An ice blender is an electric kitchen gadget used for crushing ice. Technically, most traditional blenders should be able to effectively crush ice. Note that this does not refer to hand blenders, also known as stick blenders; these are simply not powerful enough and can easily be damaged if submerged in ice. In most cases, however, a standard blender will be able to crush ice for the purposes of making frozen beverages or smoothies, among others.
This also means that there is really no such thing as a designated ice blender. If a blender can crush ice, chances are that it can blend most other items as well. There are some important considerations to take into account when choosing an ice blender that will frequently be used for frozen cocktails or smoothies, however.
First, it is important to choose an ice blender with a steady and heavy base. This ensures the blender will not "walk" across the counter while it is in use, potentially spilling on the floor. Most people generally recommend choosing a blender with a glass jar rather than a plastic; though glass is heavier and breakable, it also tends to be more durable, and will not absorb stains or odors the way plastic can.
Any good quality blender should be able to be thoroughly disassembled and cleaned. The blades should be sturdy metal ones, and should be able to be removed from the blender and washed thoroughly. In addition, it is often recommended to avoid blenders with push buttons, because it is easy for dirt and food to collect around the buttons, making the base difficult to clean. Instead, choose a blender with a touchpad, switches, or a dial. Experts do say that a pulse feature is important, particularly for crushing ice, as this give the user more control, and helps prevent overheating.
Another helpful feature on an ice blender is a dual lid. Some blenders feature one large lid with a smaller lid set into it; this smaller lid can be removed while the blender is running to add additional ingredients. This can be nice when adding fruit, juices, or other ingredients to the blender once the ice has been crushed or shaved. Adding ingredients slowly can also help to prevent them from flying back out of the top of the blender. For someone who frequently needs crushed ice for drinks, smoothies, or other recipes, a sturdy blender is a good investment; it does not need to be the most expensive one, but it may be a good idea to search for reviews online before making a purchase.