Calgary’s Claim to Caesar Fame
A local invention, this cocktail is a must-try.
When in Calgary, do as the Calgarians do. And we don’t mean bull bustin’ or drilling for oil. We’re talking about drinking a spicy blend of mashed clam and tomato.
Not salivating yet?
That’s completely normal. It usually takes a taste of the real thing to create a Caesar believer. But the 34 million Canadians who consume 350 million Caesars a year must be on to something.
This cocktail legend began over 45 years ago. Our story starts in 1969 with a bar manager by the name of Walter Chell. While working at the Calgary Inn, now the Westin Calgary, Chell was charged with creating a signature cocktail for the opening of the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Marco’s.
Italian in heritage himself, Chell spent months in experimental mixing before drawing inspiration from one of the new restaurant’s menu items, Spaghetti Vongele – better known as spaghetti with clams. Chell used his expert hand to mash clams into a mushy nectar, which he then mixed with tomato juice.
The addition of a quick hit of spice, Italian oregano, a dash of sweet Worcestershire Sauce and an ounce of vodka was all it took to complete Chell’s masterpiece. He crowned it with a festive celery stick and named it for the Roman Emperor. The Caesar was born.
Chell shills clam chills without the clam shells. Around the same time in 1969, a beverage company in California was also experimenting with a clam and tomato juice blend. The company was none other than the now famous Motts. Motts hired Chell to advise on a premixed version of the blended juice, aptly called Clamato.
A national advertising campaign was launched that featured Chell dispensing some sage Caesar advice – making the cocktail and Clamato household names. We can only imagine the rejoicing of the busy bartenders and home mixologists all over Canada who now no longer needed to shell and crush their clams to make an incredible drink.
Today, our lives are garnished with suspense. Despite the recipe alterations over the years, critical to a Caesar’s success is still the garnish. Every Caesar aficionado prefers something different – making ordering one somewhere new an event with more tension than playoff hockey.
Check out these great places to grab a Caesar in Calgary:
The Westin serves this classic drink the way Calgary intended.
National on 10th spares no expense on the garnish with a pickle, chorizo, cheddar cheese, and splash of IPA.
Mango Shiva's Tandoori-Spiced Caesar is an Indian take on a Calgary classic.
Local's El Caesar is so Calgary they serve it in a cowboy boot!
Klein / Harris serves up a classic Caesar with house made clam and celery broth.