Cheers to Caesar – the Cocktail – on its 50th Anniversary

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Cheers to Caesar – the Cocktail – on its 50th Anniversary

By Roslyne Buchanan.

Celebrate #NationalCaesarDay today (May 16th) for the 50th Anniversary of Canada’s iconic cocktail. Born in Calgary, Alberta at the then Calgary Inn (now the Westin) in 1969 as brainchild of restaurant manager Walter Chell, the Caesar has grown in popularity.

The Caesar cocktail. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

As Canadians have travelled the world, the Caesar once known only in Canada has gained popularity. It’d be a pretty poor bar if it wasn’t in the back pocket of bartenders in hot spots like Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Cabos, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Turks and Caicos, cruise ships, and the list goes on.

Chell based his inspiration on spaghetti vongole – pasta with clams – when he was creating the cocktail list for the Calgary Inn’s new Marco’s Italian restaurant. While his was not the first cocktail to use clam juice as a base, it was certainly the most delicious. It was a matter of synchronicity that Mott’s happened to be working on a new tomato and clam juice (Clamato) at the time.

Caesar cocktails. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

The classic recipe by Chell required the rimming of the glass with a celery salt mixture and now Mott’s has created the Clamato Rimmer to save you some steps. The garnish included a lime or lemon wedge squeezed into the glass at the end and a celery stalk preferably with great foliage. Today the sky is the limit for garnishes: You may see a fresh clam, an asparagus spear, pickled carrot stick, hot pepper, bacon, and yes, even a min hamburger or slider! Chell dampened the top of a highball glass with citrus, turned the glass upside down into a dish of his celery salt concoction to rim it and then filled it with ice cubes. He then added an ounce of Vodka, a couple dashes of Tabasco Hot Sauce, about a teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce, four ounces of Clamato, then stirred it well, sprinkled a bit of pepper and salt, squeezed the lime wedge and dropped it in and presented it with the celery stalk garnish.

The Caesar cocktail. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Some like it hot (Yes, I like it hot.) and others not so much so naturally the recipe has evolved and you can find all sorts of creative takes on it. Mott’s itself added variations to The Original such as Extra Spicy, The Works, Pickled Bean and Lime. For some ideas, you can check out Mott’s website: www.mottsclamato.ca under the ‘Recipes’ tab.

Fun Facts

In 2009, Parliament officially declared the Caesar as “Canada’s Official Cocktail” – no doubt inspired by a poll that year indicating an estimated 350 million-plus downed annually. Today that number is estimated over 407 million. Still, outside of Canada, you might have to confirm you mean the drink rather than a Caesar Salad. The cocktail is very similar to a Bloody Mary so if you happen to hit that sheltered mixologist that hasn’t heard of it, you can simply ask for a Blood Mary BUT with Clamato rather than Tomato juice.

It hasn’t hurt the Caesar’s popularity that Clamato has become known as a hangover cure. Who wouldn’t want “the hair of the dog that bit you” to be that tasty?

Ceaser mixes. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

New Clamato Renditions

As noted, Mott’s has experimented with its Clamato formula over the years and other contenders have come on board. Walter Craft Caesar Mix based in Vancouver is named to honour Chell and was an evolution of some important food developments and local movement. It is all-natural, certified Ocean Wise, and gluten-free.

Kelowna-based Simp’s Syrups also offers Simp’s Serious Caesar Mix. It, too, addresses sensitivity to many dietary limitations and is MSG-free, gluten-free, fish-free, and vegan.

Uncle Dougies Ceasar mix and cocktail. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

In Chicago, there’s Uncle Dougie’s. Hail Yeah! Caesar, which is organic certified, gluten-free and has no preservatives, no chemicals, no GMOs, and has less salt.

These are a few of the companies that have hopped on board, and of course, there are versions by President’s Choice, Great Value, Bremner’s and more. Plus, you know it has gone mainstream when beer companies like Budweiser and Sol offer premixed beer and Clamato.

Walter Caesar mix and cocktail. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

National Caesar Day

Celebrated each year on the Thursday before the May long weekend, #NationalCaesarDay is a fine day to salute ‘Canada’s Official Cocktail’. Ask for one at your favourite bar, make one at home or drop into Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery from 10 to 6 pm, May 16, to have one with locally crafted artisan Vodka.

Join me to raise your glass to Caesar on its 50th Anniversary!


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Roslyne Buchanan (aka Roz) Roslyne Buchanan is a regular freelance contributor to food, travel, wine, home and lifestyle magazines. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine Trails, WestJet Magazine, OpenRoad Driver, Savour, Niche, Destinations Travel Magazine, My Van City, and blog.hellobc.com. Based above BC’s Naramata Bench in Penticton, she enjoys spectacular views of forests, vineyards, lakes, and hills beyond and regular visits from wildlife. Enchanted by the food and beverage industry and all things culinary as well as recreational pursuits such as travel, golfing, skiing, hiking, tennis and snorkeling. For her it’s the perfect balance to pursue her passion for writing with integrity and joy to share firsthand experiences. Most of her adventures are shared with her husband, Mark and when they’re not out exploring, they are managed by two felines Baja and Floyd. Find her personal blog at www.rozsmallfry.com, follow her on twitter @RozDB and Instagram @roslynebuchanan

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