Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Caesar celebration: Saucy Canadian cocktail hits the big 4-0

TORONTO — It’s an unmistakable Canadian cocktail: a blood-red mash-up of clams and tomatoes, of spices and sweets, and this month all are hailing the beloved Caesar.
The red-hot beverage still looks pretty good for 40.

“I think Canadians have really got behind their national cocktail. I mean, if you go to the States and you ask for a Caesar, chances are you’re getting a salad. In Canada, when you ask for a Caesar, you get a fantastic beverage,” said Gavin MacMillan from BartenderOne, a bartending school based in Toronto.
As part of the 40th-anniversary celebrations, MacMillan was on hand Monday evening at an event challenging media-types to make the quintessential Canadian brew.
It yielded some interesting concoctions: a Caesar mixed with Canadian beer, a Caesar rimmed with Tim Hortons coffee grinds, and a BLT Caesar with a splash of bacon-infused vodka.
“We saw some Caesars made with maple syrup as a bonding ingredient,” MacMillan said with a smile before he mentioned the finishing touch — a hockey stick carved out of celery.
The iconic summer-time drink and, on occasion, hangover cure, was created in 1969 in Calgary by a bartender named Walter Chell.
Chell worked at the Owl’s Nest bar in the Calgary Inn, now the Westin Hotel.
He was asked to make a brand-new cocktail for an Italian restaurant within the hotel.
The original Caesar was made with hand-mashed clams, tomato juice, vodka and spices. It was given the name of the famous Italian emperor and became known as the Bloody Caesar.
Today, the drink has flamed across the country from west to east.
“Canadians annually drink about 300 million Caesars, which if you break that down based on head of population we’re looking at 10 Caesars per man, woman and child,” said MacMillan, adding the virgin version of the drink is popular too.
But the cocktail has remained uniquely Canadian. Beyond our borders, it’s found in pockets of Europe. The key ingredient, clamato juice, is mostly popular with expats in the United States.
“If you go to a border town in the U.S. you might get people who know what a Bloody Caesar is, but usually anywhere else it has to be a community where there are a lot of Canadians,” said Susan George from Tabasco Food Service Canada.
Hot sauce is an ingredient in the Caesar, which turns the tame sip into a fiery fusion of tomato, clam and vodka.
Bartenders say the drink’s popularity can be broken down into simple chemistry. The tongue has sweet, bitter, sour and salty tastebuds and the Caesar, with its juices, salted rim, lime, hot sauces and spices, seems to satisfy.
“When you hit all four of those taste buds it’s impossible not to have a great drink,” said MacMillan, adding it’s a savoury cocktail, which lends itself to a nice steak dinner.
As for the old wives’ tale that it’s a hair-of-the-dog remedy, well, MacMillan said, though chock-full of vitamins and minerals, the drink may lack medicinal properties.
“I have a tough time saying it’s a cure for hangovers. I also admit I’ve had quite a few when I’ve been feeling the effects of alcohol from the night before.”

When it comes to making the perfect Caesar, Canadians are particularly fussy. Here are the basic ingredients, followed by a few innovative variations:
— Tomato clam cocktail
— Hot pepper sauce
— Worcestershire sauce
— Vodka
— Dash of salt and pepper
— Garnish: Celery salt rimmer, a celery stalk and a wedge of lime are longtime favourites.
Source: Lea and Perrins, Tabasco.
———
Spicy Citrus Caesar
Rim a highball glass with fresh lime juice and celery salt. Fill glass with ice and add:
145 ml (5 oz) tomato clam cocktail
30 ml (1 oz) citrus-flavoured vodka
10 ml (2 tsp) fresh lime juice
10 ml (2 tsp) fresh lemon juice
1 ml (1/4 tsp) hot pepper sauce
5 ml (1 tsp) Worcestershire sauce
Stir to mix and garnish with slices of lemon and lime.
———
Beloved Beet Caesar
Rim a highball glass with fresh lime juice and celery salt. Fill glass with ice and add:
145 ml (5 oz) tomato clam cocktail
30 ml (1 oz) gin
1 ml (1/4 tsp) hot pepper sauce
10 ml (2 tsp) fresh lime juice
5 ml (1 tsp) Worcestershire sauce
10 ml (2 tsp) beet juice
Stir to mix and garnish with a skewer of pickled beet and sliced bocconcini cheese.
———
Smoky Caesar
Rim a highball glass with fresh lime juice and celery salt. Fill glass with ice and add:
145 ml (5 oz) tomato clam cocktail
30 ml (1 oz) pepper-flavoured vodka
1 ml (1/4 tsp) hot pepper sauce
1 ml (1/4 tsp) chipotle pepper sauce
10 ml (2 tsp) fresh lime juice
5 ml (1 tsp) Worcestershire sauce
Stir to mix and garnish with a slice of avocado and a slice of red bell pepper.
Source: Tabasco.

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