What is a Bellini cocktail? All about the iconic Italian drink

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Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Laura Teso

What is a Bellini cocktail? Well, it’s an iconic Italian sparkling cocktail, in which the effervescent charm of Prosecco blends with the sweet, sun-kissed essence of white peaches

When and where was the Bellini cocktail invented?

In the summer of 1948, Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, was asked to invent a new cocktail for the grand opening of an exhibit on painter Giovanni Bellini at the Doge’s Palace.

Palazzo Ducale facade
Palazzo Ducale facade

Taking inspiration from the pink color of the artist’s works, Cipriani came up with the idea of mixing white peaches pulp (which, if the fruits are properly ripe, has pink shades) to a common wine of the area, Prosecco.  

The drink was immediately a huge success at Harry’s Bar in Venice. Thus it was also introduced at the Harry’s bar in New York, also thanks to a French entrepreneur who managed to transport by ship the white peach pulp from Italy to the Big Apple. It is still quite popular nowadays during New York brunches.

What are Bellini cocktail’s ingredients?

The super simple Bellini recipe has only 2 ingredients:

  • Prosecco wine and
  • White peaches puree.

It’s Harry’s Bar itself that gives us the recipe: three quarters of Prosecco and a quarter of peach puree (crushing the fruits with all the peel in a Chinese strainer – or with a potato masher ‘cause… Who has a Chinese strainer at home? I don’t).

What if you have a juicer? Fine. And a mixer? Better not, because it incorporates too much air. Another secret is to add the wine only at the end. Plus, it is better to drink it daily fresh. 

Bellini cocktail Variations

There are many variations of this cocktail, like the Bellini Royal that involves the use of champagne instead of Prosecco. Or the Mimosa, featuring fresh orange juice. You can also prepare an alcohol free version with soda as a replacement for the wine. 

Furthermore, Giuseppe Cipriani, driven by the success of the Bellini (and also imho by the fact that peaches are only available in summer), invented several variations on a theme, replacing precisely the peaches with other fruits, depending on the season. You can therefore find:

  • Rossini with strawberries, dedicated to the composer of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Note that the cocktail is red. And red in Italian is rosso. So the name Rossini is perfect. 
  • Tintoretto with pomegranates, in honor of the great Venetian painter
  • Tiziano with strawberry grapes. Another marvelous Venetian painter (one of my favorites of all time). In Italy there’s also a color named Rosso Tiziano, Titian red. The painter is known for using this color very often for the beautiful hair of the ladies in his canvas. 
  • Puccini with tangerines. The name refers to opera composer Giacomo Puccini, author of La Bohème, Turandot, Madama Butterfly and Tosca.

The invention of carpaccio

After the international success of Bellini, Cipriani took a liking to it. So he decided to give life to another combination of painting and gastronomy in 1950, creating the carpaccio. It is a cold dish consisting of very thin slices of raw beef sirloin arranged on a plate and decorated with a yellow sauce to form a Kandinsky-style display. The name does not refer to the abstract Russian painter though. It refers to another Venetian painter (yes, there was another exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale): Vittore Carpaccio. You can admire his huge and beautiful canvas at the Accademia Galleries in Venice. 

Carpaccio, The Legend of Saint Ursula
Carpaccio, The Legend of Saint Ursula

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