For northern mixologists, the Caesar is an art form. Yes, his sister Bloody Mary is objectively more famous – made of vodka, tomato juice, and other ingredients like hot sauce and seasonings, she’s instantly recognizable south of the border and around the world as smooth-but-spicy cocktail that’s able to work with seemingly endless varieties of garnishing co-stars.
The Caesar cocktail, however, has recently received its own boost of star power from Canadian sweetheart-slash-gin-slinger Ryan Reynolds. Caesars are made with clamato juice (or Caesar mix), a blend of tomato and clam juices with various seasonings, rather than just a tomato-based blend. Beyond that, the world’s your oyster (pun intended) – it’s a cocktail that encourages individual interpretation. Reynolds’ Crescent Caesar has a healthy pinch of Hollywood with its muted tones and stylish coupe glass, but it’s only one spin on the formula.
In that spirit, the co-founders of Walter Craft Caesar mix, Aaron Harowitz and Zack Silverman, have assembled something of a bible on our unofficial national cocktail. Caesar Country delves into the history, science, and art of the drink alongside a collection of Caesar secrets from big and small foodie names coast-to-coast. While all use Caesar mix, the alcohol base ranges from gin to vodka to mezcal and more – and their appearances are as varied as their flavours.
If you’re looking to go beyond the celery stalk, these three Caesar recipes come with cocktail fascinators as stylish as they are tasty.
3 Recipes from the Heart of Caesar CountryRyan Reynolds’ Crescent Caesar
“To me, the taste of a Caesar is the taste of home. It’s the quintessential Canadian cocktail and one of the first drinks I ever had. We lived on Crescent Drive, hence the name,” Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds tells us. “My recipe is a Caesar Gin Martini, made dirty. My lawyers said I am contractually obliged to make it with Aviation gin so I did but—don’t tell them—I would make it with Aviation regardless because it’s delicious. The citrus and floral notes of Aviation balance the savoury flavour of Walter and keep the salty olive brine in check. Enjoy!”
The Crescent Caesar
- 1 coupe, chilled
- 2½ oz 75 ml Aviation American Gin
- ½ oz 15 ml dry (white) vermouth
- ½ oz 15 ml Caesar mix, Mild
- ¼ oz 7.5 ml lemon juice, finely strained
- 1 tsp olive brine
- lemon peel (1 to 2 inches/
- 2.5 to 5 cm long)
- or 3 olives on a skewer
- Pour the gin, vermouth, Caesar mix, lemon juice, and olive brine into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice to just above the top of the liquid and stir with a bar spoon until the outside of the shaker is very cold to the touch.
- Strain the contents of the shaker into the chilled glass and garnish with the lemon peel and olive skewer.
Garde Manger Caesar
June 2006, opening night of Garde Manger in cobblestoned Old Montréal. For partners Chuck and Tim and their team, tensions are high, the scene is hectic, nerves are frayed—in other words, the standard chaos experienced by restaurateurs on opening night since the beginning of time. Mid-evening, Tim (holding down the bar), gets a request for a Caesar and realizes they don’t yet have one on their carefully crafted cocktail list, so he quickly puts one together. But what to use for garnish? He runs over to the packed raw bar, grabs a Gaspé steamed crab claw, and plunks it into the drink. From the kitchen, Chef Chuck watches. He realizes they have a classic in the making. The Garde Manger Caesar has evolved over the years as other team members (most recently GM Jess Midlash) put their marks on it, but one thing has remained constant: a single enticing piece of crab poking out from the top of an expertly crafted cocktail—a nod to that chaotic opening night thousands of Caesars ago.
- 1 highball glass
- small celeriac (celery root) trimmed, peeled, and grated finely (roughly 2 cups/480 ml, loosely packed)
- tbsp dried onion flakes
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried garlic flakes
- 1 tbsp dill seed slightly crushed
- 1 tbsp coriander seed slightly crushed
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 snow crab leg or claw thawed overnight in the refrigerator (see note)
- lemon wedge
- tbsp Celeriac Rim
- 1 lemon wedge
- 45 ml vodka
- 180 ml Caesar mix mild
- 1 tsp horseradish freshly grated
- ¼ oz 7.5 ml olive brine
- 3-4 dashes Chuck Hughes Jalapeño Hot Sauce (see note)
- 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat your oven to 200°F (95°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until the celeriac is well incorporated with the dried spices.
- Spread the rim spice mixture evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Dry out in the oven until the mixture is completely dry and brittle, 5 to 6 hours. (This is done to dry out the wet celery root and infuse the other spice flavours. The end result is delicious and worth the effort.)
- Let cool and crush to the consistency of coarse sand with a mortar and pestle.
- Transfer to an airtight container and store in your pantry for up to 6 months.
- Carefully run a sharp paring knife through one side of the snow crab leg or claw to score the shell and allow easier access to the meat. Garde Manger serves its Caesar with crab crackers and forks. Guests are expected to work for it!
- Pour the rim spice onto a small plate. Circle the rim of your glass with the lemon wedge, then roll the rim in the rim spice.
- Pour the vodka, Caesar mix, horseradish, olive brine, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce into a cocktail shaker (or other mixing vessel). Fill the shaker with ice to just above the top of the liquid and stir with a bar spoon until the outside of the shaker is very cold to the touch.
- Fill the rimmed glass three-quarters full with fresh cubed ice. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass and top with additional ice if desired. Garnish with the snow crab leg (or claw) and the remaining lemon wedge.
Around 2007, Phil Ward of New York’s Death & Co introduced the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, one of the finest drinks to come out of the modern cocktail movement. It was also a major contributor to making mezcal—once a relatively rare item outside of Mexico—a must-have in bars around the world. The genius of the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned lies in the mixing of tequila and mezcal and then using them in a surprising way to completely reimagine a classic cocktail. Through our own experimentation we’ve found that amplifying that tequila-mezcal combination with some pineapple juice yields an equally surprising and delicious result. With a nod to Phil and the crew at Death & Co, here’s our Oaxaca Caesar.
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 lime wedge
- 30 ml tequila blanco
- 7.5 ml 7.5 ml mezcal joven
- 150 ml Caesar mix extra spicy
- 15 ml pineapple juice fresh or canned
- ½ tsp lime juice
Pineapple Skewer Garnish
- Pineapple Skewer Garnish
- 1 pineapple spear 6 × 1 inches/15 × 2.5 cm
- ½ tsp honey
- pinch Tajín
- 1 long wooden or steel skewer
- Pour the salt onto a small plate. Circle the rim of your glass with the lime wedge, then roll the rim in the salt.
- Pour the tequila, mezcal, Caesar mix, pineapple juice, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker (or other mixing vessel). Fill the shaker with ice to just above the top of the liquid and stir with a bar spoon until the outside of the shaker is very cold to the touch.
- Fill the rimmed glass three-quarters full with fresh cubed ice. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass and top with additional ice if desired. Garnish with the pineapple skewer.
Grilled Pineapple Skewer
- Place the pineapple spear on the skewer. (If you’re using a wooden skewer, soak it in advance so it doesn’t burn.) Get a BBQ (or grill pan) screaming hot and grill the pineapple on all sides until nice char marks develop, approximately 5 minutes per side.
- Remove the pineapple skewer from heat and, while it’s still hot, brush with the honey and dust with a pinch of Tajín.