Peach Bellini Cocktail
At the beginning of August, in preparation for my trip to Venice, I checked out a guidebook from the library. Lonely Planet’s Venice & the Veneto. The first time I cracked the book, though, was at the end of August, when my childhood friend Kim and I squeezed into our narrow airplane seats bound for Italy.
I read only briefly: Just long enough learn how to get from the airport to our apartment. I skipped the pages on museums and monuments. This trip wasn’t about landmarks. It was about people.
It all started back in 1979, when my parents, still childless, found themselves in Munich, during Octoberfest, without a hotel room. They pulled a few strings and eventually landed in the home of Gunter and Lore, a German couple of their age, with three kids. Over the years, my parents developed a lasting friendship with the couple and I a bond with their youngest son, Adrian.
A couple years ago, Adrian started dropping hints that he thought I should join him for a trip to the Venice Film Festival. (As social critic for one of Germany’s major newspapers, Adrian goes every year.) I, in turn, started dropping hints with Kim. Eventually, she agreed to Adrian’s offer.
So I headed off to Venice with one of my oldest friends, to meet a distant friend (the son of my parents’ friends), with promises of new friends. Adrian was bringing his inner circle, and in my back pocket, I had the email address of a Venetian friend of a friend, who happened to be the barman at one of Venice’s oldest, most luxurious hotels.
I saw no conventional museums or cathedrals in Venice. But our last night in that floating city (Venice is built on a lagoon), Kim and I found ourselves raising the city’s signature cocktail, the bellini, with four big-hearted Germans, to a smiling Venetian barman.
The peach bellini cocktail, a light and easy mixture of prosecco and peach puree, is an important cocktail in Venice’s history. It was invented in the first part of the 20th century at Harry’s Bar, the city’s most notorious watering hole; named after the Italian artist Giovanni Bellini; and for years, has kept up the spirits of Venice’s visiting celebrities, like Ernest Hemingway and Orson Wells.
Yet the bellini never got a mention in the guidebook. A shame because the fizzy drink carries as much history as a museum—and has a great ability to solidify friendship. As I raised my glass with the Germans, letting the cocktail’s bubbles and fruitiness go to my head, I was certain of two things. This toast was the beginning of a German-Italian-American friendship, not the end of a vacation. And in Colorado, it was peach season.
Peach Bellini Cocktail
Just off the main plaza in Venice is Harry’s Bar, the birthplace of the bellini cocktail. Years ago, Harry’s combined sweet peach nectar and prosecco, and since then Italy (and the rest of the world) have wholeheartedly adopted the Venetian apperitif. During peach season, it’s easy to understand why. This easy-to-make cocktail is light and elegant—and a perfect end to a late summer day.
Traditionally the cocktail uses white peach puree. But it is Colorado peach season, and I couldn’t pass up using our state’s juicy yellow fruit. Yellow peaches make a delicious, but darker hued, more fruit forward bellini.
2-3 medium, ripe peaches, peeled and diced
¼-¾ cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 750 ml bottle prosecco, chilled
In a food processor, blend peaches, ¼ cup water, lemon juice, and sugar until completely smooth, about 45 seconds. Peach nectar should be the consistency of V8. If nectar is too thick, add ¼ cup water and blend. Continue until peach mixture is the desired texture.
Using a sieve, strain peach nectar.
In a large pitcher, slowly stir together 1 cup peach nectar and prosecco, until well combined. Serve in Champagne or wine glasses.
For printable recipe, click here.