Pierce will offer a special small plate menu that will feature oysters on the half shell, shrimp and lobster cocktail, Italian meat and cheeses, and hand-cut fries tossed with pecorino cheese, truffle oil and fresh chives.
BACK INLAND, the first weekend of February brings the Ice Bar and Snow Ball to Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
Last winter, the college held its first ice bar in conjunction with its centennial celebrations.
“It was such a success that our alumni council wanted to bring it back again this year,” said Kristina Green, director of alumni communications for Saint Joseph’s.
Based on last year’s event, Green anticipates that the ice bar will attract a a crowd of mostly community members and alumni, while the ball that follows will be attended mostly by students. The ticket price of $20 includes one drink ticket and admission to both the ice bar and the ball.
LATER IN FEBRUARY, ice bars will take place in Freeport and Brunswick.
On Feb. 15, the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport hosts its second ice bar from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. as part of the week-long Flavors of Freeport series of foodie events.
Freeport’s ice bar will include music, ice sculptures, a martini luge, food from Buck’s Naked BBQ, coffee from Coffee By Design and roaring fires to keep you warm and toasty. Tickets to the ice bar cost $15, and include one drink.
The following weekend, Feb. 21-23, the Inn at Brunswick Station offers an ice bar from 5 to 10 p.m. each night. DJ Larry Moore will spin records on Friday night, and Scotty and The Big Dogs perform on Saturday night. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
So if you’ve been wondering how to help January and February melt away, the answer is to bundle up and head out to an ice bar. While the air may be chilly, the cocktails and the fire pits will keep you warm.
“I think it’s part of the Maine personality to like being outdoors,” said Green of Saint Joseph’s. “We embrace winter, so why not play it up and have an event outside?”
Plus, those ice luge shots go down oh so smooth.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: