Iconic Ital­ian drink has a short life­span

In SA we can find those won­der­fully fragrant white peaches that go into the fa­mous Bellini for only a very short time, writes Hen­nie Fisher

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ONE of Italy’s most iconic drinks, the Bellini, is prob­a­bly much less well known in SA than that other old faith­ful, the Mi­mosa. Con­sist­ing of equal parts freshly squeezed orange juice and Cham­pagne, it gen­er­ally seems a ter­ri­ble waste to mix good bub­bly with any­thing else, and very of­ten guests switch to neat bubby af­ter their first Mi­mosa, which could be be­cause of the high acid­ity of the com­bi­na­tion.

The Bellini, while it still will raise the eye­brows of purists, cer­tainly is a re­fresh­ing al­ter­na­tive to the orange juice/bub­bly combo. Hav­ing been around since the 1930’s when it was in­vented by Giuseppe Cipri­ani in Venice, it only re­ally seemed to gain pop­u­lar­ity when it hit the US and be­came the drink du jour at Harry’s Bar in New York. De­spite its pop­u­lar­ity, the scarcity of fresh peaches year round meant that the Mi­mosa be­came the quin­tes­sen­tial brunch drink, al­though some en­tre­pre­neur thought of mak­ing frozen peach purée avail­able year round.

As with most iconic recipes, there seems to be slight dis­agree­ment about pre­cisely which peaches should go into a true Bellini. Some pro­fess that a true Bellini should be made only from early sum­mer white peaches; oth­ers claim that peaches with a slightly pink tinge gave the drink its name, be­cause the pink re­minded Giuseppe of the colour of the toga adorn­ing a saint painted in the 15th cen­tury by Vene­tian artist Gio­vanni Bellini.

What­ever the case, a Bellini should only be made with a purée of yel­low peaches when no other peaches are avail­able, and as an ab­so­lutely last re­sort with bought peach purée.

As a prod­uct of Italy, Prosecco might be em­i­nently suited for use in a Bellini, which is also one of the few drinks where a bub­bly with just the mer­est hint of su­gar might be prefer­able. While one is not propos­ing that you should use a lesser qual­ity sparkling wine, in con­cert with a rather dom­i­nant fruit purée, high qual­ity bub­bly may not be fully ap­pre­ci­ated. If you should use Cham­pagne to make your Bellini, then you may call yours a Bellini Royal to sig­nify its el­e­vated sta­tus.

Those who have no in­ten­tion of mak­ing their own Bellini or would rather not de­bate the mer­its of MCC over Cham­pagne would do bet­ter to head out to La Madeleine, the restau­rant of Daniel and Anne Leusch in Lyn­wood, Pre­to­ria. La Madeleine has adopted the Bellini as its sig­na­ture cock­tail, and per­fected the neat lit­tle trick of freez­ing white peach purée when they are in sea­son. Pour­ing bub­bly over th­ese lit­tle purée ice cubes re­sults in de­li­ciously re­fresh­ing drinks, per­fect for hot Pre­to­ria Sun­days, slowly melt­ing into the bub­bly for a per­fect drink. Theirs is also served with a dash of peach liqueur as pre­scribed in some recipes; most recipes pro­pose a ra­tio of 3/10ths peach purée topped up with bub­bly and a dash of fresh le­mon juice. Other recipes pro­posed a ra­tio of two parts bub­bly to one part peach purée, which might be­come more a liq­uid fruit salad than a drink.

One rather dis­con­cert­ing as­pect of the Bellini is the fact that the mix­ture of sparkling wine and fruit purée froths so much. No at­tempt to min­imise this — pour­ing slowly or at an an­gle; adding the purée to the bub­bly rather than the other way around — worked, so be warned that you will cre­ate a whole lot of fizz. Apart from this aes­thetic chal­lenge, mak­ing a Bellini is re­ally just a mat­ter of purée­ing very ripe peaches in a blender, and top­ping up with bub­bly. Adding le­mon juice to the fruit aids in mak­ing the purée and also pre­vents the purée from ox­i­diz­ing too quickly. Some recipes pro­pose that one should make the purée by mash­ing the fruit by hand; the choice is yours. Some recipes also men­tion re­mov­ing the skin be­fore mak­ing the purée, but the skin may con­trib­ute to the colour of the drink as long as the mix­ture is thor­oughly strained be­fore use.

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