Buying Guide for Ice Buckets
Why buy an ice bucket?
Ice buckets are essentially miniature tubs that are filled with ice, and then bottles and cans of drinks are placed on the ice. This not only helps to keep drinks cold for extended periods of time but gives guests easier, quicker access to beverages. They’re an especially popular choice for outdoor parties since, unlike fridges, you don’t need to have access to an electrical outlet for the ice bucket to stay cool. Basically, ice buckets are very similar to coolers, except ice buckets are usually smaller and often don’t have lids, so guests don’t have to go digging through them looking for the drink they want. Everything is displayed upfront. Fill them with ice, place them on the table with a pair of tongs, and your guests can add ice to their beverages as needed.
What should you look for in an ice bucket?
- Size: Ice buckets aren’t a one-size-fits-all item. They come in a variety of different sizes, so be sure to consider how many drinks you plan to set out at one time, how much ice you plan to place inside, and the size of the beverage bottles or cans you’ll be serving; bottles of wine or champagne will need a deeper ice bucket than miniature cans of soda, for example. Ice buckets meant for serving ice rather than drinks will be on the much smaller side, too. The size of ice buckets is usually measured in liters or gallons. Three liters (just over three-quarters of a gallon) is considered to be the standard size for ice buckets.
- Insulation: As a host, you naturally don’t want your ice to melt too quickly. Thus picking an ice bucket with the best possible insulation is crucial; depending on the bucket and the size of the ice cubes in question (larger cubes melt slower), you may be able to make your ice last for up to 10 hours at a time without it melting. Look for ice buckets with double-wall insulation, as they trap the cold better. Though most ice buckets aren’t lidded, if you can find one with a lid, the ice inside will melt slower than ice buckets that leave their contents exposed to the open air.
- Design: Most ice models are circular or oval, or cylindrical in shape, much like classic buckets, but those aren’t your only options. Some smaller ice-specific models may be square or rectangular, and you may be able to find some other more unique shapes as well. Some are made to fit certain design aesthetics, like sleek and modern or farmhouse and rustic. Many have built-in or attached carrying handles. They can come in various colors or be clear to showcase the drinks and ice inside. Some ice buckets have words or slogans on them, and you can even get personalized ice buckets that feature a name or initials or the date of the party.
What’s the best material for buckets?
Metal, plastic, and glass are the most common material choices for ice buckets. Metal is generally considered the best of these three since it’s sturdy and sleek-looking, and most metals will help to insulate the drinks and ice better than plastic or glass does. Stainless steel is considered the best metal choice since it’s an excellent temperature conductor and is naturally rustproof. If you find an ice bucket you like that’s a different metal, be sure it’s been treated to prevent rusting since it will be in constant contact with moisture when in use. Plastic and glass ice buckets don’t insulate as well as metals, but they are more lightweight. Since they’re transparent materials, you’ll easily be able to keep an eye on the amount of ice and drinks inside the bucket. You never have to worry about either material rusting, and plastic models will generally be cheaper, too.
Our Picks for the Best Ice Buckets
Twine Rustic Farmhouse Decor Ice Bucket
Simple yet cute, this rustic-style ice bucket has a large enough capacity to fit multiple full-sized wine bottles and more.
Pros: Finding an ice bucket with a big enough capacity for large-scale events can be a challenge, especially if you plan to serve full-sized bottles of wine, champagne, or water to your guests. Fortunately, this metal ice bucket was designed specifically for such occasions. Its 6.3-gallon capacity is much larger than average, allowing plenty of room for various bottles and cans of various sizes, along with enough ice to keep them cold. It does so without appearing bulky or clunky thanks to the clean, minimalist, yet decorative design. If the white paint and “cheers” print on the side aren’t to your style or liking, there are five other design options from which to choose. Even though this ice bucket is made of metal, it’s surprisingly lightweight, given its make and size.
Cons: This one is made of a softer metal than most, so it’s prone to becoming dented or even slightly warping or sagging over time, especially if carried while full of heavy drinks and ice.
Bottom Line: If you plan to serve a high volume of drinks at your party, you’ll need an appropriately large ice bucket to hold them and still fit ice to keep them chilled. This extra-large ice bucket is perfect for such occasions, capable of holding multiple 1.5-liter bottles at once while still leaving room for ice.
OXO Good Grips Double-Wall Ice Bucket
This ice bucket is perfect for keeping ice cold to add to drinks and comes included with its own set of tongs and a handy garnish tray.
