All about ice bars

She was on her way out of the venue after a long wedding reception.  We were there waiting for the guests to disappear so that we could take down the ice bar.  As she passed by she touched the top of the bar and went, “Oooh it’s ice.”  We smiled, like we do every time this happens.  And believe it or not, it happens quite often.  People thinks its plastic or acrylic something.

Yes, we carve full service ice bars that a bartender stands at and serves drinks.  We’ve come a long way from the first bar we did for the Vancouver Club back 10 years ago.  Back then everything was new.  Even carving the bar had to be done in our cramped little ice room built into our car port.  But since then ice bars have become a staple in our repertoire of ice sculptures.

bar 5

Bars come in all shapes and sizes.  But there are a few features common to all of them (besides being made entirely of ice).  And no, they are not made from molds.  Each on is designer made from scratch (scratch being a block of ice that weighs about 300 pounds.

Firstly, the bar has to accommodate the average height of a standing bartender.  That being the case the top of the bar is usually around 43 inches.  The length of the ice bar is another matter.  We can carve it as long as you want.  The longest we did was 24 feet long forming a kind of triangle with the bartenders housed inside the center along with all their supplies.

bar 1

Since length is different for everyone we price them by the linear foot.   Secondly, and common to all ice bars is their construction.  Having a table made of ice and therefore quite heavy necessitates that it is well supported.  So the ice you see along the front and sides is really there first there to hold up the table.  Once we’ve ensured that its safe and solid we can add whatever we want to the front of the bar to decorate it. Check out these different designs.

bar 2bar 3

And thirdly, each bar has to be constructed so that it lasts for the duration of the event.  Even as I write this I’m working on a bar to be set up this weekend in 30 degree Celsius temperatures.  That means each piece will have to be thick enough and fused together at all the joints so that it stays up for the whole time.  How long?  We get asked that all the time.  In short, it will outlast the party if it is built right, usually 7 – 8 hours.

Setting up an ice bar is always hard work. Typically we give ourselves an hour to an hour and a half to do so.  First we position two supporting wooden runners about 10” apart on the floor and cover them with fabric.  Rope lighting is laid down between the two and tested by remote control.  Then we position the acrylic drip tray on top of  the runners. Acrylic boxes are then added to the inside of the tray in order to elevate the ice bar out of any melt water that will be accumulating inside the tray.  Melting is always faster when ice and water touch.  Then we lay down a 3” ice platform which serves as the foundation for the rest of the bar.  We always make sure that it is level and stable.  That goes a long way to the rest of the bar fitting together nicely.  After that comes the upright sections with their unique branding or names, depending on the kind of event.  Again, the length of the bar will determine how many of these support panels sit side by side to form the front of the bar.  Sometimes we replace the panels with pillars thereby creating a totally different appeal.  Then the sides and the back supports and we are ready for the table tops.  We always add an acrylic table top surface so that the bartenders has a dry non-slip surface to work on.


As you can gather from this description it’s like putting a puzzle together.  Everything is cut and carved in the studio and the transported in pieces to the venue where we assemble it all into the finished product.  Taking it all down is done in much the same way although hopefully left somewhere on site rather than taking it all back home with us.  That said, it never fails to surprise me when someone asks me whether we plan to take it home and use it over again somewhere else.  No, after 7-8 hours the pieces are all fused together and have to be separated with an ice pic before being tossed.  And yes, maybe we’ll let you help us break the ice.  We are never short of offers to do that even though people have no concept of how heavy and hard the ice really is even after a whole evening on display.

So there you have it.  Real ice bars.  They serve a dual purpose for guests who want a drink but to get served while have a great photo op while they’re do so!

Thanks for reading along with us! Until next time… #theicemen