Drake Caesar

The great Toronto Caesar challenge: extra horseradish

Day two in my quest for Caesar perfection brings me to The Drake Hotel - well, the Drake CafĂŠ - to be more specific, the little diner connected to the west side of the building on Beaconsfield. Unlike the Drake proper, this place is meant to be a bit more of a low-key relaxed affair with a good menu and, hopefully, some pretty great drinks too. It's been on my watch list for awhile just because anytime there's discussion of the best in the city, the Drake will often come up in conversation, even if it doesn't end up making the final list.

Of course, it has its long list of haters too. More than any other establishment in the area, the Drake is controversial. The hotel/bar is often cited as the catalyst for the high level of gentrification in the area. Of course, I'm not here because of any of that. I'm here for a Caesar.

At the Drake, they take full advantage of one of the Bloody Caesar's most popular secondary ingredients: horseradish. But this isn't some puny little shaving of fresh horseradish for novelty - this Caesar is loaded with the stuff and is by far the most prominent flavour. I mean, check out that picture, you can see the stuff floating in it.

To me, that's not such a bad thing, I love the stuff. It gives the drink a real pungent freshness. It's a flavour to taste with your whole tongue, right up into your nasal cavity, and the addition of Tabasco and Mados Hot Sauce boosts it up an extra notch. Essentially, it's a glass of cocktail sauce thinned out a little with vodka, which by the way, sounds dynamite! That being said, a little more Worcestershire would have balanced it out a bit, as it gives the drink a real savoury sweetness that just adds heaps of complexity to the flavour.

SCORE: 9/10

A little disappointing: three green olives on a skewer and a lime wedge served in a celery salt rimmed pint glass. I expected more from The Drake, the place both lauded and blamed for dragging West Queen West out of its desolate, skid row wasted days and lacquered up for the nightclub crowd. A place so focused on design and appearance should offer the same in their cocktails, no? I mean, fair enough, I was at The Drake CafĂŠ, but still. Not even a celery stalk? Come on Drake, really, come on.

SCORE: 2/5

I've got to give a few points for the horseradish, I realize it's a pretty common ingredient, but to punch it up this much is nice. Like I said, it's cocktail sauce with vodka. As a matter of fact, if they had thrown a couple of shrimp on that skewer they'd have had a bangorang cocktail and we could probably stop the search right here and now.

SCORE: 3/5

Bad news. The Drake wants $11 for this Caesar and unless that's some fair trade, organic, Kobe horseradish they're adding to the drinks, or a couple of ounces of Grey Goose, I'm calling shenanigans. Those olives floating on top are the grocery store variety, the horseradish is also from a jar; there's just nothing to warrant it and really, if you're going to gouge me at least make the thing pretty.

SCORE: 1/5

TOTAL SCORE: 15/25 (60%)
Ok, so once again it's the price that totally skews the final score, well that and the lack of presentation in this case. The thing is, if this cocktail was fancied up a little bit it might even warrant the price tag. It's good, really good, but when it gets plopped down on the table it looks like something you might pick up at a Firkin and I doubt the Firkin would be asking $11.


Day 1: The challenge begins

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