When guests arrived at Alison Leiby’s recent Hanukkah party, they were greeted with an unusual sight for a Brooklyn apartment: an ice luge. Sitting in the center of her kitchen island, the large ice sculpture said “Happy Hanukkah” in big letters and had two carved slides meant for pouring, cooling and drinking alcohol.
Ms. Leiby, a 39-year-old comedian, served batched Cosmopolitans, martinis and mezcal Negronis, but found that most preferred straight liquor poured down the luge. When someone geared up to take a turn, everyone watched and cheered. “It was a source of entertainment,” she said. With that, a 15-person party in her one-bedroom apartment quickly became something of a rager.
Once a staple of frat houses, ski lodges, banquet halls and bachelor parties, the ice luge appears to be enjoying a late-pandemic revival as a party trick for gatherings big and small, where some are eager to let hygienic caution be damned.
“Now everyone wants their ice sculpture to be turned into an ice luge,” said John Melton, the owner of Ice Luge Doctor on Long Island. He said his company had experienced an above-average increase in sales this past holiday season.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the very first time someone poured liquor down a block of ice, many people associate ice luges with the 1990s and early 2000s. The term “ice luge,” as a reference to the party accessory, was first mentioned in The New York Times in 1999, when an article cited it alongside “keg stand” as an example of “cool frat lingo.”
Even if frats were never your thing, more people seem to be embracing an overindulgent approach to fun lately. Americans spent more on entertainment in 2021 than any other year on record, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“People are definitely hungry for parties,” said Lilli Sherman, the founder of experiential studio Oma Loves Fun, adding that nostalgic experiences, like sipping cocktails at Bemelmans, are a popular trend right now. “There is this air of opulence and joy,” she added, as people seek whimsical, uncomplicated pleasure as a respite from pandemic anxiety and exhaustion.
Cheyenne Adler, a social strategist in Brooklyn, recently partook in an ice luge at a friend’s birthday party. She compared the luge to “Slap the Bag,” a college party game in which people chug boxed wine straight from its plastic bag nozzle. “It’s been so long since any of us have done an activity like that,” because of the pandemic and the various colds and flus going around, Ms. Adler, 28, said.
“A lot of people at this point have felt the fatigue coming from not being close to people,” she said. At her friend’s party, most guests avoided putting their mouth directly on the ice luge. “But I still feel like, as the night goes on, you’re kind of like, alcohol kills germs.”
Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, says that while higher proof alcohol can help a little, she does not recommend putting your mouth on the same ice luge as other people. “You kind of have to assume that when you’re taking a shot from an ice luge, you are basically kissing everyone else that used the luge,” she said.
But there are other ways to luge. You don’t have to put your mouth directly on the ice; you can waterfall the liquid, or catch it with a cup. Or you can do what Maya Kosoff did for her 30th birthday party in August, and fill an ice luge with shrimp cocktail instead of liquor. Ms. Kosoff, a content director for a venture capital firm, says she thinks of ice luges as “small displays of decadence that I also associate with drinking a martini or people doing caviar bumps at bars.”
Natasha Pickowicz, a pastry chef and a regular co-host of Ms. Leiby’s Hanukkah party, also cited the 2022 martini boom as an antecedent to the ice luge.
“Drinks like the martini are so trendy in New York right now, and everyone is sucking down vodka and gin,” she said. “Those are kind of classic spirits to pour down the luge. So there’s something about that hedonism of the stiff martini that I think plays into the luge as well.”
But if a martini evokes James Bond, city sleekness and “an invitation of madness,” as E. Alex Jung recently wrote in New York magazine, the ice luge is its rowdier, tackier cousin who gets straight to the point. The ice luge says: Let’s take a shot. Kneel down at this spectacularly silly altar of parties and forget your cares.
“If the economy tanks and the world feels like it’s falling apart,” Ms. Leiby said. “Why not just get the ice luge?”