Bellini cocktail with peach isolated near pool

Simultaneous with summer’s warm temperatures and long lazy days is the appearance of fresh peaches in stores and roadside stands. Does anything smell as enticingly delicious as a ripe peach? Is anything as juicy (and messy) as eating that peach out of hand – preferably over the sink – and reveling in the flavor and stickiness?

We all know, of course, that Georgia is The Peach State (despite our production being third behind California and South Carolina). The state produces over 35,000 tons of the fuzzy-skinned fruit each year – and that’s a bushel of peaches! The fruit was brought to Georgia, way before Georgia was Georgia, in 1571 by Franciscan monks. St. Simons and Cumberland islands were among the first places to cultivate the fruit in North America. The peach tree, native to China, adapted readily to our temperate climate and was eventually cultivated statewide by Cherokee Indians. Before the first stirrings of the Civil War, peaches were being sent north from South Georgia via a complex delivery system that sent the crop by wagon to Augusta, then shallow-draft boat to Savannah, before being loaded on ships to wind up in New York.

All this history sure works up a thirst, right? Fortunately, I have a number of excellent suggestions for delicious and refreshing cocktails – all of which are “peachy-keen.” (By the way, that expression, sometimes followed by “jelly bean,” dates to 1948 – and Merriam-Webster gives no clue as to its origin.)

One of the most famous peach cocktails is the Bellini. It’s also extraordinarily simple. The original, created by Giuseppi Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, is just a 1:2 mixture of peach puree and well-chilled prosecco. By coincidence, Harry first crafted this classic drink in 1948 – at which time some American in Venice no doubt declared it “peachy-keen.” Take note Merriam-Webster.

This version, a bit more complex, is equally delicious and incredibly beautiful in the glass.

BLUSHING BELLINI

½ cup fresh peaches, sliced

2 oz. peach liqueur

½ oz. Chambord

½ oz. peach juice

1 oz. red wine

½ cup ice

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Add ice, peaches, juice, and liqueur to a blender.

Blend until smooth.

Pour into a glass and drizzle with Chambord.

Top with red wine and garnish with a peach slice.

Unlike the usual Bellini, which goes in a flute, try this one in a coupe glass. Gorgeous!

Since we’re in a Bellini mood, this is a simple riff on that classic – with an herbaceous flair. This one makes a bunch – so call some peach-loving friends.

ROSEMARY PEACH SPARKLER

¾ cup water

½ cup sugar

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 very ripe peeled peaches 1

750 ml bottle well-chilled prosecco

Place first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for a couple of minutes, remove from heat, strain and thoroughly cool. Place cooled rosemary syrup in a blender with the peaches; process until smooth. Strain liquid into a jar. Add about 2 Tbsp. of rosemary peach mixture to 8 flutes and then top with a generous pour of prosecco. Garnish each glass with a tiny rosemary sprig. Simple, huh? And very refreshing. The hardest part will be deciding which seven lucky folks get to share.

Finally, a turn in a totally different direction: peach whiskey. Yes, I’ll admit that when the Crown Royal folks came out with their peach iteration I was skeptical. I had tried the Crown Royal Apple and was disappointed, plus they discontinued maple, which I really enjoyed, and I thus had no trust in their judgement. I was wrong. The peach is a marvel of intermingling flavors. If you purchase a bottle, first open and sniff. Of course it smells like whiskey – but wait! Is that a ripe peach hidden in that distinctive bottle? Then, when you taste, it is sweet but not too much. And smooth as Crown always is. What better, and more southern, way to enjoy than mixing with good ol’ iced tea?

ROYAL PEACH TEA

1-1/2 oz. Crown Royal Peach

6 oz. iced tea

Fill a glass with crushed ice. Pour in Crown Peach and then the iced tea. Stir to mix. Garnish with a lemon wedge. I didn’t have to mention that you use sweet tea did I? I buy a gallon at Publix so I’m always ready for refreshment. I notice on the Crown Royal website it specifies that Crown Peach is “infused with the juicy sweetness of ripe Georgia peaches.” Hmmm … wonder what California and South Carolina think about that? The Peach State rules!