Leslie Kirchhoff never orders the same cocktail twice, but she always opts for something on the rocks. The multi-medium creative—who cut her teeth in New York as a photographer and DJ, and recently relocated to Los Angeles—has made an art of drink-making, though her main focus isn’t what’s being poured; she’s all about the ice.
As the founder of Disco Cubes, a visually focused edible experience, Kirchhoff designs ice cubes, which she photographs in her signature, warm-toned aesthetic evocative of the sultry ’70s nightclub scene, noting Danish designer Verner Panton as a key influence. “It’s as much an art project as it is an ice cube company,” she says—one that counts vegan fast-casual joint By Chloe and Gia Coppola Wines as clients.
With a book set to publish next year, the ice cube innovator embarked on a scouting trip last fall that included stops in Copenhagen, Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, and Tokyo, gathering intel on the best drinks, glassware, and design in each city. “You really have to travel and be out in the real world, seeing things with your own eyes and talking to people,” she says. “I’m constantly looking for inspiration.” Kirchhoff is just warming up—but her creations are perfectly chilled. Lucky she has plenty of tips to share to help you create your own icy concoctions.
Invest in glassware you love
Sure, glasses and ice cubes might not seem like the most important thing about a cocktail, but both of them can make or break a drink. For Kirchhoff, a bit of discernment goes a long way. “The glassware you own really does say a lot about you. Thin glass feels great to the touch and elegant on the lips, and crystal has the most beautiful ring when cheers-ing,” she says. Just make sure that if you get experimental with your ice, you have the cups to match. “If you’re making king cubes (2-by-2-by-2 inches), ensure you have glassware that’s at least 3 inches in diameter so the cubes can fit inside,” she notes.
Don’t freeze just water
Anyone who’s sipped on a summertime glass of frosé knows that wine can be frozen, but the possibilities of what to freeze for cocktail upgrades extends even beyond that. “I like to encourage people to be experimental with ice, especially in a way that promotes less waste. If there’s juice you won’t finish or herbs that are on the verge of going bad, freeze them into ice cubes!” Kirchhoff says. “Just be mindful about sugar and alcohol content—both make freezing more difficult. Wine needs to be watered down—about a 1:2 wine-to-water ratio—or else it will have a slushy texture. Sugar makes a sticky cube, so I generally add some water when freezing juices.”
Pick up a few molds
Chances are, you already have an ice cube tray. While a standard cube shape is fine, you certainly won’t regret investing in something a little more inventive. Candy molds make tiny ice balls, and true cube-shaped molds feel more festive than your usual crescent. Pick up a couple and have some fun.
Try these drinks
Here are some ideas to get you started on what to serve at your next summertime get-together. Plan ahead: Since ice cubes play a starring role in each of these cocktails, you’ll want to do your prep work long before company arrives (or before you decide to treat yourself to a spur-of-the-moment nightcap). Totally chill.
Pearls of Wisdom
Silicone candy molds are the secret weapon for crafting perfectly spherical ice. Blend and freeze seasonal fruits and juices to create Bellini and mimosa balls—and, when the moment’s right, just add Prosecco (or champagne, Aperol, amaro, seltzer…) plus a floral garnish for an instant and impressive make-your-own-spritz bar.
A light cocktail of Fino sherry, seltzer, lemon juice, and simple syrup transforms into a totally serene refreshment, thanks to these spa-worthy cubes made from juiced cucumber and mint leaves. For a mocktail version, just swap the sherry for an herbaceous nonalcoholic spirit, like Kin Euphorics.
Garden Party in a Glass
Sprigs of herbs such as thyme, marjoram, and rosemary become riveting specimens in ice cubes made using rectangular silicone molds—a striking addition to an otherwise simple gin and tonic. Reach for an artisanal tonic water (Kirchhoff recommends Fever Tree) to complete this botanical fantasy.
The Spice Is Right
Cubes made out of blended (and deseeded) habañero pepper, mango, and a splash of water mean that these margaritas stay spicy—and vibrantly hued—with each sip. Hot tip: Taste the mixture before freezing to ensure it’s packing just the right amount of heat.
See more entertaining ideas:
16 No-Bake Dessert Recipes for Hot Summer Nights
5 Food Stylists Dish on How to Get the Perfect Instagrammable Plate
A Fashion Insider Schools Us on the Art of the Sicilian Dinner Party