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A Surrealist-Inspired Martini for the Vermouth-Averse

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Since we’re gin people, we’re making classic cocktails (and riffing off them) with Tanqueray No. TEN.

When you find out that a cocktail is inspired by Surrealist superstars Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, plus The Pixies, what else are you supposed to do but order it immediately (no matter what's in it)?

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Photo by James Ransom

I have a feeling that Joaquín Simó, a New York City-based bartender and drink consultant, knew the weight of this pull when he developed the recipe.

"The Debaser cocktail is my ode to one of the great martini lovers of all time—the surrealist Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, who would famously stir up a daily martini to conclude a day of filming, or indeed, any day at all," he explains. "The martini was of such importance to Buñuel that he devoted a page in his memoirs to his own recipe."

Buñuel speaks at length about his martini preferences in his memoir, specifically the light use of vermouth.

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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. 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.

...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... 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.

Joaquín mentions further that Buñuel's collaboration with Salvador Dalí on the iconic short film Un Chien Andalou inspired the title track—"Debaser"—from The Pixie's 1989 album Doolittle. And his Debaser cocktail takes its name from that title track.

Got me a movie
I want you to know
Slicing up eyeballs
I want you to know

Girlie so groovy
I want you to know
Don't know about you
But I am un chien andalusia

I am un chien andalusia
I am un chien andalusia
I am un chien andalusia

Wanna grow
Up to be
Be a debaser (debaser)
Debaser, (debaser)...

With the art and music as inspiration, Joaquín wanted to come up with a martini variation that would have made the vermouth-averse director happy.

"Considering Buñuel's Spanish heritage, dry sherry immediately sprang to mind as an alternative fortified wine," he says. Using small amounts of sweeteners, he added a bit of richness without making the drink cloying: vanilla notes from Licor 43, orgeat to quietly reinforce the sherry's nuttiness, and curaçao and orange bitters to echo the whole oranges used in making Tanqueray No. Ten.

And, lastly, the garnish: An olive skewered pole to pole is a subtle nod to the iconic scene in Un Chien Andalou.

Joaquín Simó's Debaser Cocktail
Joaquín Simó's Debaser Cocktail
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Joaquín Simó's Debaser Cocktail

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Serves 2
  • 2 ounces Tanqueray No. Ten Gin
  • 1 ounce Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado sherry
  • 2 teaspoons (scant) Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
  • 2 teaspoons (scant) Licor 43
  • 2 teaspoons (scant) orgeat syrup
  • Few dashes orange bitters
  • Olives and lemon peel, for garnish

We've partnered with Tanqueray No. TEN to bring classic cocktails (and new interpretations of them) to your home bar. Please enjoy responsibly.


Our magical menu genie will plan your holiay feast for you.

Tags: sherry, martini, surrealism, Luis Buñuel