The great Toronto Caesar challenge: with chopsticks
It's remarkable how much a cocktail can vary from place to place: same ingredients, same basic method, radically different results. This isn't particular to Bloody Caesars, but they're a pretty good example. Take three random establishments and the variance in flavours can be astounding.
So, what makes a Caesar a Caesar? What are the bare minimum number of things you could mix together for it to retain that name? I'd argue you can get away with two: Clamato and Worcestershire. Those alone will give you the most basic drink that you could still spin as a cocktail. Of course, it also works in the other direction. How far away from those basic flavours can you stray and still hold down the name?
It's with that question in mind that I head to Mildred's Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village. Here's what I found:
Mildred's doesn't venture too far outside the norm in terms of ingredients, but what's noteworthy about this Caesar is how the traditional ingredients are used. The first thing you notice when you take a sip is lime, which gives the drink this really wonderful, brightness. The next is this smoky, almost bacony flavour from the house made rim salt. I ask the bartender about it, but all she can tell me is that it has nori and tomato powder in it, neither of which explains the incredible smokiness.
It's after those flavours wash over the palate that the more familiar ones begin to reveal themselves and they're all there. But here they work as accompaniment rather than taking the spotlight. It works though, and ultimately this is a great, refreshing drink.
The only fault here, and it's a bit nitpicky, is that I'd like it to have had a little bit more bite to it. Lime and spice go so well together; this would be a perfect Caesar to lean on the fiery side - maybe a vodka infused with a habanero or something.
Not only does this thing taste good, it's gorgeous. They've really outdone themselves; it's elegant, but still totally comforting. Again, still using traditional ingredients in innovative ways, the celelery is served shaved, as a slaw on top of the drink with a pair of chopsticks to eat it with. The chopsticks are a nice touch, but aren't all that effective in pulling the celery out of the top, it's best to just get right in there with your fingers, but it's crisp and fresh and looks fantastic.
But as I said, there's balance here. To ensure this cocktail isn't entirely robbed of its blue-collar ancestry it's served in a mason jar rimmed with that custom spice blend. The consideration toward the glassware just makes it that much more memorable. Personally I'm really averse to cocktails in a pint glass, it's just too much and they get melty and watered down too quickly, you'd never see a gin and tonic in a pint glass - leave them for the beer.
The attention to detail here is extraordinary; this is how you reinvent a classic cocktail. It's remained completely faithful to the drink's classic ingredients, but is still completely unique. Everything about it is impressive: the flavour is distinctive, the presentation striking, but the price?
Reasonable. At $8.50 it's certainly not the cheapest you'll find in town, but it still slides in at just under the $10.00 mark before tip. If you want to pull apart the drink, sure it's a bar rail vodka and you're just getting celery with it. But you pay for ambiance and innovation and, well, skill. It's a really well made Caesar with some unique characteristics, yeah I'd like to see it a buck cheaper, but it's cool.
TOTAL SCORE 23/25 (92%)
There is very little wrong with this Caesar, almost nothing to whine about. It's a shining example of innovative mixology: from the custom spice blend on the rim, to the shaved celery salad garnish, to the reverse engineering of the drink itself. It's a distinctive Caesar and should be commended as such, but it's also just a really great cocktail all on it's own.