Walter Bolzonella is not one to drop names, but even he can’t help mentioning the nights he’s spent shaking cocktails for the likes of Tom Cruise, Liz Hurley and Joaquin Phoenix at Venice’s glittering Gabbiano Bar. George Clooney is his ‘partner in crime’, and recalls a time some 20 years ago when he and Bolzonella served drinks together to movie stars and studio heads in the tiny back bar at the Cipriani Hotel.
“Walter brought me a drink an hour before I got married and was there for some of the greatest moments of my life,” Clooney even wrote on the back of Bolzonella’s beautifully illustrated Venetian cocktail book, Tales of a Barman.
Of all the Cipriani’s cocktails, the Bellini is the most iconic, and has stood the test of time. It was the first cocktail on the menu when Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar, opened the hotel in May 1958, and the recipe has never changed. To this day, it is still the most requested cocktail at the Gabbiano bar.
Bolzonella learned the recipe from Signor Cipriani in 1978, who taught him on one condition: he would promise never to make the Bellini any other way. True to his promise, Bolzonella and his bar team still diligently press fresh white peaches by hand into a metal chinois.
To add a little more colour, Bolzonella will sometimes crush a couple of raspberries into the peach purée. If he’s not going to be using the purée immediately, he might add a dash of lemon juice to stop it oxidising. Other than that, nothing changes. “The froth is the garnish,” Walter says, and it’s something you only get with the freshest homemade peach juice. As such, the Bellini can only be ordered when white peaches are in season – making it the perfect summer serve whether at home or away.
60ml freshly pressed peach juice (1-2 white peaches)
A dash of lemon or a couple of raspberries, optional
- Start by pressing your peaches. This can be done in a blender, but for a real Cipriani Bellini, the best way is to press the peaches by hand using a metal chinois (a fine colander or potato ricer will work well).
- Add one part peach juice and two parts prosecco and stir with a couple of cubes of ice until completely mixed, cool and frothy.
- Strain into a chilled champagne flute, making sure to get all the froth as well. Serve immediately.
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