The great Toronto Caesar challenge: with an umbrella
One of the side effects of writing a series about Caesars is that you spend a lot of time thinking about Caesars. Not just about where to find the next one, but the drink itself; its popularity, its history and its place in our society and culture. As I mentioned yesterday, they're incredibly versatile when it comes to adopting non-traditional flavours, which adds to their popularity as it invites innovation. But I think another aspect of what makes the Caesar "Canada's Cocktail" is it's chameleon like ability to transform to fit virtually any social occasion.
It's a blue collar cocktail that can be dressed up for a swanky night out, one that will cure the hangover it created the night before. Any time of day, and occasion - it's appropriate. Few other drinks have that same kind of mass appeal.
Today's entry into the Toronto Caesar canon comes by way of the Avro. This quaint little community oriented pub located near Queen and Broadview was hosting a Kubrick film night when I popped in, but on any given evening you'll find anything from a preserve swap to a chess night. Of course, I was there for one reason and one reason only: a Bloody Caesar.
The Avro Caesar is a bit of hodge-podge of many of the cocktails I've sampled over the past two weeks. In it you'll find all the standard fare plus horseradish, pickled dill, and a tiny splash of red wine. It should be cluttered, but it's not. The secret is actually in the restraint. There's only but the smallest dash of red wine, barely enough to taste, but the effects are there under the surface. It cuts through the acidity nicely and leaves a full-bodied flavour. The horseradish too. There isn't enough to get the full out flavour of it, but its pungency still resonates in the drink. Each ingredient is well balanced so, even though it veers from tradition, it still tastes traditional, just with a little oomph.
The theme here, as with taste, is a yin yang of restraint and excess. It's served in a glass mug, just the right size to maintain balance in the drink. The garnish is a cocktail umbrella skewered through a green pitted olive, a cocktail onion and a sour dill pickle. Alongside that is a spicy/sour picked green bean.
The glassware is fairly unique and the cocktail umbrella is a playful little addition. It's a little surprising you don't find them more often perched a top cocktails around town, I feel like they always make a drink feel a little more special. Of course, it also reminded me how non-tropical our climate is right now. The Caesar itself is a great example of balance and harmony among its many ingredients, each one adding nuance and accent to the Clamato.
This is where The Avro really sets itself apart. This is a great Caesar: well made, tasty and nice looking, it could hold its own against any on the list, but at $5.25 this one is priced to sell. I feel vindicated; I'm not cheap after all. After paying generally in the $8.00 range and up to as much as $14.00 for one drink throughout this quest, it's great to find a place offering great drinks at a reasonable price. It's a recipe for success I tell you, simple and effective.
TOTAL SCORE: 21/25 (84%)
This Caesar goes to show that there is no need to find some swanky hip bar to get a great cocktail, it just requires a skilled hand and a little enthusiasm, which the Avro has in spades. If I lived anywhere near Queen and Broadview I'd make it my local in a heartbeat. This Caesar basically covers all the bases: it's delicious, refreshing, unique, and a little spicy. It's just a really comforting drink; top notch, yet still playful. Versatile, flavorsome and fun.
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