We might be entering into a colder season, but that doesn’t mean you have to make a full switch to warm, spiked drinks. While there’s certainly a place for hard cider and hot toddies, it’s always the right time for a chilled cocktail.
Whether you’re hosting an at-home gathering or you’re headed out to a picnic with friends, keep a small bucket of ice handy. This ensures you’re never too far from a refreshing cool-down. That said, it’s time to serve it up in style! Today, we’re sharing how to find the best cocktail ice buckets on the market. Get ready to become the life of the party every time.
What Is a Cocktail Ice Bucket?
A cocktail ice bucket is a small container meant to hold ice cubes. Unlike a larger, freezer-style container, it’s designed to be handheld and easily portable. It can fit easily on a kitchen countertop, home bar, or buffet area where drinks will be served.
While you might roll your beloved Yeti onto the boat for an afternoon on the lake, this type of vessel is best-suited for smaller, more intimate groups. While all are sizable enough to hold ice, some larger ones can also hold entire bottles of wine or smaller wine coolers.
Above all else, performance is key. The best ice buckets on the market are designed to keep your ice frozen solid for a long period of time. While some cubes may melt in sub-par models, today, you can find ones that will keep yours neat and drink-ready for up to six to eight hours or longer.
Cocktail ice buckets can be made from a variety of different materials. These include:
- Stainless steel
- Galvanized steel
- Stone (such as marble)
You can even find ice buckets made of more rustic materials, such as rattan. In this case, there will usually be a special protective coating on the outside to prevent water damage. While crystal buckets are still in production, you can find antique ones more easily and economically. These add a delicate vintage touch to your bar, which makes them perfect for serving old-fashioned cocktails, like a Moscow Mule or a Mint Julep!
In addition, you can also find buckets that contain special insulating layers to keep your ice colder, longer. Those that do not contain this feature will often sweat as time goes by. As the temperature increases inside the bucket, that humidity causes moisture to collect on its exterior. Eventually, this will form droplets that drip down the sides. To avoid making a mess and creating a puddle, it’s best to stick with insulated varieties.
Why Should You Buy a Cocktail Ice Bucket?
Do you love filling the role of the resident bartender when your friends come over on the weekends? Are you always looking for new cocktail recipes and trying different concoctions? Whether you’re a wine aficionado or you simply love margaritas on the rocks, you know that ice is the foundation of any great cocktail.
Yet, while it’s incredibly simple, this component isn’t always easy to perfect. You could lug a big, plastic convenience store bag of ice to your bestie’s house for a night of drinks. However, with barware becoming more beautiful and sophisticated by the day, this isn’t exactly a welcome addition. At the same time, you don’t want to deplete her personal freezer stash, but a giant cooler is way too oversized.
Enter the cocktail ice bucket. Straightforward and compact, it’s one kitchen accessory that’s easy to overlook, but you’ll miss it when you need it. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you need one in your cabinet.
When you have a great cocktail ice bucket, you can turn almost any situation into an impromptu party. Last-minute park date with friends? Dinner at your in-laws’ house? You’re only a few seconds away from filling it up, grabbing your favorite potions, and heading out the door.
You can’t say the same about a heavy cooler, which takes time and effort to fill and prepare. Not only are they hard to maneuver, but they can also be unwieldy. You can’t go up and down steps easily with them, and traveling long distances can be cumbersome. Meanwhile, most ice buckets come with a handy lid and comfortable handle, so they’re easy to take anywhere you go.
Just the Right Size
Think of the number of times you’ve had to pour unused ice from a cooler into your kitchen sink. Often, we over-prepare and under-utilize, which can leave us lugging around far too much weight. A cocktail ice bucket is just the right size for a small get-together and is lightweight enough to travel all around down.
If you find yourself getting low, you can just use the tongs to add more!
The Convenience of Self-Serving
An ice bucket can easily be stored on top of a bar table, allowing guests to take care of their own refills if their drinks run low. That way, you don’t have to designate one specific person to man the bar at all times. While this might seem like a small benefit, it’s an important one if you cherish socializing over slinging old-fashioneds.
Keeps Wine Chilled
Some wines are best served at room temperature. Examples include mature red wines, such as a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Then, there are those that taste best when chilled or refrigerated. These include most lighter-bodied wines, such as white wine, sparkling wine, and rosé wine.
At lower temperatures, these wines absolutely sing. Their aromas are more pronounced, their flavors are crisper, and their acidity is sharper. They’re especially delicious when served on a balmy summer evening!
Thankfully, most cocktail ice buckets are spacious enough to double as wine chillers. Even if you can’t fit the lid on, you can pop a bottle or two of your favorites in the bucket to keep them cold while you converse.
