Today at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing the Buñueloni to celebrate Luis Buñuel’s birthday. And to help us do this we have none other than Howard A. Rodman stepping in as guest columnist. We’ve brought in real firepower here: Mr. Rodman wrote the novels Destiny Express and The Great Eastern, as well as the films Joe Gould’s Secret and Savage Grace. He is the former president of the Writers Guild of America West and a current professor at the University of Southern California. And an expert on the matters at hand. As Mr. Rodman writes:
Luis Buñuel and Gin
Luis Buñuel, the Surrealist filmmaker supreme and one of the great artists of the last century, was born on this day in 1900. You may know him from his early work — deeply scandalous at the time and still disturbing a century on — like Un Chien Andalou and l’Âge d’Or. In the latter, a man with a rope pulls a pair of dead donkeys on a pair of pianos across a living room; in the former, a cloud scuds across the moon and, in matched cut, a razor slides across an eye. You may know him for his later masterpieces like Belle de Jour, or The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, in which the dinner party cannot be escaped.
But what you may not know about Don Luis is his lifelong devotion to a certain clear spirit. Where other surrealists found their inspiration in opium, in hashish, in absinthe — what Rimbaud called ‘the systematic derangement of the senses’ — Buñuel found his inspiration in Gin. He felt that no endeavor of the imagination could be accomplished without it.
In his autobiography My Last Sigh, written with his scenarist Jean-Claude Carrière, he devotes a whole section to Gin, and even includes two of his recipes for the Martini cocktail. In the first, a ray of sunlight is allowed to pierce the bottle of Vermouth, then land within the bottle of Gin. (Buñuel, who elsewhere said “Thank God I’m an atheist,” compares this to the immaculate conception.) The second recipe, a bit less dry but perhaps a bit more practical, calls for dousing the ice with Vermouth and bitters, pouring off the aromatics until only the faintly perfumed ice remains, and then adding the Gin. You’ll see what he wrote below the recipe for the Buñueloni.
Although Buñuel did his best thinking in dark afternoon bars with a Martini in front of him, he also created his own cocktail (with Gin at its center, of course). That cocktail is the Buñueloni, his own Negroni variation. It calls for Carpano instead of the more canonical Campari. Gin, Carpano, sweet Vermouth, in ratios that varied from bar to bar, from blog to blog, as one mixologist after another tried their own exegeses of Buñuel/Carrière’s sacred text. But what Carpano are we talking about? Most know it only as a brand of vermouth.
For the longest time aficionados of cinema cocktailia (and cocktailian cinema) studied 1980s footage of Don Luis, with Carrière, mixing a Martini. (No measuring jiggers for Don Luis — this is a man confident in his pours.) Only recently Mr. Louis Anderman, whose name should be familiar as the proprietor of Miracle Mile Bitters and Chief Protocol Officer of The Drunkard’s Almanac, unearthed a longer version of this footage — a director’s cut, if you will. In this extended version, after Don Luis mixes the Martini, he proceeds to make another cocktail: a Buñueloni! Here, after all these years, we learn his favored proportions: Gin, Carpano, sweet Vermouth, 3-2-1.
If we scrutinize the bottle of Carpano in the footage and compare its label with those on various vintage Carpanos, and research the ingredients of vintage Carpano, we find something extraordinary (drum roll, please). The Carpano used by Don Luis is the comparatively obscure (but available) Carpano Classico rather than the more common Carpano Antico or Punt e Mes. So now, for the first time in perhaps forty years, we can indulge in an afternoon imaginative reverie just as Don Luis did — and continues to do, in whichever sublime quarter of atheist heaven he now resides.
Martinis with Carrière
In 2014, knowing that Carrière would be in town to accept an honorary Academy Award, I arranged for him to come to USC for an evening of conversation. It seemed wrong to engage Carrière in public discourse without the presence of Gin, so Mr. Anderman was pressed into service to provide Martinis for the occasion. Here you see a photograph of M. Carrière and myself onstage sipping Mr. Anderman’s cocktails, which incited such a deeply memorable evening. And it is my humble — yet certain — belief that whenever we imbibe a Martini in a dark afternoon bar, whenever we mix Gin, Carpano, and sweet Vermouth in the correct proportions, M. Carrière is with us, Don Luis is with us, and our imaginations are profoundly and deliciously inflamed by the examples of their life, their work, the splendor and audacity of their films, and last but not least, their devotion to Gin.
- Old Fashioned Glass
- Place large chunk of ice in your Old Fashioned glass.
- Add all ingredients and stir to mix.
- Rinse and repeat.
From My Last Sigh:
To provoke, or sustain, a reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of the dry martini. To be frank, given the primordial role played in my life by the dry martini, I think I really ought to give it at least a page. Like all cocktails, the martini, composed essentially of gin and a few drops of Noilly Prat, seems to have been an American invention. Connoisseurs who like their martinis very dry suggest simply allowing a ray of sunlight to shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin. At a certain period in America it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin’s hymen ‘like a ray of sunlight through a window — leaving it unbroken.’
Another crucial recommendation is that the ice be so cold and hard that it won’t melt, since nothing’s worse than a watery martini. For those who are still with me, let me give you my personal recipe, the fruit of long experimentation and guaranteed to produce perfect results. The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients — glasses, gin, and shaker — in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don’t take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Shake it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, shake it again, and serve.
(During the 1940s, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York taught me a curious variation. Instead of Angostura, he used a dash of Pernod. Frankly, it seemed heretical to me, but apparently it was only a fad.)
—Buñuel/Carrière, My Last Sigh.