I tried Hinge’s virtual date night kit that’s supposed to make socially distanced dating more fun – here’s how it went

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  • Dating online can be awkward even in the best of times, but especially while social distancing.
  • Online dating platform Hinge paired with Uncommon Goods to create a virtual date kit to enhance connections.
  • Inside, you’ll find cocktail ingredients and conversation starters to enjoy while on video chat.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyVirtual Dating Kit (small)

Online dating can be a learning curve even in the best of times, but during social distancing that long list of date ideas can slowly dwindle down into video chats and walks outside. Luckily, online dating platform Hinge recently partnered with Uncommon Goods to create a Virtual Date Night Kit that helps singles swipe, share, and say goodbye to their profiles that much quicker.

For $30, you and your date will receive a box filled with conversation starters and a make-your-own cocktail kit that includes mixology tools and three recipes to follow. It’s a unique activity for two that you can enjoy while on FaceTime or Zoom.

“Throughout the pandemic, our goal has been to help our community continue their dating life in safe and fun ways,” said Logan Ury, Hinge’s director of relationship science. “Two out of three users have felt a growing connection with someone they met over video chat, and partnering with Uncommon Goods to help singles have a shared experience over video was the perfect collaboration.”

The pandemic and all its associated awkwardness hasn’t stopped folks from dating, in fact, Hinge has experienced recent growth, which is in part what led to the inspiration for this kit. According to Ury, Hinge saw a 63% increase in downloads globally and a 14% increase in dates compared to 2019.

As someone who met their boyfriend on Hinge amid the pandemic (we’ve now been dating for nine months), I was instantly curious about the Hinge x Uncommon Goods collaboration. My boyfriend and I wanted to take note of how the kit measured up to our on-app experience. Though we’ve already covered most of the first, second, and third date topics, the Virtual Date Night Kit let us mix things up, literally, with a build-your-own mixology kit and activity. We assessed the quality of the cocktail ingredients, the conversation starters, and pretended how it would be to experience as a first date if we took a time machine back to June 2020.

Whether it’s your first time communicating without message bubbles or you’ve been in a year-long relationship, the Hinge x Uncommon Goods Date Night Kit is a fun and fresh way to connect.

How it works

Let’s start with the basics. The kit includes the following:

You can purchase the kit here. They are buy-one, get-one, exclusive of shipping for each order. Alcohol is not included.

Once the “date planner” orders their kit, Uncommon Goods will e-mail them a unique redemption code to share with their date. This means no mailing addresses have to be exchanged between the two singles.

The second person on the date will then order their kit by entering their redemption code at checkout, where it says “Uncommon Credits.” Within a week, both singles will receive their kit.

Our review of the Hinge x Uncommon Goods Virtual Date Night Kit

Hinge Dating Kit

Even though I just turned 21, my boyfriend and I opted for the mocktail version (that is, omitting either rum, tequila, or vodka from our mixed drinks). I appreciated that the included recipe pamphlet – which also has the nine conversation starters on the flipside – labels alcohol as “optional” and outlines steps to skip if a mocktail is desired. Hinge x Uncommon Goods definitely gets brownie points for being inclusive of singles’ diverse preferences, whether they don’t drink alcohol or are a social drinker.

The kit categorizes three different cocktails for the type of date night ambiance you want to create with your new connection:

My boyfriend and I have since advanced from the virtual-only dating scene, but we thought it best to try the “More Than a Mule” drink because it sounded like something many folks would prefer for a first date.

The mini potion-like bottles of ginger-lime simple syrup and lime bitters made me feel like a bartending pro, and I liked how the kit amped up the typical crack-open-a-bottle experience. The opportunity to virtually create and mix a drink with your date makes for an easy way to beat the awkward silences that typically accompany Zoom dates.

Hinge virtual date night kit

Though the kit was a throwback to mine and my boyfriend’s first few days on the app, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of instruction on the kit’s outside label. To make testing it as realistic as possible, we opened the box virtually on the night we wanted to try the activity. As we were concocting and mixing, we realized that we both didn’t have lime juice on hand. I recently ran out of orange juice in my refrigerator as well – an ingredient to make the other two drinks in the recipe pamphlet – so I had no other choice but to make the “More Than a Mule” drink. And, even for that recipe, I substituted the lime juice for lemon juice, which turned out to be pretty delicious. Thankfully, I was fully stocked on club soda.

My boyfriend and I didn’t use the stainless steel jiggers because we mixed up a mocktail, but they would be useful if creating a cocktail. The included drink stirrers were a nice touch as well.