In addition to wine, an ice bucket can also keep a few bottles of beer nice and cold! Beyond the realm of cocktails, you may also find that it serves other practical purposes, such as holding water bottles or juice boxes.
When it’s time to retire yours and buy another, you can even repurpose an ice bucket as fun decor around your house. These containers make beautiful, unexpected flower vases, office supply caddies, or catch-all spots. You can even use them as bathroom wastebaskets or compost bins! If you need a little inspiration, then check out this post on a few creative ways you can use your ice bucket beyond its intended purpose.
How to Find the Best Cocktail Ice Buckets: Features to Look For
Now that you know why cocktail ice buckets are such a valuable and versatile addition to your kitchen, are you ready to find the best one for your home? As you start shopping, you’ll find that there are many different kinds of buckets to choose from, and some have more bells and whistles than others.
To help guide your purchase, think about where you plan to use your bucket and how often you’ll take it off the shelf. If you’re someone who loves entertaining and playing host, then you’ll need one that’s as feature-rich as possible. On the other hand, if you only expect to put yours to good use once or twice a year, then a more basic model might be all that you need.
Next, let’s review some of the most common elements of cocktail ice buckets. Use this information to create a shortlist of your must-have and nice-to-have features.
Functionality and Durability
Above all else, you need a cocktail ice bucket that will last. While a plastic or vinyl one might be a little less expensive, consider how long you’ll use it before it starts to bend or warp.
Cheaper versions will give out within the year, although some well-made plastic ice buckets are surprisingly sturdy. These types of buckets are great at preventing condensation and are usually available in a range of colors to fit your personal decor.
For maximum durability, look for a more durable material, such as stainless steel that will keep your ice cold and hold up over the years.
Not only does a metal ice bucket last longer, but it’s also more aesthetically pleasing. You can find a ton of other barware that matches a stainless steel bucket, including cocktail shaker sets. Ideally, try to find a stainless steel one that features an extra coating of lacquer on the exterior to prevent rust and wear.
If you plan to use your cocktail ice bucket for longer than a few hours, then you absolutely need one with an insulating layer. This simple feature can extend the lifespan of your bucket and keep you from reaching for the towel as the ice starts to melt inside.
Not only does insulation keep you ice-cold, but it also protects the surface that your bucket is resting on. If you’ve ever created a water ring on a beloved table after your drink started to sweat, then you know how quickly water damage can happen.
It only takes a few seconds of contact to make a major difference. An insulated ice bucket won’t be 100% sweat-proof, but it will take much longer to get to that point.
Does color-coordinating your barware matter to you? If so, then you may need to look for plastic or vinyl ones that fit into the color scheme you’ve created at home. Stainless steel and galvanized steel ones will usually be naturally gray or silver, while copper ones are their trademark gold/red tone.
Marble and glass cocktail ice buckets are a little more style-forward and would look ultra-sleek with most modern decor. While marble buckets will possess the organic fluidity and matte colors of the stone, glass varieties are usually clear and transparent.
Though glass buckets will have a gorgeous, minimalistic vibe keep in mind that they are among the most fragile on our list, second only to crystal ones; at the same time, they’re also the most versatile. When you aren’t filling yours with ice, you can use a glass bucket to hold flowers, candy, or candles!
At the very basic level, all you need is an ice bucket and tongs. However, most manufacturers aren’t satisfied by stopping there. These days, you can embellish yours with a few different accessories, including:
- Water filters
- Locking mechanisms
Depending on your needs, some of these features will be more important than others. For instance, you might not use a lock and lid too frequently if you’re usually the host at home. However, these will be essential features for someone who plans to take their cocktail ice bucket around town on a regular basis.
An ice bucket is just shaped like a bucket, right? Not quite. If you look closely, you’ll find that there are some subtle differences in the way that each one is designed. The one you choose should reflect your personal tastes and fit in well with the other decor in your kitchen.
If you’re going for a sleek modern look, then choose one with a smooth, rounded design. These are usually available in a natural metal shade, though you can find some that feature a solid, neutral hue.
Someone who prefers a more eclectic or rustic look may want to venture away from the simplicity of a smooth design. If this sounds like you, then look for hammered metals that deliver a ton of texture and personality at a similar price point. Or, find one that incorporates modern farmhouse elements, such as:
- Intentionally chippy colors
- Distressed metal
- Antique finish
Ease of Maintenance
Finally, let’s talk cleaning. Some cocktail ice buckets are easy to store in the bottom rack of your dishwasher. Others will require a thorough hand-washing after every use.
Maintenance and clean-up should be a major consideration as you shop around. If the material is extra finicky (think, rattan), then you may not be able to clean it as spotlessly as you’d like. However, materials like stainless steel and plastic wipe down in seconds and are a cinch to sanitize.
