The great Toronto Bloody Caesar challenge
The list of Canadian cultural signifiers might be a short one, but it's fairly free of controversy. Few would argue, whether you're a fan or not, the significant role Hockey plays in the Canadian identity; same goes for healthcare, poutine and of course - Bloody Caesars. So, out of respect for the unique cocktail, today I begin a two-week expedition to find the very best bloody cocktail this city has to offer.
But of course, not all Caesars are created equal. They begin with a few standard ingredients: Clamato, Worchestershire, vodka, and Tabasco. That's just the start though. More than a few of Toronto's fine bartenders have created their own signature versions of this Canadian classic. So to aide in my research I've developed a scoring system: 10pts for taste, 5pts for presentation, 5pts for originality and 5pts for value.
But where to begin?
The hunt for the city's top Caesar might as well begin in a place where our national past time also reigns supreme, Toronto's newest and most talked about sports bar: Real Sports.
This is a place unlike any other in town; their draught selection is overshadowed only by their panache for video screens. But does that bode well for their Bloody Caesars? Lets take a look.
A little sweet, a little savoury, and a little sour - the balance of flavours is nice. As with most Caesars, I found the vodka fairly invisible, despite the very generous pour my bartender gave me. On paper the drink is 1.5oz of Smirnoff, but that bottle was upside down for quite a while - I'm not complaining. The problem with vodka is that it's just such a mild flavoured spirit and when put up against big bold flavours like Clamato, Worcestershire and Tabasco it really doesn't stand a chance. Of course, that's also part of the charm of a great Caesar. It's the perfect hair of the dog for those mornings when the idea of more booze makes you woozy.
Personally I'd have given this one another couple of shakes of both Worcestershire and Tabasco. I like a Caesar that's a little darker in colour, it shouldn't be red, closer to maroon I think. But even short of perfection, this one satisfies.
For presentation, I'm thinking predominantly about the garnish and at Real Sports, this is what they get really right: a fresh, crunchy celery stalk sitting next to a juicy lime wedge, then for the pièce de résistance - a skewer of two green olives and a pepperette stick. The slightly spicy meat stick is the perfect snack accompaniment and really rounds out the whole experience.
Rather than rimming the glass with the traditional celery salt, a Real Sports Caesar comes with steak spice, which is a little chunky, but really good. Then of course, there were the aforementioned garnishes - which were both delicious and brilliant. But the drink itself was fairly straightforward. There is something to be said for sticking to tradition though and truthfully, a sports bar is not the place to get all hoity toity on a canuck staple.
Clocking in at $10.45 after taxes, this isn't a cheap drink, but perhaps it's justified. It's 1.5oz of Smirnoff vodka along with an extensive garnish, those things can add up. But to be honest, I was a little surprised when I got the cheque. I know it's common these days to pay over $10 for a drink, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it.
TOTAL SCORE: 18/25 (72%)
The biggest downfall of the Real Sports Caesar is its price, if they could get it at $10 or less with tax and tip I would be a happy man. But at $10.45 plus tip, you're looking at around $12 just for a drink, which in my books is something I'll splurge for once in a while if I'm somewhere semi-elegant and want to feel like a baller, not for the liquid equivalent of comfort food. Besides, it's tough to really enjoy something when you feel like you're being gouged.