[Photographs: Helen Jane Hearn]

Bellinis are fun to say, easy to prepare, and gorgeous to serve. Best for daytime sipping and hot weather, a Bellini bar is the perfect way to let your guests customize their drinks while you save some cash.

Traditionally, a Bellini is white peach purée and Prosecco. No California sparkling wine, no French Champagne and certainly no raspberry juice. Thankfully, the people of the United States have relaxed their standards on all kinds of fronts. This allows our fellow countrymen to associate "Bellini" with just about any fruit and sparkling wine combination.

Invented in the late thirties, the Bellini comes from the venerable drink inventing institution, Harry's Bar, in Venice, Italy. It was made with white peaches and its pinkish hue reminded founder Giuseppe Cipriani of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. Poetically, he named the drink the Bellini.

History aside, I prefer to think of these drinks as inspired by the Kids in the Hall skit, "Spot Bellini."

How to Set Up Your Bellini Bar

Last weekend I welcomed several lady friends for a front porch Bellini bar. I filled several small glass bottles with fruit purées, and set the bottles of bubbles on the table, allowing guests to doctor their own drinks with fruit. Wines ran the gamut from a California sparkling wine to a Cava to the traditional Prosecco. No bottle cost more than $15 and no guest commented on the different style.

Make the fruit purées the day before. Chill them in the refrigerator with the sparkling wine. You'll be ready for guests in no time.

Pour about an ounce of the purée (2 tablespoons) into the glass before slowly adding the sparkling wine. Slow is key here—pour too fast and you'll get a sticky hand full of fruity foam.

Looking for a non-alcoholic version? Sparkling water or sparkling apple cider works just as well.

About the author: Helen Jane Hearn writes about creative entertaining at helenjane.com. Founder of the national cheese club Cheesewhizzes, Helen Jane's bimonthly cheese potlucks have been called "Napa's Best Parties" by Food and Wine magazine (December 2009). During the day, she runs Maplevine, a design consultancy specializing in wineries.


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