There are few things more disappointing than a drink that’s not as cold as it was intended to be, and any good host knows the value of investing in a good vessel to maximize the lifespan of the ice cubes that will ensure your drink stays cold. Marvelous things, those ice cubes: surround a bottle with them, and the liquid inside gets chilly, or pop them straight into a beverage, and you've got several key minutes of peak imbibing temperature (before dilution rears its ugly head). Whatever purpose you'll need your ice cubes for, an ice bucket is just the thing to keep them at the ready.
But ice buckets aren’t just utilitarian—they’re also about their looks. “They can be dressed up with custom ice cubes inside or with fresh cut flowers tucked in between bottles,” says Dana Darley-Daily, director of development and partnerships at the Kentucky dining club The Louisville Thoroughbred Society. Whether you need ice to whip up cocktails, want to cool a bottle of wine, or are looking to add pizzazz to your bar, here are the best ice buckets for all of your chilling endeavors.
Crafthouse by Fortessa Stainless Steel Ice Bucket
Built-in drain board
What do pro bartenders use to keep their ice as cold as possible when entertaining at home? SeongHa Lee, a bartender at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, shares his recommendation: “Crafthouse by Fortessa’s oval ice bucket, which was designed in collaboration with world champion bartender Charles Joly, is the best for indoor use."
The bucket's double-walled stainless steel construction and interior drain grate make for excellent performance. Unlike your typical round (and usually small) ice bucket, this model can easily fit a six-pack of cans or two bottles side by side, meaning you won't have to plunge your hand into an icy abyss to grab a drink. Plus, Lee adds, the lid features an underside clip, which hooks to the wall of the bucket when not in use.
Material: Stainless Steel | Dimensions: 12.5 x 8.25 x 5.5 inches | Capacity: 50 oz
Related: The Best Ice Cube Trays
Best for Outdoors
Polder Chill Station
Scoop is plastic
Can misplace lids
Here’s a bucket that’s meant to be taken along on your outdoor adventures. The Polder Chill Station is great for poolside shindigs and beach hangs, but it really shows its stuff on a boat or dock because the non-slip base pad keeps the bucket from sliding, and the stainless steel bottle sleeve keeps your wine both cool and secure—no matter the rocking and rolling. An ingenious silicon ring wipes your bottle clean of moisture when you remove it to pour drinks, and the double-walled insulation guarantees your ice will stay frozen while you swim or sun. Best of all, the see-through lid lets you quickly see when you need to replenish your ice supply.
Material: Stainless Steel and Plastic | Dimensions: 10 x 9.5 x 9.25 inches | Capacity: 3.3 qt
Sur La Table Jax Ice Bucket
Good for tall bottles
What a find! This all-glass bucket is a statement piece at a reasonable price, making it just the ticket when you’re looking for a gift for that home bartender in your life. Classic and sleek with a flared shape that allows easy access to the ice, it will showcase the expensive bubbly (or whatever classy bottle) the recipient is highlighting for their special occasion. And it’s safe for the dishwasher, too, so cleaning it up after the party is a snap.
Material: Glass | Dimensions: 7.17 x 8.27 inches | Capacity: 2.9 qt
Winco 4-Quart Wine Bucket
Restaurants use this kind of wine bucket for a reason: it's sleek, reliable, effective, and won’t break the bank (a key consideration, as it’s something that’ll be used frequently and is subject to wear and tear). At home, you probably won’t be getting a ton of mileage out of a wine bucket, but it’s always nice to know when something's vetted by the pros. And at a surprisingly affordable price point, it can’t hurt to have a few of these 4-quart stainless steel buckets on hand.
Material: Stainless Steel | Dimensions: 8.9 x 8.5 x 8.11 inches | Capacity: 4 qt
OXO Insulated Plastic Ice Bucket Set
Can lose parts
Must hand wash
OXO's ice bucket is one of the most functional and durable options in the market, as you won’t have to worry about banging up any metal. Better still, it has a reservoir for meltwater, a removable garnish tray, nylon tongs, and quality insulation. The company also backs its products with a satisfaction guarantee—so if you’re not pleased with your purchase, you can send it in for repair, a replacement, or a full refund.
Material: Stainless Steel and Plastic | Dimensions: 7.37 x 8.5 x 7.5 inches | Capacity: 3.1 qt
Georg Jensen Sky Ice Bucket with Tongs
Best to handwash
Can misplace tongs
Danish designer Aurélien Barbry created this Nordic ice bucket with organic forms and ergonomic usage in mind. It’s mirror-polished for stunning looks, and its handsome lid fits snugly for maximum chill factor. It comes with smartly shaped tongs that hug both round and cube ice. Compact in size so that it fits on home bars, it’s a standout Scandinavian piece for the discerning host.
