Cap Gin – a taste of the luxurious, languid life of leisure along the Côte d’Azur, 1920s style.
The term Côte d’Azur was coined by the writer, Stephen Liégeard, whose 1887 travel guide to the French Riviera, “ La Côte d’Azur, described this ‘coast of light and warm breezes.”In the early 20th century, this sunshine coast inspired the Impressionist artists, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Dufy, Bonnard and Picasso, who lived and painted around Nice, Villefranche, Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer to capture the luminous colour of land and sea.
The Riviera also became a glamorous retreat for wealthy travellers, celebrity writers, musicians and socialites of the Jazz Age. Leaving Long Island, New York, in 1924, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda moved to the Villa Saint Louis, Juan-les-Pins, their residence for three years.
“We were going to the Old World to find a new rhythm to our lives. ... driving along the High Corniche Road through the twilight with the whole French Riviera twinkling on the sea below. As far ahead as I could see was Monte Carlo…when life was literally a dream.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
The so-called “lost generation” of Americans sought refuge here to escape Prohibition back home. At the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, luxury villas and super-yachts. along the coast, the Fitzgeralds, Gerald and Sara Murphy, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Cole Porter, Stravinsky, Gertrude Stein and Coco Chanel – gathered for extravagant parties where champagne and cocktails flowed through the night.
Leisurely life and times here became the backdrop for his novel, “Tender is the Night”, opening with a description of the legendary Eden-Roc resort.
“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, halfway between Marseille and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-coloured hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people”.
In a letter to his friend Ernest Hemingway, FSF wrote ” ….. back on my beloved Riviera…I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.”
It is also a beloved, magical place for three friends, Andrew Campbell, James Auld and Adam Payne who shared a dream to reflect its cultural, literary heritage in a distinctive, dry French Gin.
CAP Gin is an expression of the Côte d’Azur distilled in a bottle, created from local botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica Root, lemon peel, and pink peppercorns – blended with the iconic fragrance of Rose, Mimosa and Fleur d’Oranger synonymous with the coastline between Monaco and Saint Tropez.
The recipe for this premium spirit has been refined and perfected in collaboration with Dr David Clutton, who has extensive knowledge of pot stills and distillation.
“CAP Gin encapsulates the true essence of the hills and coastal fringes of the French Riviera. With citrus elements derived from lemon and sweet orange peels, aromatic Fleur d’Oranger buds and Mimosa flowers delivers a complex and elegant, yet perfectly balanced gin, of superior quality.” Dr. David Clutton.
It was an immediate success, receiving two gold medals for both Premium and London Dry categories, from the Spirits Business Gin Masters 2020. With scores of 80-89, CAP gin was judged to be “floral and luxurious” and the must-have drink this summer.
So, no wonder that I have been very keen to try this award winning gin myself. The chunky bottle is well designed with an attractive aqua blue and turquoise label. On the stopper is tiny logo of a swimmer in a swooping dive, encircled by a clever tagline, “Cap – L’Esprit de la Côte,” truly spiritual in both senses of the word.
The aroma on the nose is delicately perfumed evoking soft floral notes with a whiff of sea air, while the blend of herbal, floral and fruit ingredients are finely balanced, as tested in a dry Martini.
The initial sip is such a pure, clean taste, crisp, biscuity, bone-dry, and a garnish of a twist of orange draws out the sweet citrus tang. I often prefer an olive in a Martini, adding a touch of salty spice as a lingering aftertaste. With complex layers of aromatic flavours, this is a smoothly textured, highly sophisticated gin to be savoured in leisurely, languid fashion.
Stir ingredients gently with ice in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled martini glass
75ml CAP Gin
15ml Noilly Prat vermouth
As a G&T, what could be a better companion that Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic, infused with the oils of local flowers, fruits and herbs such as lemon thyme from Provence.
A predecessor of the Martini, the Martinez is said to be the most classic of classic cocktails. There are various stories about its origin, either invented by a bartender in Martinez, California or at a hotel in San Francisco. The recipe was first published in O.H. Byron’s “The Modern Bartender” in 1884, described as being the “same as a Manhattan, only you substitute the gin for whisky.”
40 ml CAP Gin
25 ml Sweet Vermouth
5 ml Maraschino Liqueuer
1 Dash of Angostura Bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with orange zest.
This cocktail is perfectly suited for CAP gin as Hôtel Martinez is a landmark art deco building on the Croisette waterfront in Cannes. It opened on 20 February 1929 by its owner & founder, Emmanuel Michele Martinez, the son of a noble Italian family.
It was on the French Riviera where F. Scott Fitzgerald finished The Great Gatsby, and most appropriately the recent movie starting Leonardo DiCaprio, opened the Cannes Film Festival in May 2013 …….(with a post show party most likely at the Hôtel Martinez.)
Fitzgerald was enchanted by the Riviera .. ….its “diffused magic of the hot sweet South … the soft-pawed night and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below.”
This was his playground for work, writing, pleasure and socialising leisure. While he commented that “too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” his favourite tipple was gin as he believed it could not be smelt on his breath.
His cocktail of choice was a Gin Rickey, as introduced in chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby.
Tom came back, preceding four Gin Rickeys that clicked full of ice. Gatsby took up his drink.
“They certainly look cool,” he said, with visible tension. We drank in long, greedy swallows.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
2 oz. Gin
Club Soda Water
Add the gin to a tall glass full of ice with the juice from the lime half, and then drop the shell into the glass. Top with soda water.
Scott and Zelda were known to frequent the Bar Américain at the Hôtel de Paris, Monaco, for a nightcap – most likely a Gin Rickey or a Gin Fizz.
CAP Gin certainly does capture L’Esprit de la Côte, evoking the glamorous lifestyle of those decadant hedonistic days on the French Riviera, a century ago. Whether you prefer a refreshing G&T, a Martini, Martinez or Negroni, do try this silky smooth, classy, classic and oh so, elegant Gin. Yes, the must-have drink for summer 2020.
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Zelda and Chanel et al, would have approved of CAP gin! à votre santé
CAP gin is distilled and produced at Distillerie des Terres Rouges, Turenne, France, available to purchase in the UK via, www.capgin.com