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Designated Drinker: Harry’s Bar Bellini

(Note: This installment of the Designated Drinker first appeared in abbreviated form in the February 2010 issue of Tastebud Magazine.  Full format versions of her articles appear periodically on this blog.  Today it appears because I have spent the day hiking around Colorado.  Ok, well mostly downtown Denver in flip flops.  I can see the mountains though so I call it hiking.  It also provides a convenient opportunity to remind everyone in KC to get out and support our very own Designated Drinker, Paige Unger, in the 2010 Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition this Sunday at the Uptown Theater.  For those not in KC, visit the site to find the recipe for her drink, THE Socialite.)

I only know a handful of famous bars. In fact, I suspect if I were to ask a random stranger the name of a famous bar I would most likely receive Cheers as my answer. Those of us addicted to the fun factoids of mixology, however, know there is only one true famous bar: Harry’s Bar in Venice.

It’s a good story. The son of an Italian bricklayer, Giuseppe Cipriani was forced to move to Verona during the first world war. Taking advantage of the readily available jobs, Cipriani entered the hospitality industry by working in one of the most famous bakeries in Verona. When the war summoned the owner of the bakery, Cipriani was entrusted with the business. After the owner returned from the war Cipriani’s ambitions got the best of him and he sought work as a waiter. He traveled through Italy working one service job to the next; it was only a matter of time before his charisma found him tending a bar in Venice.

So who’s Harry? Harry Pickering was visiting Europe with his aunt in hopes of curing his alcoholism. As Cirpriani would later say, “I had serious doubts if the trip to Europe constituted the ideal cure for him however, because he spent entire days at the bar at the Hotel Europa in the company of his aunt, his aunt’s young escort, and a dog.” Cipriani was correct, Harry never left Cirpriani’s bar until his aunt abandoned the Italian excursion leaving the young, sad Pickering with very little money. Cirpriani, thinking Harry to be a fine young man, leant Harry 10,000 Lira.

It was 10,000 Lira well spent! In 1931 Harry Pickering returned to Cipriani’s bar adding thirty-thousand to his debt in order to finance Cipriani’s own bar. Harry’s Bar was born. Cipriani’s wife found the perfect space inside a rope factory mere meters from the bar that united Cipriani and Pickering.

Cipriani’s visions went further than just a bar. The well cultured Venetian was inspired by the artistic works around him. After seeing works by the artist Bellini in which rich pinks, reds, and peaches were used, Cipriani named his peach and champagne concoction “The Bellini”.

While ours is the step-child of Cirpriani’s creation, it still maintains the beautiful colors and delectable qualities found in the famous cocktail and the paintings for which it was named. There are one of two ways to add the champagne, peach vodka, and peach puree. One way is to take peach puree and mix it with peach vodka in a shaker. You can pour the peach and vodka mix to a martini glass and top off with champagne, or, as I have found to be the most satisfying, combine all the three ingredients into a pint glass full of ice and chop the mixture with a long spoon for a minute. Either way you mix it, the ingredients create a fruity sipper with a hint of Venetian sophistication.

Harry’s Bar Bellini

1 oz peach puree

1 dash peach bitters

3 oz sparkling wine

.25 oz simple syrup

.5 oz Absolut Apeach

Gently shake all ingredients.

Strain into cocktail glass.

Garnish with a mint sprig

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is the creator of The Hospitality Formula Network, a series of websites dedicated to all aspects of the restaurant industry. He is also the author of the book Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips and Building Your Brand With Facebook.

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4 comments on “Designated Drinker: Harry’s Bar Bellini

  1. teleburst on said:

    And of course, it was Cipriani who is one of the few people in history who can indisputably lay claim to inventing a unique dish (even the Caesar Cardini “invention” of Caesar Salad is disputed). Cipriani invented the dish in 1950 to accomodate a dietary restriction that a doctor had placed on the Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigno regarding cooked meat. The dish? Carpaccio, named after the Venetian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, a painter known for his use of red and white in his paintings.

    So, Cipriani can actually claim to have invented both a dish and a drink.

    I wonder what he what kind of dish he would have created in black and white had he been enamored with the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Perhaps the “Henri”, an enticing dish of marrow and squid ink?

    The story of both the Bellini and carpaccio are recounted by Cipriani’s son in the very nice cookbook/history “The Harry’s Bar Cookbook”. I reviewed it at my blog here:


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