5 Best Options for Cocktail Ice Buckets
Has all this talk about ice buckets made you thirsty for a refreshing Tom Collins? Before you head to your bar cart, take a few minutes to review the best cocktail ice buckets on the market. All of these are available on Amazon and are well-reviewed by real users.
Use these five options to jumpstart your own research as you browse the available choices. The right ice bucket is one that you will use regularly and enjoy!
Oggi Insulated Ice Bucket
The Oggi Insulated Ice Bucket holds four quarts of ice, or 3.8 liters, and is ideal for transporting a bottle of wine. Made of durable stainless steel, it also features a fashionable black bottom, rim, handle grip, and attached scoop caddy.
Double-wall insulation technology means that this bucket will keep your ice frozen for longer, while the sleek acrylic lid seals the cool temperatures to optimize insulation. Both of these features work together to improve the bucket’s thermal properties while also mitigating condensation.
One of our favorite parts about the Oggi option is the clear flip-top lid that lets you easily see when it’s time to add more ice. Other special touches we appreciate include:
- Large, stainless steel ice scoop
- Cushioned handle grip
- Easy to hand-wash with soap and water
The four-quart stainless steel bucket with an ice scoop is available for $40. Oggi also offers a three-quart bucket with tongs for $33.
FineDine Double Wall Stainless Steel Insulated Ice Bucket
The FineDine Double Wall Stainless Steel Insulated Ice Bucket is one of the most affordable yet high-performing cocktail ice buckets on our list.
Designed to hold three quarts or 2.8 liters, it’s made of double-wall stainless steel to make sure your ice stays frozen. In addition to the built-in insulating layer, the bucket also comes equipped with an airtight lid and rubber seal. These components protect the bucket from the outside air and seal in the internal temperature for maximum effect.
While the function of this bucket more than delivers, what about the form side? Thankfully, it’s the minimalistic, modern vessel you’ve been looking to find. The brushed stainless steel isn’t just beautiful, but it’s also smudge-proof and easy to clean.
Our favorite feature, though? We love the built-in strainer at the bottom of this bucket! This simple addition keeps melted water from interacting with your fresh ice cubes, so you never have to worry about watering down your Manhattan.
Other helpful parts of this bucket include:
- Included pair of tongs
- Comfortable handle
- Built-in latches for tongs and lid
Available online for just $20, these are so wallet-friendly you may want to buy more than one!
S’Well Ice Bucket With Tongs
You’ll make quite the impression if you show up to a party with this S’Well Ice Bucket With Tongs. Made of an eye-catching teakwood exterior with a stainless steel interior, it’s a rustic yet stylish addition to any bar setting. The S’well brand has long been synonymous with advanced hydration performance, and this bucket is no exception.
The S’Well ice bucket takes traditional double-layer insulation up a notch with triple-layer insulation! Designed to hold 68 ounces or right around 2 quarts, it’s a little smaller than the first two on our list, but it’s a hard-working vessel. In addition to the enhanced thermal protection, it’s also vacuum-insulated with a copper layer for extra security. Together, these elements comprise the brand’s trademark Therma-S’Well Technology, designed to keep your drinks cold for as long as possible.
Per the manufacturer, this bucket won’t develop condensation, so you never have to worry about ruining your delicate surfaces. It’s also BPA-free, BPS-free, and compliant with California Prop 65 regulations. These environmentally-conscious details are what set this brand apart from the rest.
In fact, the mission of S’Well is to develop high-quality drinkware to reduce the waste associated with single-use plastic bottles. A Certified B Corp, the team follows strict regulations around transparency and accountability. The 68-ounce teakwood cocktail ice bucket is just $50, and you can also find a Calacatta Gold version for the same price!
OXO Good Grips Double Wall Ice Bucket
While the other cocktail ice buckets on our list have featured around design, the OXO Good Grips Double Wall Ice Bucket is an exception. This bucket is built around a square-bottom design and is a little boxier in shape.
This unique shape means that it can hold just a little more ice, too! The bucket can comfortably fit 3.3 quarts or 3.1 liters. Made of insulated stainless steel, it also comes with handy nylon tongs for quick and sanitary ice retrieval.
One of the most unexpected yet surprisingly useful parts of this bucket is the built-in, removable garnish tray! Designed to snuggle right into the bucket when the lid is closed, this little compartment is the perfect size for holding all of your go-to cocktail toppers, including:
- Lemon or lime slices, twists, or wedges
- Fresh herbs
- Candied ginger
- Carrot or celery sticks
- Cocktail olives or onions
Without such a spot to store them, you’d be required to bring these in a separate container when traveling with your ice bucket. Not only is this an extra step, but it could mean bringing them to room temperature, which can take away from the chilled aspect of your favorite drink. Other great parts of this bucket include:
- Bottom meltwater reservoir to keep ice cubes clean
- Clear, hinged lid
- Convenient carrying handle
Available for just $31, this is a smart buy that you’ll use and appreciate for years.
