Invented around 1940 by the founder of Harry’s Bar Giuseppe Cipriani, the Bellini is a long cocktail
made of a mixture of sparkling wine and peach puree. Originating in Venice, Bellini is one of Italy’s
most popular and widely loved cocktails. It is said the drink was given its name due to its pinkish
colouring, which reminded its creator of a painting of a saint in a similar coloured toga. The painting
was by Giovanni Bellini, a 15th century artist.
In its early days the drink was a seasonal speciality at Harry’s Bar, a place frequented by Ernest
Hemingway, Orson Welles and Sinclair Lewis. In later years a Frenchman set up a company that
exported fresh white peaches to the bar all year round, along with the bar’s New York counterpart.
As mentioned the Bellini consists of pureed white peaches and sparkling wine; traditionally
Prosecco. It is served straight up (without ice) in a champagne flute. The original recipe contained
hints of raspberry or cherry to add to the pink glow. Partly due to the limited availability of
Prosecco and white peaches and partly due to modern ‘innovation’, several versions of the classic
Italian cocktail exist.
If white peaches are out of season, peach nectar or yellow peaches can be used in their place in
order to avoid a bland taste. Californian white peaches also substitute well in a Bellini.
An alternative can made with peach schnapps and champagne. By adding ice cubes, vodka and
peach schnapps one can create what is known as a Bellini Martini. Typically this is shaken and
garnished with lemon twist. A mango Bellini is made up of 1 part mango juice and 2 parts sparkling
wine or champagne, with a mango slice garnish. A Bombay Bellini is made using mango puree for a
thicker texture. Romano’s Macaroni Grill specialises in a frozen variety of the Bellini.
The Bellini’s popularity led it to become an IBA official cocktail and today it is widely made and
available in cocktail bars across the world. The cocktail also features in the first half of Jeff in
Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer. The editor of Cheers magazine, Jack Robertiello
commented on the Bellini; ‘I think the Bellini growth is tied to the very strong Italian chain
restaurant growth, especially Olive Garden, since Italian restaurants are where Bellini’s... are
featured and promoted’.
As mentioned, many recipes use champagne, although Prosecco is not only more authentic but
cheaper too! Other classic Italian cocktails to try include the Americano, which is a mix of liqueur,
soda and sweet vermouth. Like the Bellini, the Americano is also on the IBA official cocktail list,
down as a ‘before dinner’ cocktail rather than a long drink. The Sgroppino is a blend of vodka, the
aforementioned Prosecco and lemon sorbet. Finally, the Bicicletta, made from dry white wine,
liqueur and club soda is another favourite in Italy. Incidentally, the Bicicletta gets its name from an
elderly gentleman who was notorious for swerving all over the road on his cycle home from his
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