Updated: Oct 19, 2018
What really makes a Caesar… a Caesar?
When most people think of a Caesar, they think of three things: vodka, clamato juice, and spices. The clam part of that equation is key, otherwise it would just be a plain old Bloody Mary. But beyond the clam + tomato + vodka + spices, what if you wanted to do something a little different? What if you wanted to put your own spin on the classic Canadian cocktail? Would it still be considered a Caesar?
The answer is YES!
The Caesar is all about creativity and personalization. It’s a cocktail that you should definitely make your own. Let’s take a closer look at Canada’s national cocktail.
The Classic Caesar
There are a ton of different ways to make a Caesar, but it really is hard to beat the original.
Created in 1969 by Walter Chell to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant in Calgary, the classic Caesar has gained mythic status in Canada. The original recipe is familiar to just about every Canadian today, but back then, it was revolutionary.
Chell didn’t go crazy with his original Caesar because, by the standards of his day, it was crazy enough already! The original recipe simply included vodka, clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and a few other spices. Simple, savoury, and delicious. Countless variations have been created since then, but the original, basic Caesar is still a favourite of Canadians everywhere.
OMG, We’re Out of Vodka! What Should We Do?!
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different variations of the Caesar that substitute many of the common ingredients and add different garnishes. One of the most radical things you can possibly do with a Caesar is to use a completely different kind of alcohol to make the cocktail. Some of these combinations are absolutely delicious, while others… well, your mileage may vary.
If you really want your Caesar to have an extra kick, you could use Jägermeister instead of vodka. Jägermeister itself boasts 56 herbs and spices, so you can bet that it’s a perfect match for the already spiced-up Caesar! If you’re curious about this version of the Caesar, this is one of the many variations that we’ll be serving at Caesar Fest this year on July 22nd at the Fifth Social Club and Rooftop Terrace—so if you like your Caesars spicy, come and get ‘em!
How-to: What’s great about a Caesar featuring Jägermeister is that you can keep it pretty simple—just add your favourite classic Caesar cocktail ingredients (skipping the vodka), a shot of Jägermeister, garnish with a fresh stalk of celery (or whatever else you desire), and you’re good to go with an exciting fresh depth of flavour. Cheers!
For something completely different—but equally spicy and satisfying—we suggest trying gin instead of vodka in your Caesar. Yup, that’s right—gin! We know gin isn’t everyone’s thing, but those who love gin know that it offers some incredible flavour subtleties. The trick is to find a gin that pairs well with the tomato and clam flavours of a Caesar. While gin definitely changes the flavour profile, the new concoction ends up being just as delicious!
How-to: Enjoy this version of the Caesar with all of the usual “classic” ingredients (minus the vodka), but try adding a little hot sauce, olive brine, and freshly-squeezed lime juice to it to really round out the flavours. For an extra kick, throw in a bit of horseradish. Yum!
If you’re looking to put a tropical twist on your Caesar this Canada Day, we suggest replacing the vodka with some rum. Oddly familiar, yet completely different, a rum Caesar will definitely be the best way to celebrate both summer and Confederation this year!
How to: Like your gin Caesar, all the traditional ingredients here are a must (but again, minus the vodka)—but adding a few basil leaves, a clove of roasted garlic, and some freshly-squeezed lime juice to this version of the Canadian classic will push it over the top! Since this is a rum Caesar, to give it a little extra island flavour, try garnishing it with some seafood—bacon-wrapped scallops, anyone?
Speaking of liquors originating from “hot, hot, hot” countries to the south of us, tequila ALSO makes for a fantastic Caesar. And what’s more, when you use tequila in your Caesar instead of vodka, you have ample opportunities to celebrate some of the great flavours of Mexico. Try it out at your next “Day of the Dead” or “Cinco de Mayo” bash.
How-to: Make your Caesar as you would normally, but replace your vodka with tequila. Add a few shakes of Chipotle Tabasco sauce, some freshly-squeezed lime juice, and—if you’re a fan of this controversial herb—cilantro. Garnish with a skewer of tomatillo, a lime wedge, and if you’re feeling particularly spicy, a jalapeño pepper. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a taco dinner.
If you love both Caesars AND the summertime flavours of sangria, you may want to try your Caesar with wine. What??? We know what you’re thinking—”Grapes and clamato? Really!?” However, one sip and you’ll be amazed at just how well the flavours of the wine pair with the spicy and savoury notes of the clamato juice and spices. Hey, red wine is fantastic as an ingredient in tomato sauce, so is it really such a stretch to think that it could work fabulously in a Caesar too?
