Clamato, that bottom-shelf-of-the-beverage-aisle mixture of tomato and clam juices, makes for a great punchline. But it also makes for a great cocktail: the Bloody Caesar, like a Bloody Mary but with the briny, sweet, light Clamato pinch-hitting for the usual straight tomato juice. It’s a brilliant combination, salty and savory, and once I tried it I was entirely undone for other standard-issue tomato-based brunch drinks.
Relatively under the radar in the United States, the Caesar may as well be the national drink of Canada. Invented on May 13, 1969 in Calgary, Alberta, it swept the country, now a fixture of bars and restaurants from coast to coast. (A 2009 push by Calgary’s mayor to officially make it Canada’s official drink didn’t, alas, result in success.) And so it was that my first Caesar was handed to me by, yes, a Canadian – the morning after an all-night euchre tournament, no less. In a cruel trick (that was, in retrospect, a necessary one), no one would tell me the Caesar’s secret ingredient until I downed the whole pint. No problem — and once I got over the initial shock of drinking chilled shellfish liquor, the drink made perfect sense. Lighter and less sweet than pure tomato juice, Clamato is a surprisingly balanced foil for icy vodka, a briny counterpoint similar to the olive juice in a dirty martini, or the salty garlic of a whiskey pickle back.
A true Caesar calls for Mott’s Clamato (in Canada, Mott’s sponsors Caesar-making classes; it’s estimated that more than half of the sales of Clamato go making the drink), but you can replicate the mixture at home with a combo of two parts bottled clam juice to one part tomato juice. Add in the standard Worcestershire sauce, a few hits of Tabasco, and a shot or two of vodka, and you’re set. Don’t worry about telling your guests what’s in it if you don’t want to — they’ll be more inclined to accept the briny truth once they’ve made it to the bottom of the glass.