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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bellini---Venice's Quintessential Aperitivo


My local Farmer’s Market in San Diego county is brimming with just plucked-from-the-tree peaches in every size, shape and color-----their intoxicating fragrances stopped me dead in my tracks this weekend.  While I heard others talking about cobbler and jam, I was catapulted to Venice, Italy.  Peaches, especially white peaches, are synonomous with Venice’s most famous cocktail, the Bellini.

I remember the first time a Bellini crossed my lips.  It was the late 1970’s and we were in the garden of the fabulous Cipriani Hotel in Venice.  There was a wedding reception and all of the guests were drinking a pale pink colored drink in a champagne flute.  The waiter told me it was a drink made from sparkling wine and white peach juice, adding that the drink had actually been invented in the 1930’s by the owner of the Cipriani hotel.  How could I refuse?   I’ve been in love with this luscious aperitivo ever since.

The Bellini was named by Giuseppe Cipriani in honor of the famous 15th century Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini.  The original drink, only available during the summer when white peaches from the nearby hills were at their prime, also had a small amount of raspberry or cherry juice to give it color.  Prosecco, the area’s sparkling wine, completes the perfect mixture. 

If you can’t make the trek to Venice in the near future, here’s the next best alternative for a Bellini:  make a puree in a food processor from a white peach with a few raspberries. STRAIN the fruit (otherwise, the juice will separate from the sparkling wine when added).  Chill the strained liquid fruit.  Pour prosecco into a chilled flute, then add the liquid fruit----I use a 2:1 ratio (2 parts Prosecco to 1 part peach juice).   Stir the drink and serve immediately.

Viva Venezia!

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