The Caesar is not, as you might have heard it called, the “Canadian version of a Bloody Mary.” It is, in fact, the next step in the Bloody Mary’s evolution. “It’s the transition from the bachelor pad accident of, ‘we only have vodka and tomato juice,’ to, OK, let’s make a nice drink,’” says Keith Corbett, bar manager at Vancouver’s Score on Davie, which is known for its menu of extreme Caesars.
Like many Canadians, Corbett grew up surrounded by Caesars. “I come from a pretty traditional Canadian family that loves Canadian football and is into big family gatherings, and they like to celebrate when they get together, which often means having a number of drinks,” he says. “The virgin Caesar, made without vodka, was introduced to me when I was fairly young, about 10 years old.” But Corbett didn’t catch Caesar fever until he was 21 years old. “I was on a patio in the summertime in the Okanagan on the lake and I had one, and then, subsequently, I had about 10 more after that,” he says. “Since then, if it’s a correctly made Caesar, I really don’t think you can beat it.”
Others who now worship at the altar of the Caesar (don’t call it a Bloody Caesar, by the way, that’s just its Americanized name) also grew up in Clamato-soaked households. “I remember my first Caesar,” says Garreth Burrows, bartender at Tavern on Whyte, an Edmonton bar that recently won the title of Edmonton’s Best Caesar with their Happy Birthday Canada 150 Caesar (it came garnished with a food from every province). “It was at my uncle’s during holiday festivities. I remember being really surprised at the taste: spicy, smooth and just a little twinge of something I couldn’t put my finger on. I didn’t find out until later that there was actual clam juice in Clamato.” For Michelle Lessard, who now runs Yeg Caesars, an Instagram/blog dedicated to finding and documenting the best Caesars in the Edmonton area (YEG is the airport code for Edmonton International), Caesars were part of everyday life, with family members drinking both spiked and virgin versions of the cocktail all the time. Now, she is passing her passion for Caesars onto her nephew, who accompanies her on her Caesar escapades, weighing in on the virgin offerings.