The once-surrealist (and, in a sense, always surrealist) Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel made such classically bleak, humorous, and bleakly humorous pictures like Viridiana, The Exterminating Angel, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and That Obscure Object of Desire. He also made personal connections with an international range of idiosyncratic creative luminaries including Federico García Lorca, Sergei Eisenstein, Charlie Chaplin, Aldous Huxley, Pablo Picasso, Bertolt Brecht, Octavio Paz, Alexander Calder, and Salvador Dalí (his collaborator on the notorious short Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or). Having lived a life like that, Buñuel surely couldn’t help but write one of the most fascinating autobiographies in print. To become such a human cultural nexus, one needs not make motion pictures as enduringly striking as Buñuel’s, but one must certainly make a dry martini on the level of his own. Fortunately for the aspiring Buñuels of the world, My Last Sigh, that formidably intriguing life story, includes his personal recipe.
Dangerous Minds has posted the relevant excerpt. “To provoke, or sustain, a reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of the dry martini,” writes Buñuel. “To be frank, given the primordial role in my life played by the dry martini, I think I really ought to give it at least a page.” He recommends that “the ice be so cold and hard that it won’t melt, since nothing’s worse than a watery martini,” then offers up his procedure, “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. Stir it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, stir it again, and serve.” In the clip above, you can witness the man himself in action, a sight that gets me wondering whether Buñuel ever crossed paths with John Updike. Imagining such a meeting sets the mind reeling, but few quotes seem as apropos here as the New England novelist’s observation that “excellence in the great things is built upon excellence in the small.”
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.