Cocktail connoisseurs and refined spirits drinkers may bristle at the sight of pink gin, despite its pretty hue. Such coloring often alludes to a syrupy consistency or an overt sweetness, with the latter coming from an infusion of fruits or rhubarb. These “flavored” attributes, however, are antithetical to those of Riviera Gin, an herbaceous pale pink dry gin from the team behind Maison Mirabeau, one of the most beloved French rosé brands. Founded by Stephen and Jeany Cronk, Maison Mirabeau was born from a dream (and required the couple to move from London to Provence with their three children). Their elegant gin honors the wine heritage they’ve established over the last decade.
Mirabeau Riviera Gin is crafted from a 100% grape-based neutral spirit, derived from remaining grape skins in the maison’s wine cellars. This soft, balanced base liquid then adopts the graceful fragrance and flavors of the South of France—from wild seaside botanicals to those of the perfume capital of the world, Grasse. Further, the brand’s luxuriant bottle design references the glory days of the Riviera and its Art Deco architecture. To learn more about the birth of this delectable pink gin, we sat down with Stephen over several Mirabeau Riviera Gin cocktails and a Glencairn glass of the award-winning liquor neat.
Mirabeau is a brand built from your dreams and upon a risk that you took. How does the gin fit into this story or the bigger picture?
We’ve always had hardcore gin nuts at Mirabeau—mainly the Brits, but one French person too—and we had been talking about a gin for some time, but hadn’t yet made the first step to create one as we wanted it to feel like a natural evolution for our brand.
Then we had a genuine “eureka!” moment which occurred when we were de-alcoholizing a new lighter style of rosé for a new label called “Forever Summer.” We were using a clever piece of kit called a reverse osmosis machine, which split out the alcohol and put a reduced amount back into the wine. The byproduct was a delicious grape spirit with a gorgeous whiff of rosé wine. I remember the four of us standing next to the machine, next to the winery, and we all took a wine glass of this clear, pure alcohol that smelled out of this world. We all looked at each other and started to smile. We didn’t even have to say anything, we just high-fived each other and said, “Let’s make our gin out of grapes” and the concept of Mirabeau Riviera Gin was born.
There’s something quite kismet about the gin’s origin story. How did you decide to commit to a product though?
Jeany and I have always been big gin fans, and a friend of ours Alex Ignatieff (a trained sommelier and big gin lover) had been chatting to us for a couple of years saying we could make something really special. He lives very close to Château de la Colle Noire, where Christian Dior’s cultivation of flowers and botanicals in the “great Grasse countryside” had been the inspiration for many of the Christian Dior fragrances. Alex was convinced that the home of perfume would provide us with an almost infinite palette of flavors and scents to work with for a gin.
We liked the idea but we were busy making wines and wanted to ensure that it would be a natural step, but after the “eureka!” moment we could feel the firm hand of serendipity guiding us and we called up Alex and said, “Let’s do this” and he came on board as our Mr Gin.
What was the development process behind the gin like? How did you trial and tweak and improve?
Developing a gin really was quite challenging and we had over 50 iterations over many months, dialing ingredients up and down and working on a really good balance. Alex helped steer it incredibly well for us—finally we ended up with a profile where we thought, “This is it.” We found the sweet spot through this iterative process—sipping, smelling and discussing over the period of a year. A real labor of love.
What do you think people think when they see a pink gin?
The common perception is that all pink gins are sweet. Our original Mirabeau Riviera Gin is a first-of-a-kind, redefining the normal sweet pink gin category as a dry, yet highly aromatic, stylish gin. We’re passionate about educating our partners to arm them with the information needed to give the consumer another option that has all the visual beauty, but without the added sugar. Trying to reinvent a category will always be challenging when consumers already have strong associations, but we also did this for our dry pink wines and were ultimately successful.
Over the years your wines have picked up substantial acclaim and a devout consumer base. Did you craft a gin for the consumer body you’ve already developed? For someone new? Or both?
At Mirabeau, our focus was always on making delectable, dry rosé wines to be gorgeous aperitifs or perfect partners to a range of foods and for any occasion. With that in mind we wanted to stay true to our heritage and identity as a brand, so creating an elegant, dry gin was what we leaned toward and what we prefer to drink ourselves.
The Mirabeau brand’s promise of great quality and attention to detail means that our loyal customers are always open to new products from our house. We have found that these products are naturally complementary and have been delighted to have seen many of our wine customers instantly take to the rosé gin, but also gin fans coming over to try our rosés wines.
Do you believe your gin also aligns with the spirit of Provence?
Mirabeau Riviera Gin is our take on winemakers creating a gin. Through our gin we wanted to transport people to the French Riviera and showcase all that the region is famous for. Though, while we wanted to make a gin that reflects the beauty of the region, it also had to be a proper dry gin, leaning on the London Gin tradition. There’s definitely juniper there, but we made sure the style was soft, integrated and not domineering. We focused on three key flavor directions: citrus, floral and herbaceous. Lemons and coriander bring a lovely citrus hit, while orris and angelica roots impart earthy notes. Our delicate addition of rose, lavender and jasmine bring a variety of floral tones. Finally, bay, thyme and rosemary add a finely balanced herbaceous character to the blend. As a unique touch, Mirabeau Rosé wine is added to the macerate before distillation, bringing additional fruity character and a further link back to this iconic wine region and our heritage.
There are a lot of flavored and novelty gins out there. Yours isn’t that. How can you help consumers distance your pink gin from a flavored gin?
When we moved to Provence in 2009, most pink wines being enjoyed around the world were “blush style” sweet rosés. Yet we knew our future was in lighter, more gastronomic, dry style Provence rosé wines. In the same vein, and as you say, most pink gins are flavored and sweeter in profile and so we’ve got a challenge on our hands to persuade gin drinkers to give our rosé gin a try. Really we’re building a new category here and we’re planning to convert the world, sip by sip, to discovering the beauty of a grape-based dry rosé gin. We’re challenging people to think differently about pink gin.
Images courtesy of Mirabeau