Canada's Caesar Cocktail Adds A Fishy Twist To The Bloody Mary

All hail, Caesar! That's what you'll be saying after one sip of the classic Canadian cocktail. A brunch staple (maybe for its rumored potential to cure a hangover), the Caesar isn't a new invention, but it is definitely something that you need to know about if you love umami-rich bevvies. Much like the Bloody Mary, the Bloody Caesar is a vodka-spiked tipple that owes its ruby-hued color to tomato juice. However, that juice is laced with a fishy ingredient that might just surprise you — but more on that later.

Given the recent shift away from sweet cocktails, VinePair explains that many imbibers are seeking more adventurous ingredients, opting for savory drinks that highlight salty, acidic, and spicy flavors. Naturally, this change and maturation of our collective palate paves the way for concoctions like the Caesar to face a sort of revival. Dubbed the ultimate culinary cocktail, Chatelaine explains that the Caesar has savory and spicy elements but also levels of sourness. That said this complexity can be amplified depending on which spirits and other mix-ins are added.  

Tailored to anyone's tastes, it's this level of versatility that makes the Caesar so popular among the masses up north. Simply swap vodka for smoky tequila, gin for an herbaceous twist, or even a splash of beer for a mildly bready nuance. You can even experiment with hot sauces, mixers, and don't even get us started on garnishes!

The history behind the Canadian classic

The brainchild of bartender Walter Chell, explains that the Caesar was invented in 1969 after the owners of Alberta's Calgary Inn asked Chell (who oversaw the affiliate bar, Owl's Nest) to create a cocktail. With the opening of the hotel's new Italian restaurant, The Toronto Star reports that the mixed drink was meant to be a pairing for a clam-based dish featured on the menu, spaghetti alle vongole.

Drawing inspiration from other clam juice cocktails like the Smirnoff Smiler, Gravel Gertie, and Clamdigger, The Canadian Encyclopedia shares that Chell took months to finally perfect the recipe, eventually settling on a blend of fresh tomato juice and hand-mashed clam juice, in addition to Worcestershire, and his secret ingredient, oregano. Just like that the drink became an institution — so much so that the Bloody Caesar has since been recognized as the country's national drink.

According to the LCBO, the adoration of the tomato tipple grew largely in part of the Duffy-Mott Company upon releasing a tomato and clam juice beverage called Clamato. Simplifying a huge step in the Caesar-making process, the presence of Clamato allowed mixologists and home bartenders alike to quickly prepare the drink while still maintaining the same fresh flavors.

How to make a Caesar

Where the Bloody Mary is made strictly with tomato juice, its Canadian counterpart is made with Clamato, which — unsurprisingly — gives the bevvy a certain savory sharpness along with extra umami, rounding out the mixed drink and creating a balance between acid, salt, umami, and sweetness.

As for what else goes into a Caesar, ingredients may vary, but most Canadians would agree that a traditional tipple includes a base of Clamato, vodka, and Worcestershire that recalls Chell's famous recipe. For a more modern take, the LCBO recommends adding 1 1/2 ounces of vodka along with a squeeze of lime juice, a few dashes of Worcestershire and hot sauce, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a rimmed Collins glass. Topping with Clamato, the cocktail should be stirred several times, before being finished with a garnish of your choice.

Like all things in life, variations do exist. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, some mixologists up north have been known to add anything from spicy sriracha to hoisin sauce, rich tandoori to jerk seasoning, and maybe even a splash of maple syrup, because, why not? As for rims and garnishes, hang onto your toque!

Garnishes galore

Some Canadians would argue that a Caesar is 50% about the drink itself and 50% about the garnishes. While you can go the conventional route with celery stalk— this better compliments Clamato — and pepper rim and a piece of celery or pickled beet, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the LCBO, you can roll your glass in Montreal steak spice (a blend of salt, pepper, garlic, coriander, cayenne, and dill) or even tajin for a bit of heat and citrusy tang. As for the garnish, anything goes. With absolutely no rules, Caesars can get pretty outrageous. Salty and sour pickled vegetables like asparagus, onions, or peppers can add a briny kick, but you can even experiment with heartier garnishes. Top with your drink with a crab claw, grilled prawn, shucked oyster, or even fare from the land like a chicken wing or strip of candied-maple bacon.

For the most impressive Bloody Caesars, we recommend taking a road trip. Stop by Ottawa's Le Terrasse for their fishbowl-sized Surf and Turf Caesar or Vancouver's The Score on Davie for a Checkmate Caesar, which features a roasted Cornish game hen. As for Canada's best Caesar, Mott's Clamato crowned Saskatchewan's Snooker Shack as the most recent winner for their Caesar called The Ticket. Made with fat-washed vodka, bourbon barrel aged Worcestershire, ginger syrup, and jalapeño marinade, it's garnished with wasabi-dusted beef jerky and a pickled green bean — oh, and the cocktail is also smoked! There's no competing with a Canadian Caesar, eh?