‘Top Chef’ Winner Michael Voltaggio Shares Entertaining Tips and a Summer Drink Recipe

Chef Michael Voltaggio gin shaken cocktail
Chef Michael Voltaggio Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images

Chef Michael Voltaggio – the winner of season 6 of Bravo’s Top Chef – knows a thing or two about how to throw a good party, especially now that he’s quit smoking!

The cook, who recently gave up smoking after realizing his occasional habit had morphed into “an actual addiction,” has partnered with Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ to tell his own story and encourage others to share their successful tales. “For me, it was about changing my lifestyle,” he explains to Us Weekly about how he ultimately kicked the vice. “It wasn’t necessarily just about dropping one habit, but it was about becoming a different person.”

With smoking in his past, Voltaggio was eager to share his summer entertaining tips with Us, including a recipe for a shaken gin cocktail. Check out his five tips below!

Shop Before Your Event
Whether you’re throwing a simple backyard barbecue or hosting a more elaborate dinner party, it’s crucial to prep beforehand. “You shop two days before, you prep as much as possible the day before,” Voltaggio explains. “The last thing you want to do, unless everyone’s involved in the cooking process, is cooking all day long when you’re entertaining. Unless it’s part of the activity that everyone’s participating in, you’re then the person off in the corner cooking while everyone else is having fun.”

Get Everyone Involved
However, if getting everyone involved in the planning process is more your speed, that can be entertaining, too. “That’s one thing that I’m a big fan of now,” Voltaggio says. “Not only does it help with the entertaining factor of it, but certainly, it gets the kids involved and eating better, too. If they’re involved in the cooking process, then they’re more curious to taste the food.”

Don’t Experiment
As tempting as it might be to try out a new recipe on a dining room or backyard full of guests, Voltaggio advises against it. “I don’t think if you’re having people over you should be trying anything on the day of,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is say, ‘Sorry, guys, I just tried this for the first time today and it didn’t work, ’because everyone’s then hungry.”

Chef Michael Voltaggio gin shaken cocktail
Chef Michael Voltaggio’s shaken gin cocktail. Courtesy of Michael Voltaggio

Have an Activity
Though food is likely the main event, Voltaggio is a fan of having a summer soiree complete with an activity to entertain your guests. “I think when you can create certain things or activities for people to do, that connects the entire group,” he explains. “Create activities where everyone can compete and be competitive together. And that could also be cooking. Have everyone bring a dish to the party, and have your own conversation about whose dish was the best.”

Make Cocktails By the Pitcher
When you’re hosting a party it can be tedious to be constantly making sure everyone has a drink in hand, which is why Voltaggio is a fan of serving cocktails in pitchers. “Why was the margarita the only cocktail that could be put in a pitcher?” he asks. “Start making other batch cocktails and serving them in pitchers. I love that.”

Check out Voltaggio’s recipe for his own batch drink – a shaken gin cocktail – below:

Shaken Gin Cocktail
Makes 1 serving

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 oz Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
  • .75 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .25 oz beet syrup (See recipe below)
  • 1 celery stalk (5 inches)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Place lime juice and beet syrup in shaker tin

2. Add celery

3. Muddle

4. Add gin and St-Germain

5. Shake

6. Double strain into rocks glass

7. Garnish with celery leaf

Batch: (equal to 1 quart)

  • 17.75 oz Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
  • 10.75 oz St-Germain liqueur

For the beet syrup: (equal to 1 quart)

  • 16 oz beet juice
  • 16 oz white sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Cut beets into quarters

2. Juice in auto juicer

3. Place in medium pot

4. Cook on high heat until foam separates from liquid

5. Remove from heat

6. Skim any foam from mixture, there will be some you can’t get out

7. Add sugar

8. Stir with whisk until sugar is dissolved

9. Place in quart container

10. Let cool

With reporting by Marc Lupo

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