an icescape from midtown
By: Alex nguyen
IF YOU ARE FROM WARMER GEOGRAPHIES, you might not like New York winters at first. So when September arrives every year, you might cling to the last gasps of summer, wearing t-shirts and jeans for as long as you can until, one day, the New England chill makes it unbearable. And on that day, the first cold day in September, maybe you pile on the coats, the sweaters, the woolen socks – as if the layers will somehow postpone the winter.
But if you are like me, on the first cold day in September, maybe you under-dress. And at first, the cold burns, cuts like a knife, makes you catch your breath. But eventually, you stop shivering. You let the cold in. You marvel at how your breath comes out in clouds. You feel it in your bones. It fills you up.
7:00pm, Saturday, February 4th – The Hilton Hotel
That feeling is a difficult one to describe, but it is perhaps the reason the Minus5 Ice Experience exists as a concept. True to its name, this bar, located within the Hilton Hotel in midtown, has an interior that is sculpted almost entirely from several thousand pounds of ice blocks.
When Christine and I arrive, as part of the package, we’re given gloves, faux fur coats and aviator-style hats. Then we’re led through a sealed door into the main chamber itself and – as I’m wont to succumb to my greatest vice – proceed to go straight to the bar.
Here, whilst mixing our drinks, the genial barman recants stories of the more interesting things that have happened within these walls. Visually, the walls of ice are set with color-changing LEDs, whose kaleidoscopic lightshow is refracted through the ice itself, shifting the color of the space from red to blue to green periodically. Aurally, dance pop music plays on the speakers. Together, they make for a lounge-type feel.
Then our drinks arrive, served in ice chalices that are shipped from Las Vegas.
It starts to get busy, and the barman explains that the place is most crowded starting from after dinner. The most recent arrivals of the young, transient crowd are a group of girls celebrating their birthdays this evening.
Adorning the walls in the waiting chamber are photos of Bernie Sanders, Wacka Flocka and Lindsay Lohan at Minus5. After striking up a conversation with Landon and Tyler, the managers, we’re told that Lindsay Lohan is a frequent guest here.
It must be something about the cold, Landon muses.
There is a certain level of intricacy in the décor – the New York City skyline is carved into the façade of one of the walls, a larger-than-life Warholian Campbell’s Soup frozen into a counter top, an entire bottle of Hypotiq encased in ice.
In the spirit of embracing the New England chill– or perhaps emboldened by spirit - I unbutton my coat and parka, and let the cold in. I feel it in my toes. I marvel at how my breath lingers like a cloud.
It is no surprise that Minus5 is crowded during the dog days of summer. But there is a certain beauty in the cold in New York. Maybe Lindsay Lohan is onto something.
We were invited guests to Minus5, however, the opinions are our own.