Material: Stainless Steel | Dimensions: 5.91 x 6.69 x 5.91 inches
Read Next: The Best Ice Makers
YETI Tank 45 Ice Bucket
Need two hands to carry
"This is by far the best ice bucket in terms of outdoor performance,” says Lee. “It will keep cold 52 cans or 43 pounds of ice for you; it might seem pricey, but it’s worth it for your outdoor event, and it will maintain the ice longer than other regular ice buckets.” The YETI Tank 45, which is also available in a 85-gallon size, features ultra-durable rotomolded construction and insulation made of pressure-injected polyurethane foam in the walls. This ice bucket weighs only 13 pounds when empty, so it won't add a lot of weight to your camping cargo.
Material: Polyurethane | Dimensions: 21 1/8 × 16 5/8 × 21 1/8 inches | Capacity: 43 lbs
Oggi Ice Bucket
Lid won't get lost
Must hand wash
Acrylic lid can crack
Scoop not secured; can be misplaced
Flip-top ice buckets are the way to go if you prefer having fewer separate parts to worry about. Oggi makes some great flip-tops for ice and drink storage; this particular 4-quart model is slightly larger than the standard ice bucket and offers a convenient slot to hold the included ice scoop. It’s also double walled, meaning it’ll keep two full-sized wine bottles chilled for longer than any non-insulated bucket.
Material: Stainless Steel and Acrylic | Dimensions: 9" high x 8 1/2" diameter | Capacity: 4 qt
Read Next: The Best Coolers
Bellemain Insulated Stainless Steel Ice Bucket
Drain board for meltwater reservoir
Comes with tongs
Tongs handle only one cube at a time
Lid not attached; can be lost
This classic ice bucket from Bellemain will blend in with any decor, thanks to its brushed stainless steel design. Better yet, it boasts a meltwater reservoir, easy-grab handles, double-wall insulation and a three-year warranty. This unfussy 3-liter bucket will keep your ice cold for up to six hours, and it even comes with bartender’s tongs.
Material: Brushed stainless Steel | Dimensions: 7.75 x 7 x 8.75 inches | Capacity: 3 liter
For overall functionality on a home bar, the Charles Joly–designed Crafthouse by Fortessa can’t be beat. But for backwoods blowouts and summer-house bashes, toughen up your ice bucket game with the YETI Tank 45.
What to Look For
Sometimes you don’t need the ice to last too long; you’re at home, you’re going to use the ice quickly, you only need it to chill a bottle, and you can always replenish. But if you want solid ice that perseveres as you tend to guests and mix a bunch of drinks, go for double-walled construction that cushions the ice with a layer of insulating air between the walls.
Some ice buckets are simply too pretty to be made of indelible, long-lasting materials. But if you’re throwing big parties or toting your ice bucket along to the tailgate or another fest, you'll want it to be unbreakable. Stainless steel is a smart choice for durability.
There are plenty of utilitarian buckets that do the trick. But for home bartenders looking to impress, an ice bucket should ideally make a statement. Sleek design and high-end materials make for giftable, collectable centerpieces that convey a sense of prestige when you gracefully shovel ice cubes from them.
How big should an ice bucket be?
That depends on how you’re using it. Do you need a massive tub for an outdoor shindig, or are you entertaining a couple of folks (or a certain someone, wink wink) at home? At minimum, it should hold ice for at least one refill or be big enough to surround a bottle of wine with cooling cubes.
How do they work?
Insulated ice buckets have double walls, and the trapped air cushions the ice from outside temperatures. A lid completes the seal, keeping ice nice and solid-cold. Buckets with a detachable drain board inside keep the ice free of meltwater, which trickles down into the reservor beneath the drain board. All ice buckets, though, do what any bucket does: they contain stuff so you can hold and carry it. A handle, though not necessary, is a nice touch.
Are ice buckets worth it?
An ice bucket is designed specifically to hold an essential cocktail ingredient and bar tool: the ice. There’s nothing worse that watching your painstakingly-made ice melting into tepid soup in a bowl simply because you don’t have the proper container for it. So an ice bucket is an essential investment for any home bartender who wants to keep her sanity.
How long do they last?
Their longevity depends on the materials they are made from. Stainless steel is the most reliable in terms of staying power. Glass and porcelain last as well, though they are prone to breakage. Plastic parts can degrade over time, and are less environmentally friendly.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Betsy Andrews is a freelance journalist specializing in food and drink, travel, and the environment, and has been writing about wine and spirits for two decades. Betsy has written for Liquor.com since May 2020. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, SevenFifty Daily, VinePair, Wine Enthusiast, Travel & Leisure, and more.
This piece was also edited by Jesse Porter, who is a huge believer in anything that keeps beverages cold. (Just ask him to show you his collection of coozies. It's a little disturbing.)
As a longtime wine and spirits writer (and a lover of entertaining), Céline Bossart has tried many different solutions for ice transport and storage. These, along with bartender SeongHa Lee’s recommendations, are her personal top picks.