The great Toronto Caesar challenge: the red wine Caesar
I like to think I have a fairly open mind when it comes to food. There are few things - if any - that I wouldn't try at least once. It's kind of a rule actually, it's not cool to pass judgment without the experience to back it up - that applies to life in general, not just icky/unconventional dinner options.
It was with that philosophy in mind that I approached today's Caesar. I was simultaneously intrigued and skeptical. A Caesar with red wine in it? Really? Now, I have enough faith in the good people at Czehoski to assume it's a combination that isn't completely repulsive, but would it actually work? I mean, I get the horseradish thing, it makes sense to me, but left to my own devices red wine is not an ingredient I would ever experiment with in my Caesars. So was the experiment a success? Let's see...
So a Czehoski Caesar is basically a savory sangria. I don't know how that idea sits with most people initially, but I learned something in my experience here. Red wine belongs in a Caesar, period. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and make it standard from now on. It's like an emulsifier for the other flavours, filling in the gaps between the Clamato, Worcestershire, Tabasco, horseradish and lime - it's a richer, more full-bodied drink. When you taste it for the first time, there's this eureka moment as you remember what an obvious flavour combination tomato, clam, Worcestershire, Tabasco and red wine really is. In fact, if it were warmer and thicker, it would almost be necessary.
But to be honest, even without a splash of red wine floating on top of this incredible drink, Czehoski understands mixology. This is a proper 2oz Caesar served in a highball glass, with about an ounce of limejuice and a generous amount of Worcestershire and Tabasco. Combined with the aforementioned red wine and, well, it's just sublime-savory sangria.
First off, thank you for not using a pint glass. This might be just my own pet peeve but really, pints are for beer. I don't even think it's legal to put enough booze in a pint glass to create the proper ratio for a cocktail. It's a cheap trick to charge more and I don't want the tricks.
This Caesar comes in a highball glass garnished with the requisite wedge of lime, plus a gherkin, a slice of cucumber and a meaty green olive stuffed with a garlic clove. I'll admit it's a little disappointing not to get a celery stalk. I get that the cucumber is there to take its place as a palate cleanser, but it's not the same. Different is good, but some things are better left untouched - celery is necessary.
It's got red wine in it, case closed. Yeah, they're not the only place around that does it, but whatever, it's amazing. Plus, aside from a missing stalk of celery they do everything else right too, which is maybe even more unique than the red wine - full points.
So, this is a $12.00 cocktail. I'm ok with it though. Why? Because it's flat out delicious for starters, but also because it's a 2oz cocktail, and a labor intensive one at that. My bartender squeezed fresh limes, floated liquid, rimmed the glass and essentially made - arguably - the best Caesar in town. I'll admit it's a little steep and they probably should charge a little less, but you pay for quality and sometimes you pay more than you should and still walk away with a smile.
TOTAL SCORE: 23/25
I'll admit I was skeptical. Even after my initial lecture about how important it is not to pass judgment before having first hand experience I still did. I couldn't help it. But I was wrong. It's just such a natural flavour combination that is so unexpected. But it really does taste like it was just meant to be. So for the enthusiasts out there who haven't given it a shot, go forth. Enlightenment is a wonderful thing.
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