Saint Mark’s Square, The Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge are must-see sights for visitors to Venice, Italy. Another top attraction for foodies, literary types and cocktail lovers is Harry’s Bar.
Many know the famed watering hole as a hangout for celebrities including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen. Harry’s made also its mark in the culinary word when they invented carpaccio, a dish of thinly sliced raw beef.
But Harry’s most enduring gastronomical contribution may be the Bellini, a bubbly cocktail fashioned from white peach puree and Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine.
According to their website, HarrysBarVenezia.com, the landmark bar was opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, a bartender at Venice’s Hotel Europa, after he received financial assistance from a rich, young American named Harry Pickering.
Cipriani named his famous tipple after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian artist, because the color of the drink resembled the pink glow in one of Bellini’s paintings.
Arrigo Cipriani, Guiseppe’s son, discusses his father’s innovation in his book “Harry’s Bar: The Life and Times of the Legendary Venice Landmark.”
“Peaches are in abundance throughout Italy from June through September, and my father had a predilection for the white ones. He experimented by puréeing small white peaches and adding Prosecco,” he writes. “Those who tested this new concoction gave it rave reviews.” Since then, this evanescent sipper has become an elegant brunch staple across the globe.
The general rule for mixing a Bellini is to use one part peach puree to three parts Prosecco. While it’s best to use fresh white peaches, commercially prepared brands are acceptable.
If you are making your own puree, Harry’s website advises not to use a food processor because it aerates the fruit. They recommend shredding the peaches with a cheese grater and using a strainer to collect the maximum amount of juice. If the peach mixture is too sour, add a splash of simple syrup or sugar.
Harry’s is perched on the water, a quick stroll from St Mark’s. When my mother and I made our cocktail pilgrimage there, we arrived in the evening as a golden light streamed though the decorative windows.
The crowded bar was small and decorated in wood and butterscotch hues. While there was a certain austerity about the place, it was teeming full of tourists, guidebooks in hand. The room was filled and mom and I seemed to get lost among the other patrons. When we finally received our Bellinis, they were served in simple juice glasses, not the fancy flutes that usually hold champagne cocktails.
The elixir was light with a refreshing simplicity. Its balance of dry and sweet made for a lovely aperitif. While I enjoyed sampling the original, it didn’t taste any more special than the Bellinis, I have enjoyed at Paparazzi or Brasserie Beck back home in D.C.
However when the bill arrived, I realized the high price for my sip of history. Each Bellini cost 18 Euro or about $52 for two after the conversion. While I wasn’t expecting “happy hour” pricing in notoriously expensive Venice, mom and I decided to put our next $50 toward a nice bottle of wine and dinner at less famous, less crowded and quiet restaurant.
1.5 oz White Peach Puree
4.5 oz Prosecco
Add puree to glass. Slowly add Prosecco, gently blending with long spoon.
Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street NW sells a variety of Proseccos.