By Sandra Hutchinson
Having heard a lot of buzz about the “Glacier Ice Bar” and all the associated wintertime activities at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing on Lake George, a few of my best friends from childhood joined me in an overnight at the iconic hotel in January, during one of the two “Ice Bar” weekends. Turns out, there’s a whole lot more going on than just chilling out with a cocktail while standing around some blocks of ice.
Although the Sagamore’s foray into the “ice bar” only began several years ago, it has turned into a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds to the hotel on two weekends in January, a time when the hotel has in the past been closed. A number of other bars and restaurants in the region have followed suit, creating their own happening spots and events with the idea that people will stand outside in the cold to drink cocktails and beer if the mood and music is good, the fires are burning, and your friends show up.
We had booked a suite in one of the “lodges,” which are multi-level buildings apart from the main hotel building. There are numerous choices in the lodges. Our one-bedroom suite had two queen beds in a bedroom, a sectional sofa with sofa bed in the living room, a gas fireplace, and a kitchenette and dining area. We had a small patio and a view of the lake across a service road. It was comfortable and just right for us, since most of our time was spent in and around the main hotel building.
We arrived around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, and after checking in, headed immediately out to check out the ice bar and various activities. The joint was already jumping. I encountered a lot of friends and acquaintances throughout the afternoon and evening, and the mood was festive.
The ice bar itself, created from large blocks of ice, has in previous years been set up outside the hotel, on a terrace overlooking the lake. This year, the ice bar was set up under the tented pavilion on the northeast side of the hotel, which is often used for wedding receptions in warmer weather.
It was difficult to get a complete view of the actual ice structure of the bar, because of the crowds. But when we finally got up to the servers behind the bar, we could see that the ice had been carved to form a line of mountain peaks at the rear of the bar.
At the ice bar, they were serving a selection of cocktails, ranging from chocolate martinis, a “Snow Ball Martini” that featured a toasted marshmallow garnish, cosmos, mojitos, and more. There was another bar across the tented pavilion that offered beer and other drinks. Also available were warm cocktails, like the “Avalanche,” with white chocolate, Kahlua and warm milk. Custom non-alcoholic “mocktails” were also available.
We stuck with the basic cocktails, which came in at about $12 each. Fortunately, we could charge it all to our room and not worry about it until the next day.
There were some ice benches with faux fur on top for sitting (although they were wet so we didn’t sit down), and some other pieces carved from ice, like tables and a snowman with an opening in the face, presumably so you could take a photo of your pal peeking through the hole.
Out on the terraces adjacent to the tented pavilion, there were large bowls with wood fires, and heating towers powered by propane.
Inside, there was another bar in the lobby, which was packed with folks enjoying both libations and food. The hotel also had a chili and chowder station.
As the afternoon wore on, it did get more crowded, and we put our name in at the casual restaurant on the lower level of the hotel, Mr. Brown’s Pub, to get on a list for a table for dinner. After about 45 minutes, we received a cell phone call telling us our table was ready. We all opted for the maple roasted turkey dinner, which came with mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy ($18). It hit the spot, and warmed us up, so we could get back to the outdoor festivities.We headed out to the s’more making area, to find a nice fire roaring in a large fire bowl, where we claimed our seats on a bench. While the hotel had run out of graham crackers and chocolate, we were still able to toast marshmallows on long bamboo sticks.
I was happy to encounter my good friend Brian “Chip'” Chevalier, who was setting up his amplifier to sing and play guitar right next to us at the fire. He even dedicated one of his first songs from the Indigo Girls to us. The whole gang around the fire sang along with Chip on many songs on his play list. It was a blast.
The next morning, we had a satisfying breakfast of eggs, hash browns, corned beef hash, bacon, and beefy rye toast at Bolton Beans, the old-fashioned trolley diner in Bolton Landing. It was a great way to finish our weekend before my friends left to head home.
This year’s Glacier Ice Bar closed on Sunday, January 29. If you’re interested in next year’s Sagamore Ice Bar, check the hotel’s Web site next winter for details and a schedule. They haven’t yet announced whether they will repeat the event next year, but given the crowds and enthusiasm, I’m betting they will.