The Pickle: The Bloody Caesar Reinvented
Behind the wood. Saturday night. There's a stillness in the air that rushes over the bar and finds a home within me. Briefly. You can feel the wave of tension weaving its way towards the men in black-matching uniforms, warning us of something to come. The calm before the storm is at its breaking point. Three.. Two.. the doors open to a chorus of noise and commotion. The next six hours are a blur of activity with barely a second to catch your breath. Welcome to life behind the bar.
This was my old life before my new life. I spent years working in the restaurant industry and years behind the bar. It became my home for the better part of ten years and in that time I probably mixed over a million drinks. A million different times listening to someone step up and ask for something to take their pain away or celebrate an occasion with. I saw it all and I heard even more.
Aside from beer, the Bloody Caesar was probably the most popular cocktail around. Particularly in the summer. Especially in this country. I probably rimmed, poured and garnished tens of thousands of this cocktail in my old career and every single time it took my breath away.
Back in 1969 the bloody Caesar got it's start and was invented in Calgary by Walter Chell. It was created to celebrate the grand opening of an Italian eatery in the city. It was made up of vodka, Clamato juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and is typically served in a celery salt-rimmed glass with celery and lime.
The mystifying thing is how immensely popular this cocktail is in our country yet relatively unknown outside of our borders. They claim that over 350 million Caesars are consumed in Canada every single year. Really. And that's with 30 plus million residents. You do the math. We're not just a country of beer drinkers after all.
Mixologists today are often an extension of the kitchen. Long gone are the days of standard classics being made exactly how they were decades previously. There will always be an exception to that rule, but it's not unusual to see fresh herbs and infused-alcohol making its way into a cocktail at your local bar and restaurant these days. That's the case with the Bloody Caesar as well. At least that was the case when I made it.
The standard variety is still being served at many places but more and more people are taking liberties with the original recipe and putting their spin on the classic. That's what I've done here. Sometimes you assume a drink or dish is perfect the way it is and then realize just how amazing it can be if you tweak it to fit your palette and preference.
- pickled carrots and green beans, about 4 each
- 1 lemon, halved
- 4 cups Clamato juice
- 2 tbsp. pickle brine
- 2 tbsp. fresh grated horseradish
- 2 tsp. A1 steak sauce
- sea salt and cracked pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon thyme, plus 8 sprigs for garnish
- 1 pickle, cut into 4 wedges
- 2 cups vodka
- 1/2 lemon for rim
- 2 tsp. each of celery salt/ground black pepper/chili powder
- Squeeze lemon halves into a large pitcher. Add pickle brine, A1 sauce, salt & pepper, horseradish, thyme, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Stir until combined. Add in ice, vodka and Clamato juice and stir to mix.
- Rub cut lemon half around outside edges of cocktail glasses. Mix celery salt,ground black pepper and chili powder on a plate and roll outside of glass around the mixture for the rim. (The rim mixture is not supposed to be in your cocktail, just on the outside of the rim)
- Fill the glasses with ice and pour the drink over top. Garnish with a pickle wedge, pickled vegetables and a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.
- Serves 4.