There are two cocktails which are irrevocably identified with Venice: the Spritz and the Bellini. The Bellini was born in Venice’s most famous watering hole: Harry’s Bar. Owner and barkeep, Giuseppe Cipriani, created his bubbly celebration-in-a-glass in the 1930s. When he reopened his bar after World War II, he resurrected the cocktail and christened it “the Bellini” in honor of Giovanni Bellini, one of Renaissance Venice’ finest painters.
That Cipriani named his smooth and elegant cocktail for Bellini is particularly appropriate. Giovanni Bellini (c. 1420 -1516) shaped Venetian painting, bringing the best of Florentine technique to Venice while still maintaining the smooth sensuality that distinguishes Venetian painters from other Italians. His work doesn’t have the raw sexiness that would define Titian, his student. But his figures are soft, fleshy, and strikingly human.
So, how do you pour all of that into a glass?
Start with the Perfect Peach Puree:
Harry’s Bar and its cousin, Venice's luxurious Hotel Cipriani, start with the flesh of white peaches (not yellow). Fresh peaches are best, but their season is short, so frozen peaches can be used, too. The peach flesh is grated or blended on a very low speed until it is a thick puree. The charming bartender at the Hotel Cipriani admonished me not to incorporate too much air into the puree -- it interferes with the bubbles, and we certainly don’t want that!
If the peaches aren’t sweet enough, stir in simple syrup to taste. But a Bellini is never sickeningly sweet (and it is never, ever made with candy-flavored schnapps).
Fill a cold champagne flute 3/4 full of peach puree and top with Prosecco, Venice’s sparkling wine. Prosecco is sweet, bubbly, and refreshing. Read more about Prosecco here.
A hint: all of the ingredients should be cold, cold, cold!
The Bellini cocktail tastes the way a Bellini painting looks -- deceptively simple, clear and refreshing. It is bubbly and full of life -- like biting into that perfect, juicy peach. Perfection!
Where to Enjoy the Perfect Bellini Cocktail in Venice:
Where to Enjoy the Perfect Bellini Painting in Venice (and Beyond):
- The Accademia (Venice): “Camerlenghi Madonna”
- Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (Venice): “Virgin and Child with Saints”
- Museo Correr (Venice): an entire room is devoted to Giovanni Bellini and his brother Gentile including “Transfiguration,” “Madonna and Child,” “Crucifixion,” and “Christ Supported by Angels”
- San Giovanni Crisostomo (Venice): “Saints Jerome, Christopher, and Louis of Toulouse”
- Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Venice): “Saints Vincent Ferrer, Christopher, and Sebastian”
- The Palazzo Querini-Stampalia (Venice): “Presentation in the Temple”
- San Zaccaria (Venice): “Madonna and Four Saints”
- San Pietro Martire (Murano): “Madonna and Child with St. Mark, St. Augustine, and Doge Barbarigo,” and “Assumption”
- Kimbell Art Museum (Ft. Worth, Texas): “Christ Blessing” and “Madonna with Child”
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY): “Madonna and Child”