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Luis Buñuel’s Perfect Dry Martini


In his memoirs, the director explains in detail how to prepare one of his strongest creative allies.

The drums of Calanda accompanied Luis Buñuel throughout his life. In his invaluable memoirs, published under the Buñuel-esque title, My Last Sigh, an entire chapter is dedicated to describing a peculiar tradition of his hometown. The drums sound from noon on Good Friday until the same hour on Holy Saturday, and, according to Buñuel, “the drums, an amazing phenomenon, overwhelming, cosmic, touch the collective unconscious, shaking the ground beneath our feet.” Later, in Buñuel’s film Nazarí, an incorruptible priest played by Francisco Rabal, was to continue his own tortuous pilgrimage accompanied by the same apocalyptic sign.

This seismic redoubling, which Buñuel claimed to have heard for the first time from his cradle at but two months old, offers a suggestive metaphor for the life of a man firmly rooted on Earth and in worldly pleasures. In no way did they exclude the possibility of his imaginative flight or dreamlike delirium. His memoirs present the testimony of an exceptional man who lived through some of the 20th century’s most exciting and turbulent moments, and yet, they do so without excluding the small daily pleasures that accompanied him. Proof of this is a chapter which, by way of eulogy, he dedicated to taverns:

I’ve spent delightful hours in bars. The bar is, for me, a place of meditation and recollection, and without which life is inconceivable. […] In bars, I’ve spent long dreams, rarely speaking to the waiter, and always with myself, invaded by a courtship of images all the more surprising.

If there was something fundamental to Buñuel, something capable of stimulating his creative fibers to their maximum and whispering into his surrealist ear some of the most powerful images in the history of cinema, it was, with little doubt, the dry martini: “Given the primordial role the dry martini has played in this life I’m telling, I need to devote one or two pages to it.”

Said and done. Buñuel describes in detail the difficult art of creating a truly inspiring dry martini:

There was a time when, in North America, it was said that a good dry martini must look like the version of The Virgin. Indeed, it’s already known that, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, the power of the Holy Spirit passed through the hymen of the Virgin “as a ray of sunshine crosses a crystal, without breaking it.” The Noilly-Prat is the same. But to me, all of this seems an exaggeration.

Another recommendation: the ice must be very hard so that it doesn’t release water. There’s nothing worse than a wet Martini. Allow me to give my personal formula, the result of a long experience, and with which I always have pretty rosy success.

I put in the fridge everything I need, drinks, gin, and shakers, the day before I’m expecting guests. I have a thermometer that allows me to check that the ice is about 20 degrees below zero.

The next day when friends arrive, I take out everything I need. Firstly, onto the hard ice I put a few drops of Noilly-Prat and half a teaspoon of coffee, and the Angostura bitters, shake well and throw out the liquid, preserving only the remaining ice, lightly scented by these two ingredients. Onto that ice, I pour the gin pure, shake, and serve. That’s it, and it’s unbeatable.

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