Bundle up and say brrrr : New ice bar opening soon in South Beach

Nicole Pritchett eats an ice-pop cocktail called "Sun Scorched" inside Drinkhouse Fire & Ice in Miami Beach.
Nicole Pritchett eats an ice-pop cocktail called "Sun Scorched" inside Drinkhouse Fire & Ice in Miami Beach. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Just in time for summer’s steamiest days, a new venue in Miami Beach is offering an arctic blast — coats and gloves included.

Drinkhouse Fire & Ice, an ice bar and lounge, is planning a soft opening next week with grand opening events to follow in August. The concept has been nearly two years in the making, but operators only started moving in last week as the building at 1672 Collins Ave. was readied for the glacial influx.

On Monday, roughly 100,000 pounds of ice cut to specific measurements for optimal wall-building use packed a 900-square-foot room separated from the rest of the lounge by a heavy freezer door. Ice-filled cardboard boxes filled the 23-degree space as a team prepared to extend the waist-high walls of ice all the way to the ceiling.

Ice master David Berman, owner of Sculptured Ice Occasions in Broward and the bar’s operations director, said the buildout would take another three to four days.

“Then we start having fun,” said Berman.

The venue’s public relations representative was hesitant to reveal too many details about the decor inside the freezer, where vodka drinks will be served in shot glasses made of — what else? — ice. Suffice it to say the inspiration is subtropical enough that Olaf, the summer-loving snowman from Disney’s Frozen, would probably approve.

The price tag for the sub-freezing experience, which is limited to a maximum of 45 minutes, will be $17 to enter or $34 for a package including two drinks. A discount for locals is planned.

Outside the ice bar, the relatively balmy (but not toasty) “experimental cocktail fire lounge” is decked out in crystals, including an Italian black crystal bar, and nature photography by Peter Lik.

The “experimental” descriptor hints at a cocktail menu boasting elements such as Pop Rocks, “coffee caviar,” and numbing Szechuan buttons. Most drinks fall within the $15-$18 range.

Sally Drinkhouse, one of the bar’s founders, came up with the idea after visiting an ice bar in Boston a couple years ago. The concept originated in Europe in the 1990s; today ice bars are located on cruise ships and in cities from Seoul to Dubai.

“I said, ‘Wow, this place needs to be on South Beach,’” said Drinkhouse, a Miami Beach resident who owns antique shops, spas and real estate.

She partnered with Nicole Pritchett, the daughter of longtime friends, whose background is in documentary film production and philanthropic work. While researching the business, they discovered Berman in Broward. So far, Pritchett said she and Drinkhouse have invested about $2.5 million in the project.

As they planned, Pritchett said she and Drinkhouse “literally went around the world looking at different ice bars” and decided they wanted theirs to have a high-end, sophisticated vibe without tacky tchotchkes for sale.

“We made it a place where it doesn’t feel like it’s a touristy spot,” said Pritchett, who also lives in Miami Beach.

Tourists, of course, will be welcome, and the bar has a staffer dedicated to working with area concierges. There’s a small private VIP area; kids will be allowed to visit with adults during the day. The venue is also booking corporate events, private parties and bar or bat mitzvahs.

“I think Miami Beach needs something unique like this,” Pritchett said. Orlando has an ice bar and fire lounge on International Drive, and Miami company So Cool Events used to turn its venue into an ice bar for special events. But for now, there’s no local ice-themed competition for Drinkhouse.

William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he has visited ice bars in Europe and still remembers the experience.

“The contrast between the ice and the beach will be kind of an interesting contrast,” he said. “It’s really a cool experience, so I can’t wait.”