Ah, the Bellini, the cocktail of brunches and leisure activities served around the world. It’s made from a mixture of Prosecco (a sparkling wine) and peach puree or nectar. As the use of Prosecco implies, it originated in Venice, Italy. It’s a grand (and tasty!) tradition in Italy to marinate peaches in wine, and the Bellini embraces that tradition and takes it to the next level.
It was first created sometime between 1934-1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, who is the founder of the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice. Interestingly, he named it the Bellini after being inspired by the pink hue of a saint’s toga depicted in a painting by a 15th century artist from Venice, named Giovanni Bellini. Although that’s quite the leap in logic, I’m sure Bellini wouldn’t mind having a famous cocktail named after him. The drink was first made with a little raspberry or cherry juice to give it the pink tint that Cipriani desired.
Traditionally, the Bellini is made with white peaches, which is a bit of a problem because they’re only available in season for a few months each year. But, it was a seasonal favorite at Harry’s Bar, and quickly gained popularity at it’s New York location, as well. The problem was solved when a Frenchman decided to make a business out of shipping fresh white peach puree to both bars. After that, they were able to sell it year-round. Now the Cipriani family makes their own white peach puree to be used at the bar.
Because of the seasonal availability of the white peaches, people have gotten a little creative. There are a few substitutions that you can make. You could use yellow peaches, peach juice, peach nectar, or peach liqueur (like Schnapps). Also, rather than using Prosecco, you can use Champagne. However, even though most places serve Bellinis made with Champagne, the Champagne doesn’t pair well with the light flavor of the peaches, due to its richness.
The reason that many people enjoy Bellinis with brunch or lunch, besides the fact that they’re delicious, is due to it’s low alcohol content. A typical Bellini has somewhere around a 7% ABV (14 proof). If you substitute Schnapps for peaches, the alcohol content goes up to around 15% ABV or 30 proof. So, you can easily consume a few without getting too tipsy.
Simple Bellini Cocktail
This recipe is pretty simple, and gives you lots of room to make it your own. Just remember to pour the sparkling wine of your choice over the peach juice slowly because it will bubble up and you don’t want a mess.
- 2 oz peach juice, puree or nectar
- 4 oz sparkling wine
- Pour peach juice into a Champagne flute
- Top with sparkling wine
Classic Bellini Cocktail
This is pretty close to the original recipe. Not only does the raspberry juice add a pop of pink color to the drink, it adds to the flavor, as well.
- 2 oz peach juice
- 4 oz chilled sparkling wine
- 1 Tablespoon raspberry juice
- Pour peach juice into a Champagne flute
- Slowly pour the sparkling wine over the juice
- let it sit for around a minute so that the ingredients blend
- Pour the raspberry juice over the Champagne/peach mixture
Jamie Olliver’s Bellini
This is a great recipe with lots of flavor. It requires a little more work than simply using peach juice would, but it’s definitely worth it. If you add just a splash of raspberry juice to it, this recipe is probably the next best thing to sipping a Bellini at Harry’s Bar in Venice!
- 4 white peaches
- 1 part sugar syrup
- 4 parts Martini Rossi Prosecco
- Blend the peaches into puree
- Strain and then refrigerate until it’s cold
- Mix 2 parts of the puree with 1 part sugar syrup
- Add about 20ml of the mixture into the bottom of a Champagne flute and then slowly pour the Prosecco over it
- Stir thoroughly before serving
Berry Bellini Cocktail
These Bellinis have a fun color that’s darker than a typical Bellini, because of the berries. They would make a great drink for brunches any time of year, or Summer parties. Just remember that the alcohol content of these cocktails is slightly higher due to the added Schnapps!
- 2 Tablespoons of berry puree made from 1 pint of berries
- 1 Tablespoon raspberry liqueur or Schnapps
- 6 oz Champagne
- Put the berries into a food processor and create a puree
- Strain to remove seeds
- Spoon puree into the bottom of a Champagne flute
- Add the liqueur
- Top with Champagne
The Bellini Variations by Mario Batali
The best part about this recipe is that you can tailor it to suit your tastes. So, if you like strawberries more than peaches, you can fill your glass with more strawberry puree. And, the use of fresh fruit leaves these Bellinis bursting with flavor.
- 6 peaches
- 4 pink grapefruit
- 2 pints strawberries
- 1 bottle sparkling Italian wine
- Create peach puree by peeling and pitting them, then pureeing them in a blender
- Pour into a glass pitcher and set aside
- Juice the grapefruits and then pour the juice into a glass pitcher, as well
- Rinse and hull the strawberries and make a puree out of them
- Pour the purrees according to your taste preferences, until the Champagne flute is around 1/3 full of fruit puree
- Slowly top with sparkling wine
- Add a long spoon and serve immediately
Honeydew Melon Bellini
This isn’t technically a Bellini because there are no peaches in it, but it’s a great recipe and I’m not going to take points off just for their choice of fruit. This drink’s got a lot of citrusy, refreshing flavors and colors, which would be a great way to cool off at an outdoor party or barbeque during the Summer.
- 5 cups diced honeydew melon (around half a melon)
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- Sugar to taste (depending on how sweet the melon is)
- 1 bottle chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine
- In a blender, add the honeydew, lime juice and sugar to create a puree
- Strain and chill for at least 30 minutes, or until serving
- Pour the puree into Champagne flutes. (Around 1/3 full, but no more than 1/2 full.)
- Add the sparkling wine slowly
- Stir gently
Whether you’re enjoying a nice cocktail with your brunch, want a fruity apertif with dinner, or want to create a crowd-pleasing cocktail for a party, the Bellini won’t disappoint. Even if you aren’t fond of peaches, there are other variations with different types of fruits that are sure to please your palette. Just remember that they’re so tasty and easy to drink that after a few, the alcohol content can catch up to you eventually, especially if you choose a variation where Schnapps are involved.