Like a lot of cocktails, the Bellini originates from the 1930s. Created by an Italian Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice and traditionally made with white peach puree, of which there is an abundance of white peaches in Italy. Then topped with prosecco.
The pinky-peach colour of the cocktail reminded him of the colour of a saint’s robe in a 15th century Venetian painting by the artist Giovanni Bellini ~ hence the name. Bellini also means Little Beautiful One in Italian. Quite appropriate for this peach of a drink.
The Bellini is an official IBA (International Bartenders Association) cocktail and listed in their contemporary classics.
So the traditional Bellini is made with white peaches. White peaches are a bit scarce north of the Mediterranean. Which got me thinking. What could be more traditionally British in spring than rhubarb and ginger?
So here is my ~
Rhubarb & Ginger Bellini Cocktail
~ made with homemade rhubarb syrup (see recipe below).
This Rhubarb & Ginger Bellini has a couple of units of alcohol. If you want to dial it down a bit so it is light enough to be served at brunch or lunch then just add 25ml of gin instead of 50ml.
Oh, and use a London Dry gin. Save your expensive craft gins for another day. The ginger ale might overwhelm them.
50ml London Dry gin
25ml rhubarb syrup
Ginger ale. If you prefer prosecco then, by all means, keep to the tradition. Another variation would be to add elderflower pressé or tonic.
Pour the gin and rhubarb syrup into a champagne flute or Collins glass filled with ice.
Top with a good quality ginger ale.
Enjoy. It’s that simple.
Tip: If you want to omit the gin you can just use the syrup and ginger ale to make a Baby Rhubarb & Ginger Bellini.
Rhubarb Syrup Recipe
Technically rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit, but what the hey. You must use forced rhubarb though. Old green stems will not produce the pretty pink colour you need for the syrup or the flavour and you will need considerably more sugar to sweeten them. Buy them fresh in spring when they are in season. And go for stems that are bright pink and unblemished.
4 sticks rhubarb chopped (about 400g)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Step 1. Place the chopped rhubarb and water in a heavy bottomed pan, preferably non-stick. Place over a medium heat and slowly bring to simmer. Leave out the sugar for now. You can add the sugar for an all-in method but this will just make it a bit sticky when you come to strain it.
Step 2. Gently simmer for about 20 mins until the rhubarb is very soft. But don’t over boil. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.
Step 3. Skim off any foam that appears. This won’t spoil the flavour of your syrup. But it will spoil the look of it.
Step 4. After 20 mins take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
Step 5. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve by gently pressing with the back of a spoon until you have squeezed most of the liquid out. Keep the pulp. It will be delicious in a crumble or cake.
Step 6. Measure the liquid. You will need 1 cup of rhubarb liquid. Return to the clean pan and add the sugar. Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar. There is no need to boil.
Step 7. Once the sugar has dissolved the liquid should be a lovely glossy pink. Pour through a funnel into a sterilised jar or bottle.
Step 8. The resulting syrup has a delicate rhubarb flavour. Use as above in a Bellini or use to make a rhubarb drizzle cake or use to infuse your favourite gin with the essence of spring.
Variation: Add a ½ inch piece of fresh ginger to the mix for a real double ginger hit in your Bellini.