The Bellini — a perfect cocktail
The Bellini is an Italian mix of fresh peach purée and Prosecco
It was Venice in high season. Tourist groups thronged the piazzas (those flags!) while day trippers from Mestre and beyond hunkered down in the waterfront food emporiums that promise food just like "back home" (plastic-wrapped menus with lurid illustrations).
After several days in an airless B&B with views of an air-conditioning duct, we were ready for an overnight stay at the legendary Cipriani hotel, just a 10-minute ride from St Mark’s Square on a swanky private launch — but a world away from the scourge of mass tourism.
While we waited for the hotel’s boat my friend, deeply embarrassed, pretended not to know me; earlier, I had made the cardinal error of buying an "original" Louis Vuitton weekend bag from a smooth-talking sidewalk salesman. The other guests on our launch pretended not to notice.
Long known as a hidey-hole for celebrities, the Cipriani in all its dusky-pink glory is nothing if not discreet. We saw no-one we recognised, but the afternoon of our arrival I watched from my suite as a pencil-thin woman, still impossibly glamorous in a hooded dressing gown and dark glasses, approached the pool. With her back to the hotel she disrobed and slipped into the water.
But we weren’t there for celebrity-spotting. On the terrace overlooking the pool, we were served two perfect Bellinis, the classic Venetian cocktail created by Harry’s Bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani in 1948. Under the watchful gaze of our host, Giuseppe’s son, restaurateur and food writer Arrigo Cipriani, we took our first sip of that quintessentially Italian mix of fresh peach purée and Prosecco. For once words failed us.
We had several versions of the Bellini while in Venice, but it was at the Cipriani that we found the truly authentic one.
Recipes abound with suggestions on how to mulch the peaches, including using a food processor. I think not. Also, stir to mix? Definitely not. I like the layers, so that when you tilt the glass, you sip the nectar through the bubbly. Bliss.
Back in Venice, my friend and I headed for Harry’s Bar. For research purposes, we ordered achingly expensive Bellinis. What a disappointment; they were a poor relation of Arrigo’s.
Earlier, as we were about to leave the Cipriani, I realised I had lost my Mont Blanc pen. A search party was dispatched, and we were just about to board the launch back to St Mark’s when the head gardener arrived, pen in hand. I had dropped it in the hotel’s own vineyard.
Unlike the Louis Vuitton, the Mont Blanc was authentic.
My reputation was redeemed.