Emanuele Balestra, the alchemist

Published on 8 June 2021
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The Chief Bartender of the Hotel Barrière Le Majestic

Responsible for the Majestic’s bars, Emanuele Balestra is a chief bartender apart. A little bit of chemist or botanist, and something of a beekeeper too, this mixologist, passionate about nature, uses his impressive know-how in the heart of this luxury Cannes hotel.

After scouring wonderful establishments in the 4 corners of the world, this likeable Italian finally laid out his spoons and shakers at the Majestic in 2014.

From his travels, from Lake Maggiore to Mauritius via Chicago and more recently Marrakech, he has brought back in his recipe book a host of plant ingredients that he grows here, in Cannes, in the gardens of the Majestic, created especially for him.

Emanuele Balestra

Flavours from the ends of the earth and herbs from the garden

If the magic works as soon as you sip one of the famous “Balestra cocktails”, it’s a long way from the bar that the story of this exceptional juice began… In the early morning, Emanuele strolls on the roof or along the side of the Croisette, his pair of scissors in hand, to gently pick each leaf that will add its flavour to the nectars served up that evening.

Then, behind the scenes, in his laboratory, this alchemist transforms his plants into a jelly, ice cubes, bitter syrup and recently, edible perfume. He dehydrates, infuses and distils to create scents of bergamot, marjoram, Jamaican thyme or purple basil from Puglia.

As for the perfume, plants, flowers and aromatic herbs are cajoled in his ultrasonic machine to extract the perfect essence before distillation. These edible aromas then steep in their wonderful bottles, before being gently vaporised on an intuitive, creative cocktail from this Maestro of taste.

Emanuele and his bees

It’s a whole little ecosystem that Emanuele has created in the heart of this 5-star hotel. Edible plants are pampered thanks to a house full of insects created to safeguard in an eco-responsible approach the aromatic garden where verbena, sage, rhubarb or pink geranium, fennel and lemon balm grow.

On the roof, basil, lavender and rosemary cover this open-air space. But beyond adding their perfume to cocktails, these aromatic plants also allow the bees from the 4 hives to forage at will. Then, Emanuele harvests the fruit of the work of these colonies, honey which he then flavours with essential oils of fruit or plants such as bergamot or eucalyptus.

A respect for nature, but also a quest. That of extracting the essence of flavours to create subtle blends in his glasses.

Emanuele Balestra, prolific creator

After creating cocktails with a confectionery taste, delivering his recipes up in a collection filled with anecdotes called “Majestic Cocktails by Emanuele Balestra”, and encapsulating the aromas, Emanuele’s latest creation is a collaboration with the GIN 44° created and distilled in Grasse. A white alcohol that exudes the power of the centifolia rose, jasmine and notes of Mediterranean citrus fruits that we find in his latest cocktail, developed for the Majestic’s new restaurant, Paradiso Nicole & Pierre, the Paradiso Provençal. A subtle blend of Gin 44 Paradiso, Fever Tree Ginger Ale and a bergamot scent, from the plants in the Majestic’s garden.

Another upcoming creation from this multi-talented artist, a blond beer with the scents of bitter orange.

Text: AblaCarolyn

Photo credits: Fabrice Rambert & Alban Couturier