May 18th is National Kaiser’s Day, named after the beloved drink that was created in Calgary.
Canadians love cocktails. It consumes 400 million Caesar annually.
A caesar usually contains vodka or gin, tomato juice, and clam broth – most people use a premix Clamato – Worcestershire hot sauce, and served over ice in a celery-salt-covered glass, usually garnished with a stalk of celery and a wedge of lime.
Just like its delicious contents, the cocktail’s origins are a mystery.
It turns out that two Calgary establishments can claim to have played a vital role in promoting what is now famous Caesar.
“One hundred percent, it was created by Walter Chill here at The Westin Calgary,” said Michael Cameron, the hotel’s director of operations.
The Calgary bartender competes in a national mixed martial arts competition in Banff on Saturday
Back in 1969, when the hotel had a different name, bartender Chill created the drink as an “ode” to his Italian heritage.
The combination of clam and tomato flavors is said to have reminded him of his favorite pasta dish: spaghetti vongole.
“It’s the child of his brain and he’s evolved based on his original recipe over time,” said Cameron, though the original creation was called an “eye opener”—perhaps a nod to its supposed power as a hangover cure.
Chell is said to have later changed the name to “Bloody Caesar” – possibly a reference to the Bloody Mary, which contains only tomato juice.
By the time Caesar’s Steakhouse opened down the street in 1972, the drink was popular with locals.
Fourth Street in Calgary was less populated at the time, and most of the people in the food and beverage business knew each other. Word spread and the steakhouse adopted the cocktail, but with its own unique twist: a secret ingredient and a special blend of spices.
A simple tweak to a recipe that remains a secret. We like to think we perfected it and that being the namesake made it so popular,” said Jerry Stewart, owner of Caesars Steakhouse.
All Hail Caesar! A delicious twist on the classic Canadian cocktail
The restaurant has been in business for over 50 years and hasn’t changed much in terms of exceptional food and service.
Its memorable decor is the kind of ambience that keeps loyal customers coming back decade after decade. The Caesar recipe is a big part of that legacy.
“Our Caesar is still the classic Caesar we started with in 1972,” explained Stewart, who runs the company with his wife, Connie. Maintaining a traditional steakhouse is what customers expect and is successful.
“Caesar is our trademark here,” said waiter Louis Iliopoulos. He has worked in the restaurant on and off since the 70’s.
“Every table must have Caesar, must have Caesar, must try Caesar.”
how many served Without hesitation, he said, “Millions.”
Do you know how to make the perfect Caesar?
If the famous steak grill in the center of the dining room could talk, it would have plenty of stories to tell. Cocktail is a central theme.
“What happens at Caesar’s (steakhouse) stays at Caesar’s, especially in the lounge,” Stewart chuckled.
He recalled the peak oil days of the 1980s when dozens of pre-made Caesars were lined up at the bar ready for customers to grab on the way to their seats.
“There are a lot of stories here. We’d rather not go there,” Iliopoulos said with a broad smile.
And like the drink’s namesake, some mysteries are best left as legends.
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