Perfect for June (and Other Summer) Celebrations
June seems to be a particularly busy time for celebratory occasions: weddings, anniversaries, graduations. And what’s a celebration without a little bubbly to enliven the festivities?
Flutes of Champagne or sparkling wine, or bubbly transformed into a Classic Champagne Cocktail, are always delightful. But how about something a bit more seasonal?
June is when ripe peaches start appearing in quantity. And they combine deliciously with bubbly (like Prosecco) in a Bellini.
Delectable, festive, seasonal, gorgeous — what drink could be better for summer celebrations?
Best yet, it’s easy to make (and even easier to drink).
Recipe: The Bellini Cocktail
The Bellini was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, probably in 1948 (some accounts give an earlier date). He named the drink after Giovanni Bellini, an Italian Renaissance artist whose paintings often have a pink “glow” to them. The moniker is appropriate, because the Bellini features a pink (often orangey-pink) tint that ranges from faint to flamboyant, depending on how you make it (see Notes).
This drink should be made with puree from white peaches. It’s an easy process if you have a mini food processor or a blender. For the bubbly, the original (and best) option is Prosecco — an Italian sparkling wine with a bit of sweetness to it. If you substitute Champagne or another sparkling wine, you don’t want to use brut. You want something with a bit of sugar to it, so go for a sec or demi-sec (although sec translates as “dry,” when it comes to sparkling wine nomenclature, the term indicates something sweeter).
This recipe serves two — because you’ll never drink a Bellini alone! — and takes about 5 minutes to prepare. Most recipes for the Bellini are more or less the same, but I need to credit Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology for suggesting the addition of lemon juice.
- 2 white peaches (they don’t need to be chilled, but I usually refrigerate them for about an hour before using them; see Notes about substitutions)
- ½ ounce lemon juice (optional but delicious)
- ~8 ounces chilled Prosecco
- whole strawberry garnish (optional)
- Pit the peaches. You can skin them if you want (this is probably the authentic method), but your Bellini will be less pink. See Notes for further discussion about this.
- Whizz the peaches with the optional lemon juice in a mini food processor or blender.
- Put 2 ounces of peach pulp (give or take a bit — precise measurement is not critical) into each of two champagne flutes.
- Fill with Prosecco (about 4 ounces per glass). As you pour, use a long handled spoon to slowly blend the peach pulp with the Prosecco. Don’t be too vigorous in your stirring, because you don’t want the Prosecco to lose effervescence. And you’re not trying to thoroughly mix the peach and Prosecco; rather you’re just trying to get them to mingle a bit.
- The Bellini is often served ungarnished, but I think a strawberry adds a nice slash of color. Or garnish with another berry of your choice.
- A standard bottle of Prosecco (or any wine or bubbly) contains 750 ml, which is about 25 ounces. So you’ll get about 6 Bellinis from a bottle.
- Don't buy anything too expensive (and Prosecco usually isn't costly anyway). Something around $10 — $12 or so works fine for this drink.
- I usually figure each peach will provide a bit more than 2 ounces of puree, so you may have some leftovers. No problem — just make another Bellini!
- To skin the peaches or not? Many authorities say the original drink was made with skinned peaches. But the skin carries a lot of color, so if you remove it, the drinks will be very pale pink, rather than rosy. (And if the skin has a reddish-orange hue, the Bellini will have a some orange coloring, too.)
- I often skin half the peaches, and leave the skin on the others. This results in a distinct pink glow that’s a bit on the pale side — just the way I like the drink to look. (The top picture shows a Bellini made this way; the others, with a bit less or more skin.) Bottom-line: experiment, and find out how you like it.
- Some people strain the peach puree before adding it to the drink. Too fussy! It’s fine if your drink has a bit of body to it, I say.
- Gary Regan likes to put pitted peaches into the blender with lemon juice, and blend it all with 2 - 3 ice cubes. This isn’t a bad way to make peach puree, although I find it easier to use a mini food processor (without ice).
- If your market doesn’t have ripe white peaches in stock, you may be able to find frozen white peach puree (it’s out there, but many supermarkets don’t carry it).
- Failing that, you can substitute fresh yellow peaches. They change the flavor somewhat — and alter the color dramatically — but still make a good drink. Purists will argue that it’s not really a Bellini when made with yellow peaches, if that matters to you.
- Some recipes for the Bellini include a bit of Grand Mariner or raspberry liqueur (like Chambord). If you’d like to try this, start by adding maybe ¼ ounce to each glass. Taste, and if you decide you want a bit more, add another ¼ ounce. More than that would change the character of the drink too dramatically, IMO — although if the flavor pleases you, go for it.
- In fact, the original Bellini might have included raspberry liqueur (or perhaps cherry juice) to help color the drink.
Also Perfect for Brunch, Cocktails, or as a Mid-Afternoon Cooler
“Mmmmm,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she took her first sip of Bellini. “What a luscious drink! Great taste, wonderful color. Why don’t we have these more often?” Then she took a bite of her Cheese Straw.
“They’re good,” I agreed, alternating sips and munches. “But there are so many terrific drinks out there.”
We were lingering over our Bellinis before dinner — another great way to enjoy them if you don’t have a celebration scheduled at the moment. They’re also terrific for brunch. Or as an afternoon refresher. Or whenever the mood strikes you. One of the (many) nice things about Bellinis: The peach puree not only provides great flavor, but also reduces the volume of alcohol. So you can easily have 2 and keep your wits about you.
Mrs K R drained her glass. And took the last Cheese Straw. Then she looked at me with her big, bright eyes. (I think she learned that from our cat, Kitty Riffs.)
I rose to replenish the Cheese Straws. And fix her another Bellini.
I know my cues.
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