The French Riviera is no stranger to luxury travel, but when it comes to true opulence, it’s tough to beat Cannes. Located in the stunning Alpes-Maritimes department, this storied city has earned worldwide acclaim for its balmy weather, picturesque coastal vistas, and—of course—the Cannes Film Festival, one of the earth’s most prestigious celebrations for all forms of cinema. As the city’s fame has grown over the decades, a world-class hospitality scene has been fostered alongside it, with Hotel Barrière Le Majestic serving as one of its finest accommodations.
The splendor of the property is apparent immediately upon arrival, equipped with a magnificent Art Deco-style exterior towering over the palm tree-lined outdoor pool—but this palatial property is far more than just a pretty face. During a stay, guests are welcome to book a treatment at the Spa Diane Barrière, take a dip at the nearby private beach, or pay a visit to one of the hotel’s eight drinking and dining concepts. It’s tough to go wrong with any of the restaurants, but for serious spirits aficionados, there’s no better cocktail program than the one at Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s, a polished venue fronted by Bar Manager—and mixology extraordinaire—Emanuele Balestra.
“I was born near Lake Maggiore and grew up in Crenna, a picturesque district of Gallarate,” says Balestra. “At the age of eight—when most Italian boys are dreaming of football—I would head straight to the family restaurant at the end of the school day rather than the stadium. My Aunt Pinuccia allowed me to help serve the customers there and I loved it! I would position myself behind the bar, (standing on a couple of empty cases of San Pellegrino so that I could reach the bottles), and play at being a bartender, serving regulars and taking it all extremely seriously.”
In the years following his first forays into mixology, Balestra developed a seriously admirable portfolio, honing his craft at the prestigious Mamounia Hotel in the city of Marrakesh. During his time in Morocco, Balestra worked closely with esteemed chefs Jean-Pierre Vigato and Don Alfonso Laccarino to curate a three-acre herb garden, thus giving rise to one of the hallmarks of his craft—a steadfast devotion to creating complex syrups and cordials from herbs sourced from across the globe.
Given the French Riviera’s favorable weather, Le Majestic has served as a haven for Balestra’s craft, with two expansive herb gardens located on-property, one by the hotel terrace and another perched atop the roof. In addition to spectacular coastal vistas, the rooftop garden hosts a wide range of native and nonnative flowers, shrubs, and grasses, and is even home to a large colony of bees that provide fresh honey.
Though many of the herbs begin life in the balmy rooftop air, each individual species finds itself deep beneath the hotel post-harvest, entering a small chamber where Balestra crafts new cordials and experiments with rare botanicals ranging from tuberose to vetiver to Pelargonium rosat. Of all the many cocktails that Balestra has crafted during his time in Cannes, he’s particularly fond of the Bloody Majestic, a take on the classic Bloody Mary that’s finished with a hearty dose of homemade bitters and a spritz of housemade perfume crafted with Thai basil and lemon zest—both serving as a testament to the rich botanical diversity of the surrounding region.
“I did not come to Cannes for the famous film festival, but instead for the rare and unique ecosystems and expertise that we have in this region,” he notes. “Close by is the city of Grasse, which is the world capital of perfume, and home to unique ecosystems and plants and flowers from around the world. It is also home to Robertet, which is a world leader of natural aroma, where I studied for some time and now regularly consult for. All of these elements unique to Cannes contribute to the different stages of creating a cocktail. Being able to cultivate the rare and unique botanicals for my creations, and sublimate the final result with unique and artisanal glassware and ceramics, results in a truly one of a kind experience for our guests.”