The D List: Bringing Back the Jabberwock

Named for Lewis Carroll’s mythical beast, the historic Martini variation finally gets its due.

Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock is a fearsome winged beast with flaming eyes, twisted talons and man-crushing jaws, a “frumious bandersnatch” that can only be slain with the sharpest sword in looking-glass world.

Harry Craddock’s Jabberwock is slightly easier to handle. Appearing in the bartender’s sanctified Savoy Cocktail Book, the drink comprises equal parts gin, dry sherry and Caperitif, plus orange bitters and a lemon twist. (In a nod to Carroll’s 1871 nonsensical poem from which it takes its name, a footnote observes that it’ll make you “gyre and gimble in the wabe until brillig.”)

Daniel Godinez, beverage manager of Dock Street Cannery + Lounge in West Philadelphia, first encountered Craddock’s Jabberwock as a bartender in San Francisco. A longtime lover of gin—“It’s always been there for me, in good and bad ways”—the Half Moon Bay-native has been on a lifelong hunt for the ultimate Martini. It’s a search that’s led him beyond the classic build to the cocktail’s infinite variations, including the Jabberwock, which he first sampled at a Savoy-themed popup at the now-defunct Heaven’s Dog in SoMa.

Before moving east in 2017, Godinez bartended at SF’s Basque-inspired 15 Romolo, where he had the arsenal to explore riffs of all stripes. The Jabberwock’s makeup intrigued Godinez; “I liked the idea of tuning down the gin with an equal amount of sherry,” he says. But, until it was revived last year by A.A. Badenhorst, Caperitif, the South African fortified wine called for in the recipe, had been out of production for decades. Dubonnet, a common but inexact substitution for Caperitif in the Jabberwock, didn’t do it for Godinez. The end result was “too astringent, and didn’t linger as long as I wanted it to,” he says. “The original just wasn’t my drink.”

Dozens of experiments later, he settled on his own interpretation. Retaining the equal part building blocks of the original, Godinez begins with three quarters of an ounce each of dry gin and chamomile-infused manzanilla sherry (in Spanish, “manzanilla” translates to “chamomile.”) But just like the “vorpal blade” Carroll’s hero wields to lop off the Jabberwock’s head, Godinez needed something distinct to slice through this base. The solution: another three-quarter-ounce portion, this time split evenly between Dolin Blanc vermouth, Lillet and St-Germain.

This trio, according to Godinez, brings a number of distinctive traits to his version—minerality from the blanc vermouth, viscosity via the Lillet and a floral bouquet encouraged by the elderflower liqueur. He’s tinkered with the way the citrus is incorporated, too, adding the twist directly to the mixing glass and discarding it after stirring (“that just weaves the lemon into the cocktail”). Lastly, he opts to deliver the orange bitters as a punctuating spritz via an atomizer, so the aroma lingers with each sip. The resulting Jabberwock is a success; a session Martini that won’t send you galumphing into the night.

Related Articles