Jozo Insulated Ice Bucket
The Jozo Insulated Ice Bucket is Amazon’s Choice for stainless ice buckets, and it’s easy to see why. This bucket is the largest on our list, with a 3.4-quart capacity! Constructed of double-walled stainless steel with a hollow insulating layer, it will keep your wine, beer, or cocktails at the perfect temperature for up to six hours.
With this vessel, the name of the game is convenience. The tongs are designed to fit neatly into a compartment on the lid when not in use. The carrying handle drops out of the way and to the side when you set it down. The built-in strainer fits into the bottom to redirect meltwater. In other words, Jozo put a ton of time into the design of this bucket, and the attention to detail shows.
All purchases also come with a warranty card, which explains the brand’s one-year unconditional return guarantee. Other special features include:
- Hermetically sealed lid that closes to the inner wall
- Upgraded, sturdier screws on the handle
- Double-wall insulation on the lid
At just $29, this is an affordable and stylish option for your bar cart!
Answer: The reality is that your ice will eventually melt, even if it’s stored in the very best-quality cocktail ice bucket. However, there are certain ones that will help you avoid this fate longer than others. Generally speaking, most ice will retain its shape and texture between four and 18 hours.
That’s a wide range, though! This is why the design you choose for your ice bucket matters. In this case, insulation is key. An insulated bucket will help you fall on the longer side of this timeline, regardless of the type of material used on the exterior. Other elements that will determine the longevity of your ice include the ambient temperature in the room, as well as the moisture content.
A few steps you can take to help your drinks stay cooler for longer include:
• Keep the lid shut when not in use
• Add bottles or cans first, followed by ice
• Add water to your bucket when the ice gets low
• Fill the bucket up to the brim to keep warm air out
• Chill drinks before popping them in the bucket
Answer: Although these containers have similar purposes, they are not the exact same. A cocktail ice bucket is designed primarily to hold the ice that you will put in your drinks. While some are spacious enough to chill a bottle of wine before serving, this isn’t their main use.
Wine coolers or champagne buckets, on the other hand, are meant to be used as their name implies. You can store entire bottles in them, usually with the lids closed. If you’re unsure which one to buy, think about your favorite beverages! If you regularly bring bottles to share with others, then a more spacious champagne bucket might be your style.
Answer: This isn’t exactly a case of going big or going home. Again, your usual routine can help guide you here. If you love hosting for a large crowd, then you might need an oversized cocktail ice bucket to keep up with the lines that keep forming in your kitchen. If your gatherings are smaller-scale, then a small to medium one will usually suffice.
If you’re on the fence, then experts typically recommend erring on the side of caution. You may have to refill a small ice bucket more frequently, but at the same time, you don’t have to worry about wasting ice or your ice getting too melted.
Answer: Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines before cleaning any new item you purchase. Your ice bucket should come with instructions on how to remove tarnish, sediment, and spills from the inside or outside of the container. Almost every material will clean up easily with mild detergent and a gentle hand wash.
After each use, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry your ice bucket. Once all moisture is gone, store it carefully with the lid securely attached. Leaving it askew could cause dust to build upon the inside.
Answer: It might sound crazy, but some people recommend adding rock salt to your ice bucket to help the ice stay cold. Why does this work? The answer lies in the chemical composition of water.
It’s its pure state; water naturally freezes at 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Saltwater freezes at a lower temperature. Specifically, it will freeze around -2 degrees Celsius or 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’ve ever made homemade ice cream, then you’ve seen this reaction in real-time. A popular trick for coolers, it also works with your ice bucket. However, there’s one critical mistake that most people make. Don’t just sprinkle the salt onto your ice cubes! This can actually make your ice melt faster.
Instead, fill water bottles with saltwater and freeze them, or add saltwater to ice cube trays and make salty ice that way. Then intersperse the salt-infused water with your plain ice. The saltwater will melt more quickly, making the plain ice colder. A little-known fact is that freshly melted water is actually colder than ice, at least for a little while! As the ice melts, it absorbs energy, which momentarily lowers its temperature.
Browse the Best Cocktail Ice Buckets
It’s time to take your home bar to the next level! Now that you know how to find the best cocktail ice buckets, you’re ready to host all sorts of parties as the holiday season approaches.
Look for one that fits your space and style needs and is designed to hold up for years. Then, start researching recipes because it’s time to start shaking! While you’re at it, keep reading more of our helpful kitchen guides to stock your home with the very best gear.