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.
“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.
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.
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.