Pros: This ice bucket, made for holding ice rather than drinks, is an ideal choice to prevent ice for cocktails and other beverages from melting. It’s got a double wall and a clear hinged lid for optimal insulation, plus an internal reservoir that holds water caused by ice melting; since the ice cubes are elevated about their reservoir, they won’t be sitting in water, which causes them to melt faster. Besides its ideal insulation properties, this ice bucket has several useful serving accessories. Not only will you not have to spend money on a pair of tongs for the ice since a set comes included with your purchase, but there’s a garnish tray for slices of limes and lemons, olives, cocktail cherries, and other similar items. This not only clears up table space and provides a convenient two-in-one device for mixing drinks, but contact with the ice helps keep the drink garnishes cool and fresh.
Cons: This model is really a better choice for dinner parties and smaller, more intimate events rather than big parties unless you want to be refilling it all night.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an ice bucket to hold ice for your guests’ drinks rather than one to hold drinks, you can’t go wrong with this model. Between its double walls, lid, and internal reservoir, it’ll keep your ice from melting for longer.
FineDine Double-Wall Stainless-Steel Insulated Ice Bucket with Lid
A classic ice-specific ice bucket made of double-walled stainless steel and equipped with a lid to prevent your ice from melting too quickly.
Pros: Featuring a traditional sleek yet understated look, this model has all the ideal insulation properties you’d want from an ice bucket. It’s made out of stainless steel and has both double walls and an airtight lid. If you want a slightly different look, there’s an option to buy this ice bucket with a bamboo lid instead of a stainless-steel one. It also features an internal melted ice strainer that prevents ice from sitting in any melted runoff water, which is conveniently placed toward the bottom of the bucket so it doesn’t take up extra room that could be used to hold ice cubes. While this model was made to hold ice rather than drinks, it’s large enough to cool a can or bottle or two inside it if you really wanted. A matching pair of serving tongs also come included with this ice bucket.
Cons: While the lid of this ice bucket is airtight, it isn’t see-through. And while this bucket is easy to clean with soap and warm water, it’s not dishwasher-safe; you’ll have to wash it by hand.
Bottom Line: You’ve probably seen an ice bucket similar to this one in hotels and bars before, and with good reason. Not only is it effective and well-insulated, but the classic look will fit almost any decor style and event.
Zilpoo Large Plastic Ice Buckets
This set of plastic ice buckets is perfect for extra-large parties and organizing drinks by type or flavor.
Pros: Not only are these ice buckets large in size, but you receive not one, not two, not three, but four identical models, giving you excellent bang for your buck. Whether you’re throwing an event or party for a large group of people or you simply want to have multiple ice buckets on hand as backups, this set has you covered. And if the 18-liter (4.7 gallons) is too large for your needs, there’s a smaller, 4.5-liter set available for purchase as well. In addition to their high quantity and large size, these ice buckets feature carrying handles that are built-in rather than attached, so you won’t have to worry about them falling off when transporting heavy loads or the glue or screws coming loose over time. The see-through plastic bodies of each bucket ensure that you can tell at a quick glance when drinks and ice are running low and need to be restocked.
Cons: As is often the case with plastic ice buckets, these are less durable and more flimsy than a metal model, so they’re prone to cracking and won’t last as long.
Bottom Line: If you’ve got a large-scale party or event coming up, you may need more than one ice bucket to hold enough drinks for all your guests. That’s where this four-pack of large, plastic ice buckets comes in handy.
WENEGG Ice Bucket with Lid
This classic metal ice bucket comes with a handful of useful extras, including a lid and scooper.
Pros: You can’t go wrong with stainless-steel kitchen tools and appliances; it’s strong, aesthetically pleasing, naturally rustproof, and easy to wipe clean. And since this ice bucket is made from stainless steel, it has all these properties and more. Even more noteworthy is the fact that it comes not only with a lid but an ice scooper, tongs, and even a strainer, for keeping ice fresh. The bucket itself is insulated to keep your ice cold and intact for longer, and it can double as a cooler for a single bottle of wine or champagne. It’ll look great with any home bar, especially since you have several other color choices to choose from beyond the natural chrome hues of the stainless steel.
Cons: While this ice bucket does come with a lid, note that the lid itself isn’t insulated like the bucket itself, so it won’t completely keep the cold air in. The lid isn’t clear, so you must lift it off the bucket to check the ice levels. The bucket also isn’t particularly large, so it may not be suitable for bigger gatherings, and there isn’t a hook or place to hang the tongs and scooper from the bucket.
Bottom Line: Tongs and scoopers are the best ways to serve ice directly from the bucket, and this model comes with both, plus a lid and strainer. This is also a great ice bucket in terms of appearance and sturdy construction thanks to its insulated stainless steel body.
Whether you’re throwing an indoor or outdoor party, are serving soda or lemonade, beer or wine, or just plain ice for mixed drinks, a good ice bucket is an excellent way to display beverages or ice while keeping them cold and easily accessible for guests. Ice buckets are suitable decorative additions for any event you want to host.