To the increasingly long list of classic cocktails that I never really “got,” add the Bellini: that famed creation by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder and owner of the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Harry’s is known for three things: the Bellini, Carpaccio, and being an overpriced tourist trap.
I’ll admit to never having tried at Bellini at its birthplace, but I can attest to ordering it once or twice at one of the various Sunday brunch buffets around the world that serves this sloppy mess. And let me tell you, for as much of a guilty pleasure thrill I get from a nice view paired with all-you-can-eat crab legs and Hollandaise sauce from a powdered mix, nothing sucks the joy out of life like a tepid glass of Cook’s “champagne” spiked with peach puree squeezed out of a bag.
I’m not the biggest fan of summer coming to a close, but the one thing that makes it bearable for me is the availability of fresh, ripe, juicy peaches. At the late point in the year, there’s hardly any need to sweeten your puree past what nature has already done, but I still keep a small bottle of 2:1 simple syrup on hand at all times in case of… let’s call them “cocktail emergencies.”
Grab the ripest, freshest white peaches you can find—plan on about one small peach for every Bellini you plan to serve. Peel and pit each, and puree them in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need to run the puree through a sieve or fine-mesh strainer if you want to do this right, as serving a cocktail the consistency of applesauce to your guests is a major party foul. Bottle your peach puree in a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.
I have played with the proportions of this drink for years, finally settling on the recipe below as it provides the best wine-to-puree ratio and ensures a slight late morning glow while not being overly thick. I finally “get” the Bellini, though I still don’t get one at a buffet.
• 1½ oz. white peach puree
• 4½ oz. chilled prosecco (I prefer a basic, semi-sweet prosecco here, something overly complex and dry from France or Spain isn’t going to pair well with peach)
In an 8 oz Champagne flute, add peach puree and slowly pour prosecco while stirring to combine with a wooden chopstick. Serve without garnish.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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