How Barrière Le Majestic Cannes developed the finest cocktail program on the French Riviera
The French Riviera is no stranger to luxury travel, but when it comes to true opulence, it’s hard to beat Cannes. Located in the beautiful Alpes-Maritimes department, this historic town has gained worldwide fame for its mild climate, picturesque coastal views and, of course, the Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious celebrations for all forms of cinema. As the city’s fame grew over the decades, a world-class hotel scene grew alongside it, with Hotel Barrière Le Majestic being one of its finest accommodations.
The property’s splendor is apparent upon arrival, outfitted with a gorgeous Art Deco-style exterior towering over the palm-lined outdoor pool, but this lavish property is more than just a pretty face. During a stay, guests are invited to book a treatment at the Spa Diane Barrière, swim on the nearby private beach or visit one of the hotel’s eight restaurant concepts. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the restaurants, but for serious spirits lovers, there’s no better cocktail program than that of Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s, a refined venue helmed by the Bar Manager and l extraordinary mixologist Emanuele Balestra.
“I was born near Lake Maggiore and grew up in Crenna, a picturesque neighborhood in Gallarate,” says Balestra. “At the age of eight, when most Italian boys dream of football, I went straight to the family restaurant at the end of the school day rather than to the stadium. My aunt Pinuccia allowed me to helping serve the customers there and I loved it!I would position myself behind the bar (standing on some empty San Pellegrino crates so I could reach the bottles) and play bartender, serving the regulars and taking it all very seriously.
In the years since her first forays into mixology, Balestra has developed a seriously admirable portfolio, honing her craft at the prestigious Mamounia Hotel in the city of Marrakech. While in Morocco, Balestra worked closely with acclaimed chefs Jean-Pierre Vigato and Don Alfonso Laccarino to curate a three-acre herb garden, giving rise to one of the hallmarks of his craft – a unwavering dedication to creating complex syrups and cordials. from herbs from around the world.
Given the favorable climate of the French Riviera, Le Majestic served as a haven for Balestra craftsmanship, with two extensive herb gardens located on the property, one near the hotel terrace and the other perched on the roof. As well as the spectacular coastal views, the roof garden is home to a wide array of native and non-native flowers, shrubs and herbs, and is even home to a large colony of bees that provide fresh honey.
Although many herbs begin life in the balmy rooftop air, each individual species finds itself deep beneath the hotel after harvest, entering a small chamber where Balestra crafts new cordials and experiments with rare plants ranging from tuberose to vetiver via Pelargonium rosat. Of all the many cocktails Balestra crafted during his time in Cannes, he is particularly fond of the Bloody Majestic, a take on the classic Bloody Mary that ends with a healthy dose of homemade bitters and a spritz of homemade flavor made with Thai basil. and lemon zest, both testifying to the rich botanical diversity of the surrounding region.
“I did not come to Cannes for the famous film festival, but rather for the rare and unique ecosystems and the know-how that we have in this region”, he notes. “Nearby is the city of Grasse, which is the world capital of perfume and home to unique ecosystems, plants and flowers from all over the world. It’s also at Robertet, which is a world leader in natural flavoring, where I studied for a while and now consult regularly. All these elements specific to Cannes contribute to the different stages of creating a cocktail. Being able to grow rare and unique plants for my creations, and enhancing the end result with unique, handcrafted glassware and ceramics, results in a truly unique experience for our guests.