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
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.