The great Toronto Caesar challenge: the Tandoori Caesar
Throughout the course of this series one thing that has become quite clear is the versatility of the Caesar. Sure the cocktail is delicious all on its own, but it also works really well as a canvas in which to paint other flavours. Surprisingly, almost anything works: sweet or savory, it doesn't matter, the drink absorbs the flavours and becomes one with the already dense profile.
Today's Caesar continues with that trend, Crooked Star at Dundas and Ossington makes a number of Caesars: one with fresh horseradish, one using Dijon mustard, but the one I was most interested in trying was their Tandoori Caesar. The pungent, red tandoori paste integrates with the drink much the same way many of the other additions have, not replacing the flavour, but adding to it. Did it work?
The mix of garam masala and other spices is a natural fit in this Caesar. While not particularly spicy itself, the paste is dense with flavour and imparts a rich smoky taste in the drink along with its familiar Indian spices. It was good, really good. I'd ask for a little extra kick next time as a personal preference, but the rest of the drink was made well. Lots of Worcestershire and a good shot of vodka kept the Clamato in check and the addition of the Tandoori paste just took things up an extra notch. Again, similar to the red wine in the Czehoski Caesar, the Indian flavours filled in the gaps between flavours rather than replacing anything leaving a denser, more complex drink and one I'd certainly have no problem recommending.
I would have been pretty shocked if the Caesars at Crooked Star came with anything more than a wedge of citrus. This is a saloon, a cowboy bar. You're not going to find extravagant garnishes here. I wouldn't even be surprised if you ordered a martini and it came in a tumbler. That said, of course it would be nice to see that stock of celery, but the lemon wedge would have to do. Of course, to their credit they also know not to water the drink down by serving it in a pint glass. This one arrives as it should, in a high ball.
As far as I know, this is the only tandoori Caesar in town. It's a flavour though, that once you've tried it with a Caesar, just seems natural to pair with it. That seems to be a common theme running through this series. It's peculiar that a drink with such a unique and strong flavour already, is able to combine so well with so many other flavours and types of cuisine.
At $7.50, this one has to be considered reasonable. As much as my penny pinching would like to see a mixed drink generally clock in at the $6.50 range, I've learned that's more and more uncommon - and to be fair, a little unreasonable for something as labour intensive as a Caesar. Maybe for a basic gin and tonic, but for something with as many steps as a Caesar, if only to deter the "when you see one, you want one" mentality just a little. Although I don't think it's particularly effective in that regard.
TOTAL SCORE: 21/25 (84%)
One of the wonderful side effects of the ubiquity of the Caesar here in Toronto is this race on behalf of establishments to make theirs unique. Because of that competitive spirit, Caesar experimentation is rampant. What I find remarkable though, is how little dissent there is among the public. I've heard virtually no arguments decrying the sacredness of the original recipe, or how any deviation from that is blasphemy. That's a really good thing though, for some reason this drink is a natural point in which to add additional ingredients and it's pretty rare, if ever, that they don't work.
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