How Giada De Laurentiis Plans a Menu Around a Cocktail

Aperol Spritz Courtesy of Aperol
By Justine Sterling Posted September 03, 2015

In the summer, chef and entertaining guru Giada De Laurentiis has an unusual approach to menu planning. “I find a cocktail that I want to make and I work the food around it,” she says.

In the summer, chef and entertaining guru Giada De Laurentiis has an unusual approach to menu planning. “I find a cocktail that I want to make and I work the food around it,” she says. “It really opens people’s eyes and makes them think about cocktails in a different way.” For example, if she opts for a drink with lots of citrus, she’ll build a pasta dish with a similar flavor profile—like her lemony spaghetti with grilled shrimp.

Looking to a cocktail for main-course inspiration was something she learned from her grandfather and is, in part, a reflection of her Italian heritage. “Italians don’t drink like Americans do,” she says. “They don’t drink to get drunk. In Italy, there’s a sense of glamour and elegance. They drink to enhance the food. It’s a different philosophy.” Here, two of De Laurentiis’s favorite summer centerpiece cocktails.

Aperol Spritz 
“I love my Aperol Spritz: Prosecco, a little Aperol, a little club soda and lemon,” De Laurentiis says. “I was just in Positano and that’s the drink I had every day. Every night, I’d finish work and go back to the hotel and they’d be like, ‘Do you want your Aperol Spritz?' And I’d say, yes. I would have that with fried arancini di riso. It was almost like the cocktail would clean my palate and I could get started on a new course. It’s interesting how alcohol can do that.” Here, a few more ideas for deliciously crispy, fried foods that would also be great with an Aperol Spritz.

Frangelico Frizzante
Though sweet, hazelnut-flavored Frangelico is typically used in creamy, wintery cocktails or desserts, the Italian liqueur is also a great, if unusual, base for a spritzy summer cocktail called the Frangelico Frizzante. “It’s actually really refreshing. It’s very light, but it has a hint of sweetness from the hazelnut liqueur,” De Laurentiis says. “I feel like in the summertime people look for a little bit of a sweeter cocktail than they would in the winter.” This is a great example of a cocktail she would pair with a lemony pasta. Here, De Laurentiis’s recipe for a Frangelico Frizzante.

Frangelico Frizzante
Makes one drink

1 part Frangelico
2 parts sparkling water
Squeeze of fresh lime

Pour the Frangelico and sparkling water into a glass filled with ice. Squeeze in the lime, stir and serve.

Related: More Recipes from Giada De Laurentiis
Modern Summer Cocktails
Bracing Aperitifs

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