Hail, Caesar! Canadians love this Calgary cocktail
Book includes more than 50 variations
It’s savoury, sweet, salty, sour and bitter all at once and all in a glass. The Caesar’s unique flavour profile has made it one of Canada’s favourite cocktails since the 1970s. Originator Walter Chell, restaurant manager of the Owl’s Nest bar in the former Calgary Inn (now The Westin Calgary), set out to create a liquid version of spaghetti alle vongole in rosso (spaghetti with clams and tomato) in 1969.
The result was the Bloody Caesar, consisting of vodka, clam nectar, tomato juice, lime, Worcestershire sauce and celery salt.
Concurrently, the DuffyMott Company created Mott’s Clamato juice in the United States, which was introduced to the Canadian market that same year. Buying the juice was a lot easier than sourcing clam nectar, and the cocktail took off across Canada.
Today, Clamato is the single ingredient that makes a Caesar a Caesar. Clint Pattemore, chief mixing officer for Mott’s Clamato, has created more than 50 variations of the cocktail, which he shares in his book Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail (Appetite by Random House, 2014).
Food recipes from chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson of Calgary’s CHARCUT Roast House are also included, which is particularly fitting as DeSousa and Jackson worked together at the Owl’s Nest early in their careers.
Tequila, gin, rye whisky, rum, beer and Pimm’s No. 1 Cup are among the alcoholic ingredients Pattemore uses in his Caesar variations, in addition to the traditional vodka.
“Depending on when and where and what I’m drinking it with, a classic is a classic for a reason,” Pattemore says in an interview. “(But) I love pickle juice in my Caesar, horseradish is always good. I like muddy Caesars with lots of Worcestershire. I also like to drink Caesars without vodka. So say gin or tequila, you’re starting with a base layer of flavour, which you can build on top. Gin has that botanical flavour, which works really well and tequila has that spicy, black-pepper taste.”
As for the enduring appeal of the Caesar, Pattemore thinks the reason is threefold: National pride, it’s easy to make and it’s an individual drink.
“I created these recipes to be more of an inspiration to the home bartender so they can see it, make it at home and adjust it to whatever they want,” Pattemore says. “If you don’t like it spicy, you don’t have to add all the hot sauce. If you want to change things around, I offer lots of tips and variations in the book. I think all of the recipes are pretty easy to make; you can find all the ingredients at any major grocery store.”
Many people are partial to specific ratios, rimmers, seasoning and garnishes when it comes to Caesars, but they can also work for a crowd. Pattemore recommends entertaining with Caesars by setting up a do-it-yourself Caesar bar, with glassware, ice, a variety of rimmers (e.g. celery salt, Montreal steak spice), a selection of hot sauces, Clamato, Worcestershire sauce and garnishes.
“Cut up veggies, cheeses, pickles — kind of like an over-the-top charcuterie board — that makes the perfect garnish for a Caesar these days,” he says.
Alternatively, batch your Caesars, but leave the alcohol out.
Caesars make great virgin drinks and adding alcohol separately will allow you to determine who gets alcohol and how much.
“And of course lots and lots of ice; keep your Caesars cold. More ice in your glass means a stronger drink that doesn’t dilute as much because it stays colder longer,” Pattemore adds.
The Classic Bloody Caesar
This recipe is where it all began. Thank you, Walter Chell!
Glass Highball Celery salt or Mott’s Clamato Rimmer
What 1 oz (30 mL) vodka 2 dashes hot sauce 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce 3 grinds fresh cracked salt and pepper 4 oz (120 mL) Mott’s Clamato Cocktail Garnish Celery stalk Lime wedge How Rim a highball glass with citrus and rimmer.
Fill the glass to the top with ice.
Add the ingredients in the order listed.
Stir well to mix the cocktail, and garnish.
Nothing adds coolness and freshness to a cocktail like cucumber.
The vegetable makes a great counterpoint to the savoury nature of the Caesar.
It’s essential to muddle the cucumber slices right in the mixing glass, as you would with lime if making a Mojito.
It takes a bit more effort, but it’s well worth it. Glass Highball
Rim Fresh cracked salt and black pepper Cucumber slice Fresh cracked salt and black pepper How In a mixing glass, muddle everything but the gin and Mott’s Clamato Cocktail.
Add the gin and Mott’s Clamato Cocktail, and stir well to mix and spread the flavours around.
Rim a highball glass and fill to the top with ice.
Strain the mixture into the highball glass, and garnish.
Note: Add fresh basil, dill, or even mint to the muddle of ingredients for some herbiness.
If you can find a cucumber-infused gin to use, even better, as it will lend another layer of cucumber flavour.
Summer Melon & Marinated Feta Skewers with Mint
Serves: 6 This fun party favourite combines sweet, refreshing, juicy watermelon perfectly with salty feta cheese.
Cherry tomatoes or bell peppers make a great addition or alternative to
1 orange 3 sprigs fresh thyme 3 sprigs fresh oregano
2½ cups (625 mL) olive oil ¼ cup (60 mL) white wine vinegar 1 bay leaf Salt and black pepper 1 small seedless watermelon, about 1 lb (500 g) 3 Persian cucumbers (or other thin-skinned cucumbers) ¼ bunch fresh mint 12 6-inch (15-cm) bamboo skewers
Cut the feta into ½-inch (1-cm) cubes and place in a non-reactive container. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the rind off one lemon and the orange.
Layer the citrus rind, thyme and oregano in among the cheese cubes. Pour 2 cups (500 mL) olive oil over the cheese, making sure the cheese is completely submerged.
Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the rind from the remaining lemon in ribbons.
In a small pot, bring the vinegar, lemon rind, and bay leaf to a simmer. Remove from.the heat and strain out the rind and bay leaf.
Let the vinegar cool, then whisk in the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Using a serrated knife, cut the rind off the watermelon: Cut the ends off first, then stand the watermelon up on one end and remove the rest of the rind, starting form the top down to the bottom. Cut the watermelon and cucumbers into ½-inch (1-cm) cubes and place them in separate large bowls.
Pick 24 mint leaves and place them in a separate bowl.
Onto each piece of bamboo, skewer the ingredients in the following order: Watermelon, mint, cucumber, feta, mint, and watermelon, pushing them to near the bottom of the skewer but leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) handle space.
Whisk the dressing to re-emulsify it and pour enough over the skewers to lightly coat. Serve immediately.
Note: Both the marinated cheese and the dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. The skewers can be made up to 6 hours in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Pour the dressing over top right before serving.
Rim There’s nothing like a cucumber when it comes to adding coolness to a classic Caesar. What 4 slices cucumber 2 dashes Tabasco pepper sauce 3 grinds fresh cracked salt and black pepper 1 oz (30 mL) gin 4 oz (120 mL) Mott’s Clamato Cocktail Garnish
Mott’s Clamato is the single most identifiable ingredient in the classic Caesar.
Summer Melon & Marinated Feta Skewers with Mint are a great taste companion to the Caesar.