To top it all off, we appreciated the dried lime slices to feel like we were at a tiki bar. They made our small glasses look dynamite and, if you’re a lover of all things citrus, you can munch on them, too.

An overview of the conversation starters

As someone who loves finding getting-to-know-you questions online and playing them with my friends and family, the fact that this kit only includes nine conversation starters was kind of a letdown. Sure, if you’re getting to know someone, one question can slowly turn into a half-hour discussion on your cherished memories and favorite sitcoms. But, because my boyfriend and I adored The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D., on our video chats sprinkled throughout the week, we weren’t huge fans of the handful included with the kit.

Even though the $30 cost covers you and your date, it would have been nice to see more questions for the price. Regardless, it’s still a great concept and it was a great way to lead the discussion throughout the evening.

Should you buy it?

Buying the kit depends much on preference, how long you anticipate the video chat being, and most importantly – planning ahead. Since it takes about a week to ship, you’re going to have to keep the conversation going, whether it be on-app messaging, social media communication, or personal phone number exchanges.

It was nice to see a dating app go above and beyond the typical video chat or on-app prompts. However, opening your favorite bottle of wine and perhaps purchasing The Book of Questions makes for a similar experience.

I recommend this kit solely for privacy reasons. If you want to treat a potential suitor to an enjoyable, lighthearted date but aren’t up for meeting in person just yet, this is a great option. No shared addresses means you have more flexibility when it comes to establishing boundaries in the early stages of getting to know each other.

The bottom line

Hinge virtual date night kit 2021

While it was exciting to receive my Hinge Virtual Dating Kit in the mail, the $30 price point for nine questions and no alcohol included doesn’t give me a strong push to recommend it. Again, if keeping personal information, like your address, private is of high priority, definitely go for it. It’s a great business model to help aid online daters, but it’s not all that necessary – unless you’re really wanting to do a hands-on activity, like mixing drinks, virtually.

Pros: Amplifies the online dating experience, includes conversation starters to get to know your date, no sharing of addresses required

Cons: Doesn’t include alcohol and some other ingredients for cocktails, not many conversation starters

Virtual Dating Kit (button)

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The 4 best ice cube trays we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Choosing an ice cube tray requires sorting through different materials, sizes, and shapes.
  • We tested 14 ice cube trays to determine the best for everyday use, large cubes, spheres, and more.
  • Our top pick is the W&P Everyday Tray for its easy release and neatly shaped ice cubes.

Most ice cube trays successfully freeze water, but are difficult to maneuver when full, don’t release the ice easily, take up too much space in the freezer, or produce misshapen cubes. To solve those problems, classic plastic trays are being replaced by silicone molds and trays with locking lids. We wanted to put these features to the test to see if they improved the ice making experience.

There are three main materials for ice trays: silicone, plastic, and stainless steel. We tested trays in all three materials and focused on the most common shapes: regular cubes, large cubes, and spheres.

While ice might be the last thing on your mind when preparing a cocktail or a glass of ice water, experts told us that choosing the right size and shape cubes for your drink can make your drink taste better or stay colder longer. Joseph Gitter, senior editor at America’s Test Kitchen and recipe developer for How to Cocktail, told us that ice with a lower surface area to volume ratio (i.e., bigger cubes) takes longer to melt, cooling drinks slowly without diluting them. On the flipside, small cubes or crushed ice cool drinks faster, but provide more dilution.

I tested 14 ice cube trays and molds, making ice multiple times in each. I also spoke with Gitter and Micah Melton, Beverage Director at The Aviary, to find out what makes a great ice cube tray. Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or just a fan of iced water, there is an ice cube tray in this guide for you.

Here are the 4 best ice cube trays of 2021

The best overall

best ice cube tray 2021 w&p everyday tray

The W&P Everyday Tray had the smoothest release of all the trays we tested; each cube popped out without any resistance.

Pros: Ice cubes come out easily, you can remove exactly as many as you need

Cons: It’s time consuming to empty the whole tray of ice

The construction of the Everyday Tray is unique among the ice cube trays I tested. The Everyday Tray is made of silicone and none of the cubes share a wall, so you can release them one at a time by applying pressure to the bottom. I also found that this helps the cubes release easily because there is no friction between neighboring ice cubes and the whole tray doesn’t empty out at once.

Like many silicone trays, the Everyday Tray wobbled slightly when I walked it to the freezer, but the reinforced rim provides a good grip. The lid doesn’t seal, though it allows for stacking and promises some protection from odors. We will focus on this in our long term testing.

