Leslie Kirchhoff is the definition of a triple-threat. As a photographer, DJ, and entrepreneur, the Los Angeles-based cool girl currently juggles three different creative careers that all intertwine ideally. Her most recent venture is focused on innovating the old ice cube at Disco Cubes, the company she founded last spring. There, she creates artisanal ice for large-scale events—often ones where she DJs or photographs as well—transforming tasty cocktails into beautiful, Instagram-ready creations.
Prior to launching her business, Kirchhoff had been developing her ice cube idea for about four years. “I took my sweet time with everything, from the actual research and experimentation to creating the vibe and identity,” she says. She realized she’d discovered an untapped market. “I had found something abstract enough to use as a medium for art, obscure enough that it hadn’t been done before, and beautiful enough that people would pay top dollar for it,” she says.
Her works certainly elevate the traditional happy-hour experience. “Great cocktails can actually be considered multi-sensory sculptures,” Kirchhoff says. “Mixologists are truly becoming artists, much like chefs have become. You have the architectural elements, like the shape and texture of the glassware, the color and clarity of the drink. . . You can add any number of things to modify the taste, feel, and presentation, like an egg white, a dash of bitters, a flame. . . and then you have the ice. Every element is so carefully calculated that it’s a wonder why more people aren’t experimenting with ice.”
She’s created habanero-infused “ring of fire” cubes, and frozen little uterus shapes inside ice for a Planned Parenthood event. She’s also done more elaborate pieces, such as globe-inspired ice spheres. “I used a naturally blue tea that I found in China, called butterfly-pea tea, for the base, and added mint sprigs as the mini continents,” Kirchhoff says.?“I then created an aloe and lemon cocktail to pair with it, which started out pale yellow in color, and then transformed to bright pink as the globe melted.”
Kirchhoff says she gets the majority of her inspiration for her ice cube designs from travel, though she also cites architecture, nature, and color. Most of Kirchhoff’s cubes are primarily made to satisfy the eye, though she does infuse some with different flavors, depending on what’s inside and how close to the surface it is. “Many of the new colored cubes I’ve been playing with add a lot of flavor or even change the drink completely over the course of it,” she says. “Spicy ice is my new favorite to have on hand, as well as hibiscus grapefruit cubes.”
While Kirchhoff keeps her production methods top-secret—“there have been some ice spies trying to figure out my methods, I kid you not,” she says—she insists that it’s possible to make fancy ice cubes at home, too. (Just likely not to her expert level.) In fact, she encourages it. “My favorite clear mold is by a company called?Wintersmiths,” she says. “And for flavored or non-clear cubes, I love?Peak?brand trays.” Call it the best upcoming party trick you didn’t know you needed—a way to take hosting to the next level. “The cubes really get people’s creative minds running,” she says. “People are at first awe-struck and curious, then they compare their cubes with [those of] people around them, snap a handful of photos, and then someone declares their idea of how they think the cubes were made.”
In honor of spring, Vogue asked Kirchhoff to craft three cocktail recipes using floral Disco Cubes—and better yet, tapping into her DJ skills, she also created the perfect spring mixtape to sip them to. Her playlist, a mix of the old and the new, can be listened to on Spotify here. “I miss the art of the mixtape, where playlists have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” she says of it. “True playlists are meant to be listened to in order, not on shuffle. I love how the mind relates to music, and how even after decades, you can recall an intro that came after a certain track on your favorite mix.”
Here, Kirchhoff outlines how to make her custom cocktails.
Clear Floral Ice Cubes
Freeze a variety of edible flowers in the compartments of a clear ice mold, preferably?Wintersmiths.?Freeze until solid and store in freezer until ready to use. Feel free to mix and match with the shapes and glassware, finding the best vessel to showcase your florals and cubes.
Spring Cocktail Ingredient No. 01: Rhubarb
An ode to that timeless combo of rhubarb pie and ice cream.
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz rhubarb shrub (recipe below)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Cream soda, for topping
1 floral ice sphere
Place floral ice sphere in a cocktail glass.?In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine vodka, rhubarb shrub, and lemon juice. Cover and shake for 15 seconds, then double strain into glass. Top with cream soda.
Rhubarb Shrub Syrup:
2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/4” pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
Combine the rhubarb, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is broken down, about 12 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and transfer to a glass bottle. Let cool and store in the fridge for up to a week.
Spring Cocktail Ingredient No. 02: Snap Pea
As green as the new leaves on the trees outside. But much tastier.
1 oz gin .1/2 oz dry fino sherry
1 oz Snap Pea Syrup (recipe below)
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
? oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Pinch of sea salt
Splash of soda water
1 floral ice cube
Place floral cube in a cocktail glass.?In a cocktail shaker filled with plain ice, combine the gin, fino sherry, snap pea syrup, lemon and lime juices, and salt. Cover and shake for 15 seconds. Double strain into the glass, then top with splash of soda water.
Snap Pea Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed, roughly chopped
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add the mint, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the mint.
In a blender, combine the snap peas and mint syrup. Purée until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a lidded glass jar.
Spring Cocktail Ingredient No. 03: Kumquat
Tart, spicy, and smoky—this one really gets your engine going.
1 oz Yola Mezcal
3/4 oz Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
1/2 oz Kumquat simple syrup (recipe below)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
Splash of soda water
1 floral ice spear
Sliced kumquat, for garnish
Place floral spear in a collins glass.?In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine mezcal, chile liqueur, kumquat simple syrup, and lime juice. Cover and shake for 15 seconds. Double strain into glass, and top with soda water. Garnish with sliced kumquat.
Kumquat Simple Syrup:
Combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup hot water, and 3 kumquats, sliced and seeded in a blender. Puree until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh strainer.