I just came back from a trip to Puglia in Southern Italy, and found the people there to be warm and fiercely proud of their regional wines like Salice Salentino, their orecchiette pasta and fragrant local olive oils. But curiously, when it came to sparkling wine, their drink of choice was usually prosecco from northern Italy.
As a Bubbly Girl, I was in heaven, being able to order a glass of this delicate and fresh wine from the Veneto just about everywhere and usually for just 2 or 3 euro ($3 to $4.50). Why can’t it be that way here in the U.S?” I wondered with a sigh.
Well, just because prosecco isn’t on tap at the local bar doesn’t mean you can’t make it your house wine. With warmer weather coming, it’s a perfectly refreshing drink, with its subtle flavors of green apple, flowers and minerals, its soft bubbles and relatively low alcohol content. And it’s a very affordable wine too: it’s possible to find a satisfying bottle for $8 to $20 at most wine shops. Some readily available brands include Mionetto, Zonin, Nino Franco, Zardetto, and Bisol.
The most famous prosecco cocktail is the peachy Bellini created back in the late 1940s by Giuseppe Cipriani and served ever since at Harry’s Bar in Venice. You’ll find prosecco is one of the most sociable sparkling wines around, mixing and mingling quite easily with a range of spring and summer fruits and flavors. I’m sure prosecco cocktails with strawberries, honeydew melon, lemons and peaches created by me and some creative people who love to entertain will help you live a festive, dolce vita style spring.
This variation on the mojito lets you mix strawberries with your favorite herb such as mint, basil, lemon verbena, cilantro, rosemary or thyme. Be sure to try the drink out before serving it friends to get the amount of herbs dialed in to your taste buds. It’s tasty with the alcohol or without; for a totally non-alcoholic drink, use sparkling water instead of the prosecco.
3 ripe organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
6 leaves of one fresh herb such as mint, basil, verbena, cilantro OR 1-inch section of fresh rosemary or thyme
1 ounce good white rum like 10 Cane or clean white gin like Bombay Sapphire
1 ounce all-natural sour mix (see note)
2 ounces prosecco
Add the strawberries and your selected herb to a rocks glass. Smash the strawberries and herbs gently with a muddler until the berries are a pulp and the herbs smell strong. Add the rum or gin if using and sour mix to the glass and give it a stir. Fill 3/4 full with ice. Top off with the prosecco. Garnish with a sprig of the herb you used.
Note: To create my all natural sour mix, mix 1 cup lemon and or lime juice with 1 cup sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Heat over a low-medium flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When cool, pour syrup into a sterile glass bottle and refrigerate. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.
To make the vanilla simple syrup, add 1-1/2 cups water and 1 cup sugar to a medium saucepan. Heat over a low-medium flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Toss in a vanilla pod slit lengthwise. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool. Remove the vanilla pods and set them aside. Pour the syrup in a sterile glass bottle. Keeps for up to 2 weeks. (Once the vanilla pods are dry, bury them in your sugar cannister to make vanilla-scented sugar.)
By Maria Hunt, author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion
This recipe was inspired by a drink Denise Gee created for her gorgeous book Southern Cocktails. It’s a very light and refreshing take on a white sangria, without the brandy that can make sangrias so potent.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 bottle prosecco
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/4 cup sugar
1 unpeeled lime, thinly sliced and seeded
1 unpeeled lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
1 small unpeeled orange, thinly sliced and seeded
1-1/2 cups fresh organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
1-1/2 cups green grapes, sliced in half
2 cups chilled sparkling water or club soda or more to taste
several small whole strawberries with stems, for garnish
Combine the wine, Cointreau, sugar and fruit in a large pitcher and refrigerate overnight. Pour into cocktail glasses filled with ice and top off with club soda. For the garnish, slit the bottoms of the whole strawberries and place one on the rim of each glass.
From Southern Cocktails by Denise Gee, Chronicle Books, 2007.
The Lemon Pop
My friend Rob uses his homemade limoncello made with organic Meyer lemons from Sonoma, California for this variation on the Lemon Drop. He originally created it with Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs, but it’s also great with a certain Italian sparkler.
Makes 1 cocktail
2 slices fresh lemon
1/2 ounce limoncello
1/2 ounce all-natural sour mix (see note above)
4 ounces prosecco
Use the lemon slice to moisten the edge of your champagne flute or coupe. Put the sugar on a flat saucer. Press the rim of the glass into the sugar to make a frosted rim.
Carefully add the limoncello, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the natural sour mix to the prepared glass. Top with prosecco. Garnish with the remaining lemon slice and serve.
By Rob Akins and Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl
Lavender and Peach Bellini
This cool twist on the classic peach nectar and prosecco cocktail from Harry’s Bar in Venice comes from Linnea Johansson, a top New York City party planner. If peaches aren’t quite in season (please don’t use hard ones from Chile) pick up peach nectar in the juice aisle of your favorite supermarket. Dried lavender is available at most organic grocery stores or plant some in your garden!
Makes 1 cocktail
1 part peach puree (say 2 ounces)
2 parts prosecco (4 ounces)
1 pinch edible, non-toxic dried lavender
Add the peach puree to the bottom of a champagne flute. Carefully add the prosecco. Don’t stir, but use a soon to carefully pull the puree up along the sides of the glass, so you don’t lose the bubbles. Garnish with the lavender.
From Perfect Parties by Linnea Johansson, Skyhorse Publishing, 2007.
Honeydew melon, mint and a bit of vanilla make this a very original and fragrant cocktail inspired by a drink called The Lawn Mower that L.A. caterer Nicole Aloni included in her book The Backyard Bartender. This version uses a vanilla syrup instead of vanilla vodka to keep it on the lighter side.
Makes 2 cocktails
1 cup diced honeydew or similar melon
1 ounce vanilla bean infused simple syrup (See Note)
1/2 fresh lime
1/2 ounce all natural sour mix (see Note again)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped mint, plus a couple whole leaves
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Prosecco
Juice the melon or puree in a blender, adding a little water if necessary to get things going. Strain the melon puree through a fine mesh tea strainer into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add the vanilla bean syrup, a good squeeze of lime juice, the all natural sour mix and chopped mint to the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously 20 to 30 times. Strain equal portions of the mixture into two champagne flutes. Top each one with 1/4 cup of the prosecco. Garnish each drink with a mint leaf and serve.
Adapted from The Backyard Bartender by Nicole Aloni, Clarkson Potter, 2007.