Ice bars are the new cure for cabin fever.
From Lake George to Latham, residents of the frozen north are chilling out at outdoor cocktail lounges where tables, chairs and the bar itself are made of sculpted ice.
To keep the patrons from turning into Popsicles, there are fire pits or bonfires.
"This is definitely an up-and-coming trend," says Michael Callagan, general manager of The Mill on Round Lake.
Last weekend, The Mill unwrapped its first ice bar in an open-air pavilion behind the tavern, a place that’s usually closed this time of year.
The 30-foot-long bar is now encased in ice, and at one end, bartenders shake up “blue luge martinis” that slide through an ice sculpture into a stemmed glass. When you order a shot, the glass is made of ice. After your nip, you smash the "glass" against a wall.
Fire and ice
Icy high-top tables glow with blue lighting and are topped with a mini fire pit with propane-fueled flames; an ice bench is covered in white faux fur. Even the seven-foot-long shuffleboard is made of ice.
This weekend, outdoor ice bars will be open at The Mill, at Bailey’s Café in Saratoga Springs and at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George.
At the Fort William Henry Hotel, this is the second winter for the ice bar, which only happens for one weekend during the Lake George Winter Carnival.
"You look right onto the lake," says Tom Wysocki, director of sales and marketing.
There will be fire pits and 12 different ice constructions, including a large ice bar, giant snowflakes for selfie photos, giant ice chairs and Colonial-style stocks where customers can “lock up” their friends and family members.
Last February, there was no ice on Lake George and temperatures climbed to the 60s.
"Everything melted. There were people in shorts," Wysocki says. According to the latest weather forecasts, that won’t be a problem this year.
There will be live music at Bailey’s, along with an ice luge, ice benches and tables and fire pits.
On Feb. 17 and 18, when The Mill does its third ice bar weekend, Prime at Saratoga National is planning a reservations-only ice bar event, with a $15 admission each day. There will be a 20-foot-long ice bar, ice couches, a cigar shop and live music.
First in the area
When The Mill decided to do an ice bar, Callagan and owner Wayne Beale drove up to Bolton Landing to check out the Sagamore's Glacier Ice Bar and Lounge, which is made with 18,000 pounds of ice.
"The Sagamore set the precedent," says Callagan.
The Sagamore's outdoor bar, which has fur throws draped over the frozen bar stools and a lake view, was open for two weekends last month.
“This was the third year. The response has been overwhelming," says spokesperson Jennifer Cuomo.
Ten miles south, in the village of Lake George, Adirondack Pub & Brewery and King Neptune’s Pub both set up ice bars in January.
And last weekend, there were ice bars in Latham at Bellini’s Italian Eatery, and in Saratoga Springs at Sperry’s restaurant.
Wayne Beale, owner of The Mill, hired The Ice Man, Charlies Jones of Hudson Falls, to fabricate the fire and ice atmosphere in Round Lake. Then Callagan and his staff had to prepare for serving in below-freezing temperatures.
They found cold-resistant pens for signing credit card slips and added three wood-burning fire pits to a side patio.
Servers and bartenders were issued white knit ski caps, feet warmers and hand warmers.
"It's a lot of work but a lot of fun," says Callagan. "It's an opportunity to get people out in February."
Ice bar schedule
Bailey's Cafe, Saratoga Springs. 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday
Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center, Lake George. 2 to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Prime at Saratoga National, Saratoga Springs. Prime Polar Ice Bar, 6:30-10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17; 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Reservations and tickets required. $15, $25 both nights.
The Mill on Round Lake, 2121 Route 9, Round Lake. 5-10 p.m. Friday, 2-10 p.m. Saturday, 12-5 p.m. Sunday; 5-10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 and 2-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.