Best for spheres

best ice cube tray 2021 tolovo sphere mold

The Tovolo Sphere Molds‘ silicone and plastic construction makes them easy to fill and store without spills.

Pros: Easy to avoid overfilling, ridge between hemispheres less prominent than others we tested

Cons: You can only make two at a time

I tested three sphere molds and overflowed all of them, except for the Tovolo. The Tovolo has a plastic bottom with a marked max fill line and a silicone top. You fill the bottom portion and then push in the top, which squeezes out any excess water. There is no space for overflow to sneak in and freeze an odd shape to the sphere. 

After freezing, the instructions recommend running the plastic section under hot water, and I found the spheres popped out easily after doing so. All of the spheres had slight ridges where the top and bottom of the mold meet, but this line was less noticeable than on spheres made using other molds.

Best for large cubes

Best ice cube trays of 2021   best jumbo cube tray Samuelworld

The silicone Samuelworld Large Cube Tray is structured enough to produce cubes with sharp edges, but flexible enough that they pop out easily.

Pros: Cubes had neat edges

Cons: Can be difficult to extract cubes when ice tray is full

The Large Cube Tray from Samuelworld had the best combination of easily release and neatly shaped cubes. Part of the appeal of large cubes is their appearance. The Samuelworld tray is made of rigid silicone so the edges of the cubes stay sharp even as the water freezes and expands. 

The firm silicone is necessary for getting a precise shape, but it does make it harder to release the cubes.

Best spill-proof

best ice cube tray 2021 OXO

The OXO tray‘s silicone lid prevents leaking, allowing you to store it in small or crowded freezers without worry.

Pros: Leakproof, can be stored slanted or stacked

Cons: Cubes are an irregular shape, not dishwasher safe 

The OXO was the only truly leakproof ice cube tray we tested. The lid is a sheet of thin, flexible silicone, with tabs at one end to keep it attached to the plastic base. You smooth down the silicone over the filled tray and it adheres to the plastic so that no water escapes even if you flip the tray upside down (which we did).

The plastic base produced crescent shaped ice cubes that released easily with one or two taps on the bottom of the tray. If you’re looking for aesthetically pleasing ice, this tray may not be best for you because our cubes came out irregularly shaped (though still perfectly serviceable).

What else we tested

best ice cube tray 2021 what else

What else we recommend and why:

Lekue Ice Cube Tray and Box: This product had a lot of positives, but some design flaws. It takes three full lids of ice to fill the box, and the lid isn’t as flexible as other silicone trays so it’s harder to release the ice. However, I liked the gem-shaped ice aesthetically and the ice box itself is convenient and well-insulated. I left the full ice box covered at room temperature for a half hour and the ice inside didn’t melt. 

Tovolo Perfect Cube Ice Tray: This tray was a close second to the W&P Everyday Tray in the best overall category. The Tovolo’s unified bottom and plastic lid make it easy to store. It does make three more cubes than the Everyday Tray, but the cubes are much harder to get out. Though this tray has a sealing lid, it leaks more than our favorite no-spill tray. 

Tovolo King Cube Tray: Out of the large cube trays, the Tovolo had the most flexible silicone. While the ice cubes were the easiest to release, they were also the most misshapen. Since the aesthetics of large cubes are important, this was not my top pick.

Peak Sphere Ice Tray: This tray is made entirely of silicone, unlike the other spherical trays, which included at least some plastic. The silicone construction means these spheres were the easiest to get out of the mold right out of the freezer. Fortunately, excess water didn’t freeze onto the spheres because it was very easy to overflow this mold.


What we don’t recommend and why:

RSVP Endurance Old Fashioned Ice Cube Tray: If you are looking to avoid plastic and silicone, a stainless steel tray is your best solution. However, when testing the RSVP Endurance Tray, I noticed that the mechanism to break and release the cubes is not foolproof and can take several attempts to accomplish.

Peak Crushed Ice Tray and Lekue Crushed Ice Tray: I tested two crushed ice trays, but neither of them were successful. The shallow and narrow troughs produced ice spears, and twisting the molds to break them apart resulted in tinier spears, not crushed pieces. One plus is that because of the size and shape, the ice freezes quicker than in any other tray. The Lekue trays froze within two hours. 

Samuelworld Ice Sphere Molds: This mold has small spouts that you pour water through, and the funnel shape did make filling the mold less messy. However, if you overfilled it even a bit, some of the water would freeze in the shape of the spout, ruining the perfect sphere.   

