The cocktail was named after 15th-century Italian painter, Giovanni Bellini. Legend has it that the inspiration for this drink came from the pink colour palette that dominated Bellini's paintings.
There is often a lot of interest surrounding the genesis of cocktails, among enthusiasts and historians alike. While we all love hearing stories about how classic drinks came to be, it's rare to get an opportunity to try the original drink in its truest form. For the most part, the bars where they were once made no longer exist.
Not in the case of Bellini’s birthplace, though. This iconic sunset yellow cocktail, which looks like a close cousin of Mimosa, is still served at its place of inception – in Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy.
Arrigo Cipriani, son of Harry's Bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani, reveals the origin of the bellini cocktail in his book, Harry's Bar: The Life and Times of the Legendary Venice Landmark.
In the late 1930s, faced with an excess of seasonal white peaches and lacking a viable storage solution, Cipriani, inspired by a stroke of creativity, crafted a puree that he seamlessly blended with Prosecco, a variety of sparkling wine from Italy. This impromptu concoction birthed one of the world's most exquisite sparkling wine cocktails. Despite its popularity, the drink remained nameless for almost a decade. It wasn't until 1948 that Cipriani bestowed upon it the moniker "Bellini" in a distinctly Italian flourish. The inspiration for the name struck him as he observed the cocktail's pink hue mirrored in the works of the Renaissance artist bearing the same name.
Cipriani presented the Bellini in the same manner then as its present version—served in petite 6 oz. juice glass.
Initially, the beverage's availability was confined to the four-month peach season. A dedicated team in the kitchen was tasked with the labour-intensive process of manually extracting and pitting the fruit to produce the puree. But by the 1970s, peaches were made available in the form of canned frozen purees, which enabled the drink to be served to patrons all year round.
Incidentally, the genesis of Carpaccio, a culinary masterpiece featuring thinly sliced or pounded raw meat or fish, and named after another Venetian painter, Vittore Carpaccio, also traces back to Harry's Bar.
Also renowned for their dry martinis, this establishment that was inaugurated in Venice in 1931 and was graced by literary giants such as Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and Orson Welles, attained the prestigious status of a national landmark courtesy of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Affairs in 2001.
In India, the culture of mid-day brunches has steadily pitted Bellini as a worthwhile contender to the brunch-friendly Mimosa.
Kshitij Goyal, from Goa’s Silvia Bar at the W hotel, notes in a report the surge of demand for bellini in the last couple of years. The key, Goyal emphasises, is achieving a balance with 90 ml of sparkling wine, ensuring the peach does not overpower the palate. Adjustments might be necessary based on the ripeness of the peaches and the sweetness of the Prosecco. A hint of simple syrup or lemon juice could be added just to add a layer of tartness to the drink.
Pour the peach puree into a chilled champagne flute until the flute is about a quarter full.
Top up the glass with the champagne.
Garnish with a peach ball. Serve.