NEW YORK - In the sweltering summer heat, New Yorkers are ready for the big chill - in midtown Manhattan.
The city's first ice bar is now open at the New York Hilton Midtown on Sixth Avenue. The $20 admission includes Eskimo-style gloves and a parka for the privilege of drinking cocktails in the freezing Minus5 Ice Bar.
The entire bar is made of ice.
"The walls, everything," manager Chris Eldridge said. "The chairs you're sitting on, the glass you're drinking out of, even the light above your head is made of ice."
Promoters say it's all carved out of "100 percent Canadian ice."
The truth is, it's special, extra-clear "carvers" ice - some from Canada, the rest from Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Minneapolis.
About 350 blocks of ice, each weighing up to 100 pounds, were used to create the cool surroundings that are meant to feel good on a Manhattan afternoon when temperatures soared into the 90s. Guests are accompanied to the meat locker-type bar door by "party starters" - hostesses clad in bustiers who don't venture into the cold.
The temperature inside? A soothing 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
That translates to minus-5 degrees on the Celsius scale - hence, the name.
Any heat-emitting devices that could melt the Arctic freeze - like cellphones - must be deposited in temperature-proof lockers at the door.
There are already two Minus5 bars in Las Vegas.
"An Experience that will chill you to your bones!" says the website of the company whose concept was created in New Zealand by Craig Ling, then tested as a pop-up igloo at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Ling is now a partner in the New York venture.
An ice carver will change the bar and sculptures every few months, with creations reflecting the season, location, wildlife, or even corporate logos and products for private functions.
The only concessions to warm comfort are some couches covered in faux deerskin.
Drinks reflect the icy clarity: mostly vodka-based cocktails in custom-designed glasses made from artesian water.Bartender Paul Stavros was decked out for his eight-hour shift. He wore thermal underwear and snow boots, "just like winter in New York," the 27-year-old Stavros said.
A photographer roams the bar, producing images that guests can retrieve later to show family and friends.
The bar has a double personality. From 2 p.m., when it opens daily, to 7 p.m., children and families are welcome. After that, the establishment caters to a New York nightclub crowd.
In the heat of summer, it's the coolest experience in New York City - literally.
And it's a multimillion dollar endeavor. It cost over $5 million to build the Manhattan bar - "bricks, mortar, ice and all," said Noel Bowman, Minus5's director of operations.
"The timing couldn't have been better for us to open here, with temperatures in the 90s," Bowman said.
He expects the novelty to draw winter guests too, as do the Las Vegas bars.
All of them are built with a cost-saving factor.
For the drinks, "we don't have to use ice," deadpanned Eldridge.
Just don't put your glass on any surface, "or it'll slide off!"
Customer Kevin Parker, 36, a real estate broker, paid a little extra to wear a white faux-fur coat as he clutched the bar's "Big Apple" cocktail that includes Midori and lemon liqueur.
"It's like New York: sweet and tart."
If You Go...
ICE BAR: Minus5 at the New York Hilton Midtown, Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street; http://www.minus5experience.com/socialpackagesny . Open daily at 2 p.m.; $20 admission.