Ice, Ice Baby
We talk a great deal in NCB about presenting a memorable experience that transports guests from the everyday. Visiting Las Vegas, I was whisked away from the hustle and bustle of Sin City to the North Pole at Minus 5, where, cloaked in a faux-fur coat, I enjoyed cocktails made with fresh juices — served, of course, in a glass made entirely of ice.
Open since fall 2008 at Mandalay Place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Minus 5 is essentially a cave made of sculpted ice. The walls are ice. The bar is ice. The glasses are ice. Even the speed rails behind the bar are ice. The temperature is kept — you guessed it — at -5 degrees Celsius [23 Fahrenheit].
Nightclub & Bar group publisher Sean Carr, Robert Casillas of Monsoon Group (Las Vegas), NCB editorial director Donna Hood Crecca and I enjoy cocktails and — literally —chill at Minus 5 in Las Vegas.
Guests buy a “cocktail package” before entering. The reasoning is simple: Once inside, wearing the provided mittens, you’re hard-pressed to get cash or cards out of your wallet, let alone even find your wallet under the large faux-fur coat or parka donned just before entering the sub-zero bar environ.
Daytime drink packages are $20 for one cocktail, $30 for two, $40 for three or the $70 VIP package: two cocktails, a faux fur coat upgrade, a souvenir Eskimo hat and one 5 x 7 photo. Nighttime packages are $30 for one drink, $40 for two, $50 for three; the $70 VIP package remains the same.
All packages include a chic cold-weather ensemble: a logoed parka or full-length faux fur coat, mittens lined with disposable plastic gloves, booties for women in open-toed shoes [sanitized after every use, dry-cleaned twice a week and worn with sanitary socks] and the use of lockers for bags and valuables. Each mitten has an exterior pocket into which you slide a plastic card good for one drink — easily removeable with your other mitten-clad hand.
“When you’re coming out of that heat outside, to walk into Minus 5 would be quite dramatic,” says general operations manager Jason Ellis. Guests are guided into a room kept at 55 degrees, where a video explaining the Minus 5 concept plays. From there, you enter a “step-down” room kept at 32 degrees before being ushered into Minus 5 itself. Cue the “wow” factor.
The creation of the lounge required 30 tons of ice, Ellis says, most of it shipped from Canada.
“It took about two and a half weeks to build and sculpt,” he says. “The actual construction of the ice lounge only needs to be replaced every six to eight months. We do that not so much because of wear and tear, but to keep the ambiance changing, so every time you come to town, it’s different.”
A New Zealand company creates Minus 5’s ice glasses — shipping them frozen, each in its own sanitary bag. And since it would be a shame to waste such a unique vessel on sub-par consumables, only fresh juices and quality purees are used in cocktails, the most popular of which is the Iceman: Finlandia Berry Vodka, Chambord, coconut flavoring and pineapple juice. As I tilted the thick ice glass to my lips with my mittened hands and let this drink cross my palate, I could see why it’s the winner.
The average length of stay in Minus 5 is an hour to an hour and a half, although Ellis recounts a group of Canadian guys stripped down to boxer shorts and hung out for quite a spell one night. Those ready to warm themselves may retreat to The Lodge, styled as an old-fashioned ski lodge. The warmer temperature, faux fireplace and selection of warm drinks provide both psychological and actual warmth. Drink credits can be used in The Lodge as well.
A final question: If the power goes out, does Minus 5 turn into a major flood? Not at all, Ellis says.
“It’s the same as your refrigerator. If your power goes out, what do you do with your refrigerator? You just keep the door closed.” NCB