Sunday, June 21, 2015


As books go, Facebook is one very weird book.  Sometimes I use it for shameless self-promotion – which I suppose is one of the purposes of a certain kind of book – and my own case it’s never entirely shame-free. Sometimes I’ll say something witty or interesting or DEEP things and I’ll get three likes.  But then other times I just a stick a picture up there and everybody goes crazy for it.  I posted this one:

and I got more likes and replies and comments and feedback than I’ve ever had for any other post.

It’s a photograph of a martini I had last week in Musso and Frank – the ancestral, Hollywood Boulevard, liquor-soaked home of Chandler, Bukowksi, Dorothy Parker,  John O’Hara et al.  

If there’s a better martini to be had in the universe then I would certainly like to find it, but until then I’m more than happy with this version.  And an interesting thing about the Musso and Frank martini – it doesn’t seem to matter which of the many bartenders makes it, they’re all equally excellent.  They’ve got the quality control thing down to a T.

One of the responses to my post was this deeply wonderful ad for Fleischmann’s gin from Facebook pal Steve Duffy – “ a martini your best and only friend.”  

But now that I think about it - if a martini's my ONLY friend, then by definition it's got to be my BEST friend, but that's not necessarily saying much, is it?  It must also be said that the martini is the kind of friend that’s sometimes led me astray, just as well I’m the forgiving sort of friend.

And then movie-lover Anne Billson sent me a clip from YouTube showing Luis Bunuel making a martini – he actually uses a few drops of bitters, an increasingly rare presence in the modern martini, I find.  Thus:

I’d read Bunuel on the martini in his autobiography My Last Sigh but had never seen him in action. In that book he writes:
“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."

Despite being raised a Catholic, Bunuel has, like many before him, got the doctrine of the Immaculate conception all wrong here.  It’s the Virgin Mary who’s immaculately conceived, not Jesus.  I didn’t know this either until I read it in the works of the atheistic Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens was no stranger to the martini though I haven’t been able to find a picture of him drinking one.  I had to make do with this instead:

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