Clam juice in a cocktail? You can’t be serious? This is usually followed by a polite and perplexed look of disgust from the foreigner. After attempting to convince them that it is just like a Bloody Mary but way better they give you the blank stare; The sales pitch rarely works. The Bloody Caesar cocktail is a truly Canadian phenomenon. It is understandably difficult for outsiders to get past what some describe as “the clam barrier”.
The Bloody Caesar, or Caesar for short, is a cocktail that typically combines vodka and Clamato juice with Worcestershire sauce, hot sauces, and salt and pepper in a celery salt rimmed glass garnished with a stick of celery and a lime wedge.
The obvious question is how on earth did someone come up with the idea to add clam juice to a cocktail? Adding a lime seems normal but adding clam juice sounds like an industrial kitchen accident or a prank.
Walter Chell was a bartender at an Italian restaurant in what is now a Westin in Calgary. In 1969 he was asked to create a signature drink for his restaurant. Like most great mixologist, Walter was a fine cook. The drink’s inspiration came from a dish he tried in Venice called Spaghetti alle vongole, that is, Spaghetti in a tomato clam sauce. He spent three months perfecting the drink and mashed many clams to obtain its nectar. I am sure that he got a lot of concerned stares from his coworkers. As man was landing on the Moon the planets were also aligning that same year as the Mott’s company was simultaneously developing Clamato, its mix of clam and tomato juice. Destiny.
The drink’s name apparently comes from his own Italian ancestry and is obviously fitting for his employer’s restaurant. According to the creator’s granddaughter the final “bloody” touch was added by an English patron, “That’s a bloody good Caesar”!
The drink was an instant hit at the restaurant. My guess is that Chell probably did not tell anybody what was in it until after they were hooked. It quickly spread across Western Canada and then to the East and has not waned in popularity since. In 2009 Caesar celebrated his fortieth birthday in Canada and the Mayor of Calgary declared May 13, 2009 as Caesar Day in the city. Good man. A marketing campaign was launched by Mott’s to make it Canada’s official mixed cocktail, and numerous attempts to popularize the drink outside of Canada were attempted without avail.
I wonder if Will and Kate tried one on their recent Canadian stopover? A Mountie on the tarmac passing them a Caesar after they descended the plane’s stairs in Slave Lake would have been a fitting Canadian greeting. A nice lift after all those flights.
1 ½ oz Vodka
6 oz Clamato Juice
2 dashes hot sauce
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes salt and pepper
To make a Caesar, rim a highball glass with celery salt and fill with ice. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir and garnish with a lime and a stick of celery. Raise your glass and toast, “Long live Caesar.” Optional.