A Caesar or Bloody Caesar is a cocktail created and primarily consumed in Canada. It typically contains vodka, Clamato (a proprietary blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and is served with ice in a large, celery salt-rimmed glass, typically garnished with a stalk of celery and wedge of lime. It was invented in Calgary, Alberta in 1969 by restaurateur Walter Chell to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant in the city. It quickly became a popular mixed drink within Canada where over 350 million Caesars are consumed annually and it has inspired numerous variants. However, the drink remains virtually unknown outside the country.
Origin of the Bloody Caesar
The Caesar was invented in 1969 by restaurant manager Walter Chell of the Calgary Inn (today the Westin Hotel) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He devised the cocktail after being tasked to create a signature drink for the Calgary Inn’s new Italian restaurant. He mixed vodka with clam and tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and other spices, creating a drink similar to a Bloody Mary but with a uniquely spicy flavour. Chell said his inspiration came from Italy. He recalled that in Venice, they served Spaghetti alle Vongole – Spaghetti with Clams. He reasoned that the mixture of clams and tomato sauce would make a good drink, and mashed clams to form a “nectar” that he mixed with other ingredients. According to Chell’s granddaughter, his Italian ancestry led him to call the drink a “Caesar”. The longer name of “Bloody Caesar” is said to differentiate the drink from the Bloody Mary, but Chell said it was a regular patron at the bar who served as the inspiration. During the three months he spent working to perfect the drink, he had customers sample it and offer feedback. One regular customer, an Englishman, who often ordered the drink said one day “Walter, that’s a damn good bloody Caesar”.
Chell said the drink was an immediate hit with the restaurant’s patrons, claiming it “took off like a rocket”. Within five years of its introduction, the Caesar had become Calgary’s most popular mixed drink. It spread throughout Western Canada, then to the east. Coinciding with its 40th anniversary, a petition was launched in 2009 in the hopes of having the Caesar named the nation’s official mixed drink. In Calgary, Mayor Dave Bronconnier celebrated the drink’s anniversary by declaring May 13, 2009 as Caesar Day in the city. The Mott’s company was independently developing Clamato, a mixture of clam and tomato juices, at the same time the Caesar was invented. Sales of Clamato were initially slow: Mott’s sold only 500 cases of Clamato in 1970, but sales consistently increased after the company’s distributors discovered Chell’s drink. By 1994, 70% of Mott’s Clamato sales in Canada were made to mix Caesars, while half of all Clamato sales were made in Western Canada. Motts claims that the Caesar is the most popular mixed drink in Canada, estimating that over 350 million Caesars are consumed every year. Outside of Canada, the Caesar is virtually unknown. In the United States, it is typically only available at bars along the Canadian border. Elsewhere, bartenders will frequently offer a Bloody Mary in its place. The drink can be found in parts of Europe, but it is mostly found where there are higher populations of Canadians. The drink’s anonymity outside of Canada has come in spite of concerted marketing efforts. Producers of clam-tomato juices have speculated that their beverages have been hampered by what they describe as the “clam barrier”. They have found that consumers in the United States fear that there is too much clam in the beverages. The Caesar is popular as a hangover “cure”, though its effectiveness has been questioned. A study by the University of Toronto released in 1985 showed that drinking a Caesar when taking aspirin could help protect a person’s stomach from the damage aspirin causes.
Preparation and Variants
Basic preparation of a Caesar follows the “one, two, three, four” rule. The recipe calls for 30 – 45 ml of vodka, two dashes of hot sauce, three dashes of salt and pepper, four dashes of Worcestershire sauce and topped with 120 – 180 ml of Clamato and served with ice. The ingredients are poured into a glass rimmed with celery salt or a mixture of salt and pepper and garnished with a celery stalk and lime. The Caesar is an unusual drink in that it can be mixed in bulk and stored for a period of time before drinking. Though it was not one of Chell’s original ingredients, Tabasco sauce is a frequent addition, as is horseradish. Vodka is occasionally replaced with gin, tequila or rum, though the Clamato may not be substituted. A variant that replaces vodka with beer is commonly called a “Red Eye”, and one without alcohol is a “Virgin Caesar”. The Toronto Institute of Bartending operates a “Caesar School” in various locations across Canada that teaches bartenders how to mix several variants of the drink. Mott’s holds an annual “Best Caesar in Town” competition as part of the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival. Contests held across Canada to celebrate the cocktail’s 40th anniversary in 2009 encouraged variants that featured the glass rimmed with Tim Hortons coffee grinds, Caesars with maple syrup and Caesars with bacon-infused vodka.
- Rim a highball glass with the juice from the lime wedge and a combination of celery salt and salt.
- Add the vodka and clamato juice.
- Season with pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces to taste.
- Stir well.
- Garnish with a celery stick.
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