The great Toronto Caesar challenge: the Pickled Caesar
Today marks the last day of the challenge and even 14 caesars in, I've only begun to scratch the surface. There are a lot of really great caesars out there (a lot of terrible ones too, for that matter). And while this list may not be complete, it's a great place to start.
I'm going to leave the eulogizing for tomorrow though, after all there is still one more Caesar to discuss. Today's competitor comes from Caplansky's Deli, proprietor of fine smoked meat and quite possibly the best place to get a pickled tongue sandwich in Toronto. But what does a guy who pickles meats know about mixing cocktails? Well, actually a fair bit it turns out. Owner and proprietor Zane Caplansky designed this bevy all himself.
The caesars at Caplansky's pay special attention to the sour regions on the palate. Something, surprisingly, that often gets virtually ignored save for dried out wedge of lemon or lime. Not at Caplansky's though, this Caesar comes decked out with a little pickle juice added to the mix along with a dash of fresh garlic. The sourness of the brine pairs well with the generous amount of Tabasco also in the drink and the fresh garlic gives the kind of pungency more often provided by horseradish. This trio of bold flavours all kind of work together to make sure no single flavour overpowers the drink so you get that wonderful spicy, salty, heat all at once.
Served no frills with a big wedge of lemon and a spear of one of the best pickles you'll ever taste. Not to sound like a broken record, but it's missing celery. They're forgiven this time though because the pickle is pretty much perfect: juicy, crunchy and deliciously sour.
What's remarkable about a Caplansky caesar is that it isn't particularly foreign, but it's utterly unique. The pickle brine provides a brightness to the drink that just doesn't exist otherwise. It's incredible you don't see this as an ingredient more often, especially since pickles, olives and other salty/sour preserves are used so often as a garnish. And using fresh garlic rather than horseradish obvious-in-retrospect kind of ingredient, the garlic is much less aggressive than horseradish, allowing it to integrate into the drink much more thoroughly.
Caplansky wants $8.00 for a 1.25 oz shot, which after tax comes in at $9.04. It's pricey, but pretty consistent with Caplansky's in general. Everything on the menu is excellent, and is priced as such. The thing is though, for something like their smoked meat it's a little more justified - you simply won't find smoke meat that good anywhere else in the city. For a caesar on the other hand, there are options. That being said, this is still a very good Caesar.
TOTAL SCORE: 19/25 (76%)
So the only real strike against this Caesar is the price. The sourness is amazing and totally fitting to the whole delicatessen thing. It's the kind of flavour that will go unnoticed at first, like it just kind of freshens up the rest of the drink. Then partway through it hits you and you're so happy it did because now you can add pickle brine to your own caesars and everyone will think you're a genius. It's subtle and familiar, but so effective, and that, in a nutshell is exactly the angle you want to take when putting your own spin on something that is so steeped into the culture. For that, this one is a big win.
So that's it, Challenge complete. Tune in tomorrow for the winners and losers and some final thoughts.
Day 1: The challenge begins
Day 2: Extra horseradish
Day 3: The $3 Caesar
Day 4: A Caesar with chopsticks
Day 5: With a cherry tomato
Day 6: The Irish Caesar
Day 7: The red wine Caesar
Day 8: The Monster Caesar
Day 9: MSG Free
Day 10: The Classic Caesar
Day 11: The Cajun Caesar
Day 12: The Tandoori Caesar
Day 13: With an umbrella