OXO Good Grips Covered Large Ice Tray: This tray tried to fix the issues of stability and storage common to silicone trays by placing the silicone tray inside a plastic frame with a locking lid. Though the frame made it easier to stack, the lid froze to the base and was difficult to unlock. Plus, you have to remove the silicone tray from the plastic frame in order to get out the ice cubes. The problems solved were not greater than the inconveniences introduced.

Our methodology

best ice cube tray 2021 methodology
An ice cube tray stained with coffee, as part of our testing for odor and stain retention.

We consulted two experts on the uses of different ice shapes, how to make clear ice, and how to solve common ice problems. We spoke with Joseph Gitter, senior editor at America’s Test Kitchen and recipe developer for How to Cocktail, and Micah Melton, Beverage Director at The Aviary.

I tested 14 ice cube trays, making ice between three and five times in each tray according to the following tests.

Ease of use: The ideal tray is easy to bring to the freezer without spilling water, releases the ice without too much effort, and can be stacked in the freezer. We evaluated each tray based on these qualities. 

Performance: We evaluated the appearance and taste of the finished ice. We looked for sharp-edged cubes and smooth spheres. 

Odor retention: Silicone is a porous material and therefore can absorb scent that then imparts a taste or smell to the ice. We froze coffee in the ice cube trays, emptied and washed them, smelled them, and then froze water in the trays to see if the coffee taste or smell remained. (It’s worth noting that all but one of the trays passed this test.)

Leaking: For trays with sealable lids, we flipped unfrozen, full trays upside down to see if water spilled out.

What we’re testing next

best ice cube tray 2021 what we’re testing next

Glacio Ice Sphere Maker: These are stand-alone molds, like our current top pick for ice spheres, but made entirely of silicone. Testing the Glacio spheres could illustrate whether the plastic element or the stand-alone construction of our top pick was key to its success.  

True Cubes Clear Ice Cube Tray: We did not test an official clear ice system during this round of testing. After attempting to make clear ice ourselves, and finding it difficult, we are looking forward to seeing if this product makes it easier.

FAQs

best ice cube tray 2021 FAQ

Are ice cube trays dishwasher safe?

Cleaning instructions vary by product, so we recommend consulting the manufacturer’s instructions. All but one of our top picks is dishwasher safe.


Why does ice sometimes have an odor? How can you deodorize an ice cube tray?

Water absorbs air as it freezes, which can impact the flavor. Additionally, silicone is a porous material that can absorb scent. 

There are a few methods to deal with this problem. Tovolo recommends soaking its trays for an hour in a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water. For trays made wholly out of silicone, the New York Times suggests baking the trays for 20 minutes at 250 degrees F or lower.


Why should I use large cubes or spheres?

The main reason to use large cubes or spheres is to chill alcoholic beverages without diluting them. For example, spheres have a lower surface area to volume ratio than regular ice cubes. “Ice spheres are the worst at making a drink cold, but dilute it the least,” said Gitter. This is why large cubes are most ideal for a straight spirit.

However, large ice cubes or spheres aren’t perfect for all drinks. Some cocktails are meant to be diluted and slow melting ice can change the intended flavor. Gitter mentioned martinis as an example of this because, traditionally, the gin and vermouth are stirred with regular ice cubes before serving. The stirring action starts the melting process, which chills and dilutes the drink to a palatable flavor. An ice sphere wouldn’t melt quickly enough for this purpose, and you’d be left with a too strong and too warm cocktail.

We recommend using large cubes or spheres when serving straight spirits, or when you want to keep a drink cold without changing its flavor and strength.


What is clear ice and how is it made?

There are two factors that make ice cloudy: the direction the water freezes and impurities or air bubbles in the water. 

Most ice cube trays are not insulated, so water freezes from the outside in and from all directions. Safe tap water contains impurities that aren’t dangerous to drink, but can impact the flavor of the water and the appearance of the ice. As water freezes, it also absorbs some of the surrounding air. The absorbed air bubbles and the impurities are pushed towards the center of the ice as the outer layer freezes first. The air bubbles and impurities interfere with forming an organized crystal lattice and so the ice appears cloudy, said Gitter.

When making clear ice, you eliminate or limit those bubbles and impurities and focus the direction of freezing. “Essentially the process involves freezing the ice from a single direction versus all directions like a standard freezer,” said Melton. To make clear ice at home, first purify your water by boiling it. Then, you can follow Gitter’s technique of insulating an ice tray by surrounding it with dish towels and leaving the top exposed so it only freezes from the top down.

Besides the aesthetics, clear ice is less likely to have an odor or taste because it doesn’t contain absorbed gases from the surrounding air, according to Melton.

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