Look, one would not think that some bivalve-tomato juice blend might actually be delicious. (For that matter, one would not think that anyone could consider the liquid run-off from clams and go, damn, I gotta drink that, but it happened. In California, in the ’60s. Probably because of drugs.) What’s more, it turns out this bivalve-tomato blend can be made even more delicious by adding booze, hot sauce, and Worcestershire—although in Toronto, the classic Caesar components are treated more as gentle suggestions than hard rules.
Cold Tea’s take on the Caesar, The Mao ($8), keeps the conventional vodka but dispenses with everything else, swapping in Sriracha, soy sauce, and pickled Chinese broccoli. Fynn’s of Temple Bar opts for a bit of English reserve with its London Calling ($12): cucumber-infused gin, fresh dill, and a proper cucumber-wheel garnish. Over at The Caledonian, smoky 10-year-old Ardbeg Scotch is used for the aptly named Ardbeg Caesar ($14). It shouldn’t work. It completely does. Same for Burger Bar’s Bloody Gaucho ($7), which takes Brazilian cachaça rum and spikes it with a spoonful of chimichurri.
But since—druggy California origins aside—the Caesar is a decidedly Canadian cocktail, we’re especially fond of Salt Wine Bar’s twist on the drink ($8). There’s Canadian Club. There are shallots and smoked tomatoes. And yes, friends, there is bacon. Because a good thing can always be made better, and that usually involves the addition of a nice hunk of pork.
› Cold Tea, 60 Kensington Ave., 416-546-4536.
› Fynn’s of Temple Bar, 489 King St. W., 416-586-1331.
› The Caledonian, 856 College St., 647-547-9827.
› Burger Bar, 319 Augusta Ave., 416-922-7423.
› Salt Wine Bar, 225 Ossington Ave., 416-533-7258.