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All about the Bellini and where to get the best one in Venice.
It's difficult to imagine Venice in the summer without the Bellini cocktail, but it hasn't been around forever. Harry's Bar claims that founder barman Giuseppe Cipriani created the Bellini in the Thirties, but didn't bother to name it until 1948, during an exposition in Venice of the paintings of Giovanni Bellini. Whenever it was created, it was a terrific idea, featuring two Veneto regional products of excellence - Prosecco sparkling wine paired with white peaches.
Harry's Bar serves the drink all year round, making it with frozen white-peach puree from France. I prefer the Bellini at the Hotel Cipriani. It's on the menu only in the summer, but barman Walter Bolzonella stretches the season with peaches known as H6. Pronounced AH-KA-SAY, although it's probably an American hybrid, this peach has juicy white pulp veined with pink, which gives the Bellini a rosy color.
By the way, I have heard tales from Venetian friends of special peaches from the lagoon that are ideal for Bellinis because of their strong red coloring. I have never found one. If you should also hear this story, you might join the search for this legendary fruit, but in the meantime, enjoy the beautiful H6.
Purists may crush the fruit through a chinois with their hands. Everyone else can follow the recipe I've adapted from the Cipriani's and blend or process. Then fill your glasses. Take a sip. Close your eyes and think Venetian canal...
September 10, 1998
-Faith Heller Willinger
This recipe is adapted from that of Walter Bolzonella, barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.
For the peach puree:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
2 teaspoons sugar
For the drinks:
A few raspberries, if desired, for color.
1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine, preferably Nino Franco
Put water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit, and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don't discolor, and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours. Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if peaches are tart. Bear in mind that this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don't have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing. Transfer mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.
Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.