Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Suite 410 has reopened after a months-long closure earlier this year.
In the distant past, travel writers would send their dispatches by telegram, and the words would appear on a ribbon of paper. For instance, "ARRIVED VENICE. STREETS UNDER WATER. ADVISE." Nowadays, tourists home in on Wi-Fi hotspots near the Rialto bridge and send their tasting notes and travel dispatches from The Most Serene Republic of Venice by email.
Since I could only stay for a couple of days on my last visit, I was determined not to get stuck with my nose in a guidebook when it could have been in a wine glass instead. One of those itty-bitty wine glasses called ombre, literally shade, because the real wine bars are found in cool arcades and dusky spots just around the corner from the tourist traps.
And talk about tourist traps! At Caffe Florian, on the Piazza San Marco, for example, it's $20 for a Bellini, with a $6 entertainment surcharge when the tuxedo-clad orchestra plays Viennese waltzes to an audience of giggling Japanese school girls sipping Cokes.
The classic "champagne" cocktail known as the Bellini was invented around the corner by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry's Bar. The recipe: one part fresh puree of white peaches to three parts prosecco. Prosecco is the name of a grape grown in the Veneto region of northern Italy, used only for sparkling wine. It's a tad sweeter than French champagne, and because it's usually made in bulk, it costs less than half as much.
Harry's Bar was named for a rich American who bankrolled the original spot, in an alley off the Piazza San Marco; there are many Harry's offspring around the world these days. The drink itself was named for Giovanni Bellini, the 15th-century Venetian painter.
If you're making your own puree, by the way, it's preferable to use a handheld cheese grater (and collect the juices) rather than a blender or food processor (which would aerate the juice too much). You can add sugar or simple syrup if it's too tart but resist the temptation to use yellow peaches or to add ungodly ingredients such as peach schnapps.
At the estimable Suite 410 in Seattle, they add a grace note: a sprig of fresh thyme to give the peach aroma a little nudge as it wafted toward your nostrils. Brilliant touch!
At Vessel in downtown Seattle, they're throwing a "Harry’s Bar Festival" for 10 days beginning today (Aug. 19). Vessel’s owner, Clark Niemeyer, used to visit Harry’s Bar a lot in the 1980s and says it was the inspiration for his own place next to the Fifth Avenue Theater. "We decided that the perfect time to honor Harry’s Bar was during white peach season," says Niemeyer, "so the Bellinis would be the freshest possible."
They're getting those peaches from Frank's Produce at the Pike Place Market. Price will be $12, same as Vessel's other cocktails. Niemeyer encourages patrons to arrive by Vespa, but the city, sadly, frowns on parking motorized vehicles on the sidewalk. A problem in Venice, too, since the streets are under water.
If you go: The Harry's Bar Festival kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 19 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 29 at Vessel, 1312 Fifth Ave., 206-652-0521.
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