Spiking a vodka and tomato juice mixture with clam essence is cocktail bliss for Caesar-swilling Canucks, but the elements in this oh-so-Canadian cocktail weren’t always well-understood.
In fact, according to Alberta researchers, it took months for Calgary bartender and Caesar inventor Walter Chell to hit the perfect proportions.
A mixologist at the Calgary Inn before the job even had a title, Chell was tasked with creating a cocktail to celebrate the 1969 opening of the hotel’s new restaurant, Marco’s Italian. Inspired by his favourite Italian dish, spaghetti vongole, Chell set out to create a drink that would capture the pasta’s hearty clam and tomato flavours.
Eventually, he came up with the recipe Canadians have come to love: vodka mixed with clam-infused tomato juice, lime, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce served in a cup with a delicious celery salt rim.
How exactly did Chell decide to use clam juice in his sipper?
Turns out he may have been inspired by a historical cookbook.
As Michael Platt notes in an article for the Calgary Sun, a 1900 copy of Modern American Drinks contains a recipe for a sea-spiked cocktail, as does a 1951 Betty Crocker cookbook.
READ MORE: 10 craziest Caesar cocktails from coast to coast
Soon after the appearance of Chell’s creation at the inn, Mott’s beverage company released what is arguably the world’s best-known clam-infused tomato juice, Clamato.
This made it easier for people to create the Caesar at-home.
According to an Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by the company in 2009, the Caesar, or Bloody Caesar, is now the most popular cocktail in Canada; Mott’s estimates that more than 350 million are consumed each year.
Beyond the occasional American article praising the “Canadian Bloody Mary,” Chell’s heady blend of sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter notes hasn’t gotten much love beyond our borders.
Modern variations reflect international influences, substituting or enhancing British Worcestershire sauce with horseradish, wasabi, kimchi, chipotle, sriracha, teriyaki, tandoori, jerk spice, Dijon mustard or any number of multicultural flavours.
A staple at Canada Day celebrations and weekend brunches, and a drink as red as our flag, the Caesar is a cocktail that can rightly claim that it came, it quenched, and it conquered the country.
Craving a Caesar? Learn how to make these tasty Great Canadian Cocktail Garnishes.