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home : columnists : sunday cocktail March 29, 2017

2/22/2017 10:00:00 AM
Serve the Bellini at your spring brunch
by Brian Rung

Cocktails may not be part of a balanced breakfast, but they are an essential part of the perfect brunch. Springtime typically brings weekend getaways that provide your greatest opportunity of the year for hosting or attending brunch.

Are you going to serve the same Mimosas and Bloody Marys that you served last year, or will this be the year that you try something new?

The Mimosa and the Bloody Mary are the undisputed king and queen of brunch cocktails, but the Bellini family of cocktails provides a delicious sparkling alternative to the usual suspects. The Bellini platform is similar to the Mimosa as it uses sparkling wine and fruit purée, or in some cases, fruit juice.

The key difference between a Mimosa and a Bellini is the type of sparkling wine used: Champagne for the Mimosa, Prosecco for the Bellini.

The Bellini was created at Harry's Bar in Venice sometime between 1934 and 1948. The Harry's franchise also included Harry's New York Bar in Paris, a favorite hangout of Ernest Hemmingway and birthplace of the Bloody Mary.

The Bellini was initially available only during the spring when fresh peaches were available. Eventually the cocktail became a year-round favorite when a French company began shipping peach purée between the two locations. Sinclair Lewis and Orson Welles were also known to enjoy the occasional Bellini at Harry's Paris location.

Many traditional Italian recipes of the era called for marinating fresh white peaches in wine, so the Bellini was likely enjoyed for generations before it became an official cocktail. The original Bellini recipe was simple: two parts Prosecco and one part peach purée, served in Champagne flute.

Over the years the Bellini has evolved to include puree or juice from just about anything sweet. If your brunch crowd enjoys Mimosas, it is not a stretch to assume that they will fall in love with the Bellini.

Could you use Champagne in the Bellini? Sure, but be careful. A full-bodied Champagne can overpower a Bellini. Prosecco and Champagne are both sparkling wines, but there are some key differences.

Champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France, whereas Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region of Italy. Both sparkling wines have a similar alcohol content (typically 11 to 12 percent) and both wines come in at roughly 125 calories per standard pour. Both sparkling wines will look similar in the glass, the difference in price is attributable to the production methods and the types of grapes used.

Over the last decade Prosecco has enjoyed a rise in popularity among American consumers, perhaps one of the main reasons is that entry level Prosecco can be had for around $12 to $15 as opposed to $40 for a quality Champagne.

The most popular Prosecco brands in the United States are La Muraca Extra Dry di Valdobbiadene, Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Frizzante and Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco di Valdobbiadene.

All will force you to speak a little Italian, but none of these will set you back more than about $15.

The Bellini can be made in many flavors, but the most popular are the original Bellini made from white peaches, strawberry (Rossini) and pomegranate (Tintoretto).

The original Bellini is light and delicate, better suited to spring and summer while the Rossini and Tintoretto cocktails are excellent choices for entertaining in fall and winter.

All Bellinis are served in Champagne flutes.

Original Bellini by the glass

Add two parts Prosecco.

Add one part peach purée (white peaches are best).

Stir and serve.

Rossini serves six

Purée in blender: 1 pound fresh strawberries, juice from one lemon, 1/3 cup of sugar.

Pour each serving into an ice-filled shaker, add a splash of Prosecco and shake.

Strain contents into Champagne flute, topping each drink with Prosecco.

Garnish with fresh strawberries.

Tintoretto by the glass

Fill 1/3 of Champagne flute with pomegranate juice.

Fill remaining 2/3 with Prosecco.

Garnish with fresh lime wheel.

Until next week, enjoy responsibly.

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