The Beer Cooler
Photo/Jeff Harris

The calendar is full of entertainment occasions when sophisticated cocktails calling for a slew of specialized gear are in order, but when it's Super Bowl time the drinking palate narrows to beer. And for that you have one essential equipment concern: a cooler. A good beer cooler provides a communal place for guests to service their beverage needs. It keeps them out of the kitchen and takes the strain off the refrigerator. Of course, all sorts of Styrofoam numbers will do the job, but a Super Bowl—worthy cooler does it with efficiency, with panache and with a fair number of bells and whistles.

Obviously, cooling ability is a chief criterion. That stat is generally related in days that ice will remain in the box, which is a function of thickness of insulation—meaning an attendant loss of beer space. You may want to trade off for more room—unless you're planning a shindig to last more than three days. Best for ice longevity are coolers meant for camping, like the imposing-sounding Yeti. Buying that type of cooler also gets you mold-defeating gaskets and closures resistant to bear attacks, capabilities you might forgo depending on the quality of your guests.

For the purposes of a short party consider exchanging ruggedness for coolers like steel-covered Coleman's that offer more in the looks department. But don't forget to consider convenient features. Wheels or casters come in handy when the cooler is weighted down with cold brew—especially if yours is a movable fiesta. Failing that, get heavy-duty handles for lifting. The drain plug should be hose-compatible for easy emptying when the party breaks up. Almost essential is a built-in bottle opener (otherwise expect to have rummagers in your kitchen drawers).

The Igloo Party Bar Cooler (pictured, $199) has an intriguing new feature: the LiddUp LED light system, which illuminates its contents without adding undue heat to the ice compartment. Also convenient are the removable dividers and lid-meaning you can segregate Joe Six Pack beers from chichi craft brews for ease in locating, which in turn means the cover is not open as long. If only you could separate guests who are ardent fans when the game heats up.