I recently had a chance to complete an on-line course in spirits, cocktails, and bartending called BarSmarts Wired. The four week course, replete with valuable information, videos, and tests, was a fascinating experience. You can get information about the course at the website. The next window for entrants will be July 1, 2010.
While I took the course from a cocktail enthusiast’s point of view, it is primarily designed as a tool to better educate bar owners and professionals in the art and science of the classic cocktail, the better for them to offer the fruits of that knowledge to their customers. I have taken to talking BarSmarts up to the various bartenders I know, those that haven’t done the course themselves already. There is also a much more rigorous certification, BarSmarts Advanced, that I hope to complete someday.
All this is by way of introduction to a new series of posts I plan. A core element of the curriculum is the 25 Classic Drinks Every Bartender Should Know. These aren’t necessarily the “Top 25”, though many are among the greatest drinks ever created. They are selected to ensure that if you are familiar with them all, you will know most of the types of drinks, and techniques of mixing, that you need to work the craft. The Gospels are all there, of course, as well as many others I know well. (The hardest test in the course was the recipe challenge at the end, because I definitely had alternate ideas when it came to a few drinks!) But there are a few drinks in the list that I have never tried to make or drink. This series will examine my experiments with them, as I try to flesh out the knowledge I earned in the course.
First up will be… The Bellini
I’ll start with the basic recipe.
- 1 1/2 oz. peach pureé
- 4 oz. champagne
- 1/2 oz. peach liqueur (optional)
To make peach pureé, you can use fresh, frozen, or bottled. Fresh is of course best, but they are out of season right now. I went with frozen. I took a one pound bag of sliced peaches and let them thaw partially. I put them in my Blendtec blender with an ounce and a half of simple syrup and an ounce of warm water. I mashed them down with my spiffy new BarSmarts muddler (included with the course) and pulsed the blender a few times until the mash started to churn. I then ran the smoothie cycle twice, and voila! The pureé was missing that sparkly brightness that fresh peaches would have brought to the table, but is darn tasty anyway. If you use canned or jarred peaches, omit the simple syrup, and consider using frozen next time. Just sayin’.
For the champagne, I was surprised how much the quality of the wine affects the cocktail. With lots of fruit pureé drinks, the produce renders all alcohol on a par with its most common version. But here you will tell the difference between good bubbly and bad, dry and sec. Buy splits of decent stuff, so you won’t waste half the bottle when drinking at home.
The real challenge I found with this drink is mixing it without losing all the fizz. It takes a some work to get the pureé to combine smoothly with the wine and every movement dumps effervescence you want to preserve. Don’t mix it in the glass, there isn’t enough room in a flute for smooth movements and you’ll either end up flat or with a puddle of goop at the bottom. Mix it first in a mixing glass. The proportions are important, so you want to measure. But if you use a measuring cup then put it in the glass, you’ll lose your fizz there too. Find out the level in your mixing glass that corresponds to four (or eight, it’s a drink for two) ounces, then carefully pour the champagne down the side to that level. Add the peach gently after any fizzing settles. Stir very gently with your bar spoon. Mostly your movements should be up and down, rather than swirling. Then pour it into your flute.
BarSmarts suggests you strain it as you pour, but that will just lose more bubbles. If you did a good pureé, I don’t see the need.
You can float a bit of liqueur on top if you like, but I think it’s gilding the lily.
I had never had this drink before, but it’s delicious. It utterly destroys a Mimosa, a drink it resembles. It is a bit harder to put together, but not so much that it isn’t worth the massively better results. It is refreshing enough to sip before dinner, and sweet enough for after. And I imagine it would be a perfect beverage to go with your brunch-time Belgian waffles.