The urge to genuflect comes over me when I enter Mark's [1658 Westheimer, (713)523-3800], the cutting-edge American cuisine restaurant located in a remodeled church. Beneath the high ceilings of the former chapel, a loud congregation of devout convivialists assembles nightly for good food and spirits. The bar is located where the communion rail would have been, but the only spiritual advice bartender Ralph Barrientos II dispenses is about which champagne to use in peach bellinis. (He uses Iron Horse Brut but highly recommends Schramsberg.)
Mark's Peach Bellini
This is a wonderfully rich, fruity bellini that closely resembles the original Italian cocktail, which is made with only white peach nectar and champagne. The secret of a first-class bellini, Barrientos confides, is to use great champagne, but not to bruise it. Rather than pureeing the champagne in a blender with the other ingredients, he recommends pouring it into the glass and then flowing the fruit slush over the top.
1 cup crushed ice
1 shot Stoli
1 shot peach schnapps
1 shot peach nectar
1/2 shot cranberry juice
1/2 shot simple syrup
1 shot of the best American champagne you can afford
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Put the ice in the bottom of the blender. Add the vodka, schnapps, peach nectar, cranberry juice and syrup, and process until slushy. Pour the champagne in a cocktail glass and add the slush. Makes one large cocktail.