A Caesar in a tall glass. The beverage is red, and there is a dark brown rimmer on the glass. It is garnished with a celery stalk and a lime slice.


Sydney Fuhrman

Watch our Education Coordinator make her version of this classic Canadian cocktail:

A Caesar in a tall glass. The beverage is red, with a dark brown rimmer on the glass. It is garnished with a celery stalk and a lime slice.
The classic Caesar – Image: CBC

In 2009 a poll was conducted that proved what Canadians have known for a long time – the Caesar is Canada’s favourite cocktail. Annually, Canadians drink more than 400 million Caesars, and we have a National Caesar Day; it’s on the Thursday before the Victoria Day long weekend. 

There are as many versions of the Caesar as there are bartenders, but the basic version is vodka, hot sauce, Worcestershire and Clamato juice – a blend of clam and tomato juice. 

To those not familiar with the Caesar, the idea of drinking clam nectar might be a bit off-putting.  Which begs the question – who thought this was a good idea? The man’s name was Walter Chell and he was a restaurant manager in Calgary. In 1969 The Calgary Inn Walter Chell to create a cocktail to celebrate the opening of its new Italian restaurant. Chell accepted the challenge and drew inspiration from the classic Italian dish spaghetti alle vongole, a pasta dish made with clams, and created the cocktail we all know and love. 

How Chell came up with the name “Caesar” is a bit unclear, but it got its full name, “the Bloody Caesar” from a man at the bar. He was British, and after drinking it turned to Chell and called it a “good bloody Caesar.”

A Caesar in a glass, the beverage is red and has a dark brown rimmer. The glass is completely full of garnishes including a bagel, a lobster claw, cheese, french fries and tomatoes
The Souped-Up Caesar – Image and recipe: CBC

While Chell is credited with inventing the Caesar, similar cocktail recipes existed earlier; the most obvious being the Bloody Mary, which dates back to the early 20th century and is named after Mary I of England. It’s basically the American version of the Caesar, and contains no clam nectar. However, using clam nectar in cocktails became a trend in the 1950s, and there are even clam and tomato cocktails that date back about one hundred years. So while Chell certainly perfected and popularized the drink he was likely inspired by some of these older cocktails.

Despite its popularity in Canada, Caesars haven’t really taken off elsewhere. But here we keep making them bigger and better. Today Caesars are made with muddled herbs, and infused spirits. They are rimmed with salt, spices or even Tim Horton’s coffee grounds. And of course the garnishes are only getting more creative: you can find a Caesar garnished with just about anything, from bacon to brownies.

Canadians love Caesars, so much so that in 2009, by parliamentary decree, the Caesar was named Canada’s official cocktail. It may be weird, but it works and it is decidedly ours.

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