How-to: Grab your favourite quality red wine to make this Caesar truly top-notch; dry, oaky wines go best with the flavours already present in the Caesar. Don’t skip the vodka this time—you’ll want to add equal parts wine and vodka. We recommend Crystal Head Vodka. Along with your traditional Caesar recipe staples, add a little olive juice, a splash of hot sauce, and some fresh lemon juice to get the most outta this Caesar. Garnish as you please!
Finally, we come to beer. Believe it or not, a Caesar that features beer is a variation on a popular Mexican cocktail, the Michelada. The Michelada is traditionally made with beer, lime juice, and a variety of spices, sauces, and peppers, but the Caesar version of the Michelada also includes (of course) clamato! Just like its Canadian cousin, the Michelada is considered to be a hangover cure. This drink is also somewhat popular in Western Canada, where it’s known as a “Red Eye”. It’s also sometimes referred to as a “Mighty Baesar” or a “Red Beer”. Whatever you decide to call it, it’s sure to please!
How-to: Skip the vodka this time, but add your classic Caesar ingredients as you so please. For a single serving, you’ll want to use half a can of beer to half a cup (250mL) of clamato. To play up this drink’s Mexican roots, try using a Mexican lager, such as Modelo. Though not Mexican, it’s terrific with a few splashes of soy sauce, or if you want to take it to the next level, a few drops of Maggi seasoning sauce.
...by now, you’re probably thinking almost any type of booze you can find hidden away in your pantry works well as an ingredient in a Caesar. And you’d be pretty much right on the money! The Caesar’s versatility continues to stretch across the globe all the way to Japan with this vodka-replacement, Sake. If you’re not familiar with Sake—also referred to as Japanese Rice Wine—it’s an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice. It’s a staple beverage at many a sushi restaurant here in Canada, and a definite favourite in Japan... And it tastes amazing in a Caesar!
How-to: Build your Caesar as you would normally, but add Sake (try Gekkeikan Sake) instead of vodka. Add lime juice, and for some extra Asian-inspired flavour, a few dashes of Sriracha and/or soy sauce. For some added heat, stir in a little Wasabi paste (careful—a little goes a long way!). Garnish with some pickled ginger and a slice of lime. Sushi anyone?
If you’re a traditionalist when it comes to your Caesars, the idea of putting anything other than vodka in your Caesar might give you the chills. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative when it comes to one aspect of your Caesar though—garnishes! Since the creation of the Caesar, people have been using garnishes to put their own unique spin on our national cocktail.
While we’ve touched on a few garnish ideas above for Caesars that feature specific types of alcohol, there are many, many more avenues to try when it comes to Caesar toppings! In fact, the sky's the limit when it comes to garnishes—it’s all about what you find compliments the flavour of your Caesar the best. Sometimes, it may even just be about how impressive and “Instagrammable” you can make your Caesar look! Playing with garnish options is the perfect way to bring out your inner chef and your inner artist.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can always start simple. Many people like to keep it easy and traditional when it comes to their Caesar garnishes; dill pickles, a stalk of celery, perhaps a few olives are all classics. Some may go a little further and add other items of the pickled variety, like hot pickled peppers, pickled onion, pickled beans, or pickled asparagus!
Others might go the extra mile and give their Caesar a little more meat—a crisp strip of bacon has been a trending garnish for several years now. You can also turn your Caesar into a snack, an appetizer, or even a full meal by piling more complete foods right on top of your cocktail. This generally starts with anything you can skewer: cheese cubes, barbequed scallops or prawns, shish kabobs, chicken fingers, onion rings, entire sandwiches like a quartered grilled cheese or even a slider! This is starting to sound like a whole meal, right?
...And then there are the ridiculously extravagant garnishes. We’ve seen lobster tails on top of Caesars and even an entire peking duck! Is this getting a little overboard or is it just getting better and better with each new bartender or chef’s new creative twist? Who are we to judge? We’re all Caesar fans here! (...And to be honest, we’re salivating just thinking about some of these crazy ideas!)
The bottom line is, however you like to enjoy your Caesars is more than fine by us. Whether you love the classic, want to try a different kind of alcohol as your base, or simply love going crazy with the garnishes, your Caesar will still be delicious! So go nuts and have some fun making your own variation on the Caesar. Who knows, you might even discover a combination that becomes popular enough to feature at next year’s Caesar Fest!