Boston’s Frost Ice Loft serves drinks in frozen splendor

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BOSTON – Layered in cloaks, hats and scarves, customers brave the cold inside to sip icy cocktails prepared at the Frost Ice Loft above Quincy Market behind Faneuil Hall.

Popular as a tourist destination, this unique bar serves up drinks chilled to below freezing in a room furnished and decorated entirely with hand-crafted ice and kept at a bracing 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Everything in here had a tourist-Boston connotation to it,” said Robert Platner, the lounge’s general manager, referring to its look when it opened in August 2013. During a reporter’s recent visit, Platner pointed around the room, to where a big swan like those that grace the boats on the Boston Public Garden pond had been, and the bar, which used to sport a Leonard P. Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge design motif.

Platner said he has been trying to “make it more like an art gallery.”

From left to right, feature cocktails include Mexican Snow Shoe, Yeti's Blood, and Avalanche cocktails in ice glasses.

From left to right, featured cocktails include Mexican Snow Shoe, Yeti’s Blood, and Avalanche cocktails in ice glasses. (NewBostonPost, photo by Beth Treffeisen)

To attract more Boston locals and families, the venue plans to expand by adding an adjacent kids playroom and a warm-up area for customers. The expansion, set for March, will also let the owners refresh the bar and other elements made from ice. The work will transform the space by adding more topical and current ice sculptures and art.

A bar made entirely out of ice, except for the ceiling and floor, comes with some quirks. For one, the biggest enemy to the ice is not heat but air, especially moist air, according to Platner. Ice melts more quickly in humid air than in drier air.

“To the person who has never been in here before, it looks, ‘Oh wow! This is so cool,’” Platner said. But the ice needs refreshing, as typically, an ice bar’s frozen furnishings and decorations last no more than 16 months. The Frost Ice Loft has preserved its ice almost twice as long, thanks to the refrigeration system.

Freezing temperatures create their own problems. When the lounge first opened, all the drinks had to be pre-made in batches because mixers, including juice and soda, would freeze if kept in the bar. Platner has since added refrigerators behind the bar to keep mixers cold but above freezing so that bartenders can mix drinks to order.

Favorite libations include the Avalanche, made from tequila, rum, gin, vodka and blue curacao, giving it a bright blue hue. Another is Yeti’s Blood, featuring a deep red color from the use of raspberry puree and cranberry vodka. The lounge, which charges an admission fee, has a house limit of three alcoholic drinks per customer, according to its website.

A variety of beers and wines are also on the menu for those who like to stick with less potent fare. The lounge also stocks ice wine, or eiswein in Germany and Austria, where it originated. A sweet, port-like after-dinner drink, it is made from grapes chilled to -10 degrees and then crushed.

But with cocktails and other sorts of drinks comes spills and that also brings distinctive complications, similar to cleaning the insides of a freezer that hasn’t been turned off first.

Customers enjoy the ice made seating area in the Frost Ice Loft. (NewBostonPost, photo by Beth Treffeisen)

Customers enjoy the ice made seating area in the Frost Ice Loft. (NewBostonPost, photo by Beth Treffeisen)

“The floor has to be cleaned a certain way because you can’t just go in there and mop the floor,” Platner said. “Because it’s 21 degrees in there – it freezes.” Instead, it takes special solvents to clean the floor.

In the future, Platner plans to focus on the multi-purpose dimensions of the venue at 200 State St. He also wants to add more artwork such as smaller ice pieces in the bar and rotating local artists in the heated lounge.

“I’m really optimistic” about the coming year, Platner said. “We’ll see what happens.”