Et tu Caesar?
One if the menu items mentioned by Jill for our American-Canadian Cooking Project is a curious concoction. She suggests that I quench the thirst of my March 18 guests with a Caesar. What can she mean? Is this a Shakespearean reference? A tragic cocktail? What is the connection between the biggest emperor of them all and a Canadian beverage?
I delve into Internet research that’s as wide and deep as the Seven Seas – or just about. All evidence seems to point to a drink called “Clamato.” I contact Jill to find out if I’m on the right track, or following a red herring. She writes:
Yes, you’re on the right track. Caesar is the Clamato drink – not a red herring, although red and a bit fishy-tasting!
What is Clamato? It’s a spicy tomato-based drink invented in 1969 in California by the Duffy Mott Company. The marketers of the world say it’s a leader in the “Seafood Blend” category of beverages, because as you might suspect, the secret ingredient is clam juice.
Clamato is a key ingredient in a cocktail called the “Bloody Caesar” which is considered by many to be the national drink of Canada, and the country’s number one selling cocktail. More than 250 million Caesars are sold every year.
It all starts to come back to me. The memories of my car trips across the Prairie Provinces, the roadside hotels and many a Caesar consumed in a dark hotel cocktail lounge. The Caesar is a relatively new invention, credited to a bar tender named Walter Chell. Chell invented the drink in 1969 when he worked for the Westin Hotel in Calgary, Alberta. He was looking to create a cocktail for the opening of a new restaurant and developed a drink that was a mixture of mashed clams, tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Adding a celery stalk for garnish, Chell dubbed the drink a Bloody Caesar. Chell’s invention is held in such regard that he even gets a mention on the website devoted to “Famous, Should Be Famous and Infamous Canadians.”
Later, the Mott Company developed its Clamato Juice and after an initial dispute, hired Chell as a consultant to promote the drink.
Here’s the classic recipe for a Caesar:
1 ounce Vodka
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce
Rim a tall glass with celery salt and fill with ice. Add vodka, fill glass with Clamato juice and add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Garnish with a celery stick and enjoy.
Now, all I need is a proper Canadian toast!
©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved
1 hour ago