the buñueloni

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February 22 marks the birthday of my favorite director, Luis Buñuel, and I wouldn’t be happier if you were to join me in celebrating with a martini. Primordial in his life, said Buñuel, the martini provokes or sustains reverie, and thus I find it crucial to have at least a martini or two if one is to understand his oeuvre. His martini recipe is discussed in his autobiography, and in the short biographical film El Náufrago de la Calle Providencia (Castaway on the Street of Providence) (1971), which is appended to the Criterion DVD of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

If you really want to show off your Buñuel chops, though, bypass the martini and head straight for his creation, the Buñueloni. In the documentary, Buñuel mixes up a pitcher of these beauties, which he claimed were 3 parts gin, 2 parts “Carpano,” and 1 part Cinzano or what he called “sweet martini.” These were served over ice in a tall glass with an orange twist, and the drink was deeply colored (red or brown). Simple enough, you think. But would you expect simplicity from the man who brought you the Andalusian dog?

The problem with his tutorial is that Buñuel doesn’t pour what he says he’s pouring. We got our geek on, and we discovered that he actually pours 1.5 gin, 1 Carpano, 1 (or maybe a skosh more) Cinzano. As you can see, the proportions are quite different.

A larger problem is that Buñuel doesn’t specify which “Carpano” he means. Because the drink is supposed to be a modification of the Negroni (1-1-1 gin-Campari-sweet vermouth), and because Carpano almost always signifies Punt e Mes in latter-day US of A, I initially thought the bitter Punt e Mes would be the substitute for the bitter Campari. But is it?

The Carpano family has been making four kinds of vermouth since, like, forever in Italy: Rosso (also called Classico), Bianco, Antica Formula (softer, gingerbready, chestnut-colored, complex and the most expensive of the four), and Punt e Mes (reddish-brown, raisiny, extra bitter). Since Buñuel didn’t specify which one, one might assume he meant “Classico,” but because he mentions the drink was expensive, he could have meant “Antica Formula,” which commands a higher price than the other Carpanos in Italy and the U.S.

Carpano Antica retails in California at about $30 for 1L and is hard to find. Punt e Mes, which is slightly cheaper at 750 mL/$21, is available at BevMo. Since 2002, Punt e Mes has been owned by the people who make Fernet Branca, Fratelli Branca, and there’s just one place on the bottle that mentions Carpano, but you’ll still see it marketed as Carpano Punt e Mes. The Classico isn’t available, to my knowledge, in the U.S.

I managed to get my hands on a bottle of Antica and poured myself a Buñueloni with it. Oh. My. God. The drink was still a warm, reddish brown, but the similarities ended there. The Antica smoothed all the tears of the bitter Punt e Mes away and left a comforting, haimisch spiciness that was absolutely lovely. It *completely* transformed the drink. It was sweet, and yet not cloying in any way. I might call it flirtatious — warm, supple, a skosh mysterious, coy, hints of bitterness, with an undeniable kick that lingered. By the second sip, I was mesmerized. It was perverse seduction, forbidden attraction, the pinch of love, necrophiliac fantasies, the caress of a shoe, a maid, a revolutionary cornered, the beat of wings, the path to salvation, mud flung, a sudden gunshot, the moon, the clouds, the moment of suspense before the razor strikes. Glorious.

So, without further ado, the final recipe.

Buñueloni

1.5 oz. gin

1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula vermouth

1 oz. Cinzano Rosso (sweet vermouth)

Stir and pour over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with an orange slice. Drink with likeminded friends, or alone with the Marquis de Sade, Freud, Marx and Engels and/or the entomologist Lucien Fabre, all cherished by Buñuel.

15 thoughts on “the buñueloni

  1. Michelle 22 February 2008 / 1:33 pm

    Rrrrrowwwrrrr!!! With that description – who could resist?? Can I come over for one?? ;)

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  2. Eugenia 23 February 2008 / 8:45 am

    Sure! Bring your chest freezer! ;)

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  3. Michelle 25 February 2008 / 4:38 pm

    He he he…you wish!! ;)

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  4. Dave 19 November 2011 / 6:06 pm

    1 Part Martini and Rossi Sweet (Red) Vermouth [that is the “sweet Martini”, as opposed to the white, dry vermouth]
    2 Parts Carpano Antica Formula
    4 Parts Gin, Beefeater (or Junipero)

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  5. Eugenia 20 November 2011 / 2:04 pm

    Dave, that’s not Bunuel’s recipe (see above). Is it your interpretation?

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  6. Dave 20 November 2011 / 5:04 pm

    The Criterion edition documentary was done by a guy who grew up as his neighbor in Mexico and Buñuel makes one off the bar cart by the pool. Proportions are 1 part Martini Rosso, 2 parts Carpano Antica Formula and 3? parts gin (which I may have misremembered as 4, but it was 8-9 yrs ago last time I saw it & 4 parts gin works well.) I’m almost positive he used Beefeater, but the Junipero is spicier and a good substitute. I’m going by my ability to understand Castilian Spanish and experience in the liquor biz, so I recognized the labels he had. My memory’s not perfect but it is rather good. ;)

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  7. Eugenia 20 November 2011 / 5:23 pm

    Your memory and credentials may be excellent, but your recipe is not accurate in this case for all the reasons I list in my original post. I rarely get my geek on, but we did a frame-by-frame analysis, so I’m pretty confident in what I’m saying here. :)

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  8. Dave 21 November 2011 / 12:47 am

    OK, but “Buñuel mixes up a pitcher of these beauties” is wrong, since he only makes one and it’s poured straight into a glass. He then adds ice & hands it to one of the film crew. (I found the clip online and watched it over & over again.)

    There’s no garnishes of any sort on the cart or the glass, so I’m not sure where your “orange twist” comes in.

    It’s clearly a bottle of the Antica Formula (the original commercial vermouth) in the video, Punt e Mes is very different, since it is a boldly bitter aperitif. There’s no confusing the labels: the classico & bianco labels are smilar in design and close to the Put e Mes. The Antica Formula is distinctly different.

    The clearly-labeled bottle of Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth has no pour spout on it, but the Carpano and gin do, so the speed of pouring is different for the M&R versus the other 2 ingredients, but my trained bartender’s eye sees what we used to call a 7 count of gin; a 4 count of Carpano; and a heavy 2 count of M&R.

    [Upon further review, the gin label seems to be Gordon’s, but the bottle sits behind the Noilly Prat when he makes the martini, he moves it to the table behind the Ballantine’s Scotch and then it sits behind the M&R when he makes the Buñueloni.]

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  9. Eugenia 21 November 2011 / 7:47 am

    Link, please. My guess is you’re only watching part of the clip, or perhaps a different clip. I’m not sure why else there would be these discrepancies — and I’m surely not stupid enough to miss a bottle name in front of my face.

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  10. Dave 21 November 2011 / 5:20 pm

    Sorry, it was late last night & I forgot to include it. Took quite a while to find. “Don Luis’ cocktails”

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  11. Guillermo 2 May 2015 / 3:49 pm

    In the video, Don Luis clearly states the proportions as 3 of gin, 2 of Carpano, and 1 of Cinzano or sweet Martini. I am not however 100% convinced that the Carpano he is using is identical to the Antica Formula. The A.F. was first introduced about 10 years after Don Luis died you see. Unfortunately, the Carpano Classico is not imported into the United States.

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  12. Dave2 8 December 2015 / 12:36 am

    He says 3-2-1, but he’s pouring twice as much gin as Carpano.

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  13. Dave2 8 December 2015 / 12:38 am

    Guillermo, this is Mexico, not US, of course. Any idea what Carpano was in Mexico at the time?

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