All hail Caesar Walter! For this truly Western Canadian tomato, clam and savoury cocktail mix is without MSG, and stands in our Dominion’s breakfast drink forum naked but fierce: confident of its natural deliciousness. OK, enough hyperbole, but bear with me. Walter is a clam and tomato juice mix from Vancouver, which is finding its way onto premium food shop shelves, fancy restaurants and cocktail bars. It’s taking on the Ceasar mix giant that rhymes with “lots” (as in lots of MSG and and high-fructose corn syrup) by offering Canadians an all natural alternative.
Walter is named after Walter Chell, who legendarily invented the Bloody Caesar in 1969 behind the bar at the Owl’s Nest at the Calgary Inn, now the Westin hotel. The Caesar remains the Red Rose of cocktails: only in Canada, you say? Pity. So, it’s odd that the biggest Caesar mix maker is the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group of Plano, Texas. You’d think an enterprising Canuck, someone who actually drank a Bloody Caesar once and a while, would want to get into the action after 45 years of mollusc infused imbibing and make a product that was homespun. Of course, that’s exactly what Aaron Harowitz and his partner Zack Silverman have done. I met Harowitz in a very 21st Century way: over the internet on the laptop of Walter’s Toronto’s sales rep Jessica Scott’s* Mac.
Scott came over to conduct a tasting at my GFR office, and we beamed in Harowitz from his office in Vancouver. The first question I asked him was, why hadn’t anyone thought of this before? He was as baffled as I, and explained that he and Silverman came up with the idea when they realized that the artisanal cocktail revolution hadn’t yet caught up with their favourite drink, the Caesar. Walter is all natural enough to pass Whole Foods’ standards (it’s sold there in BC, and is coming to the chain in Ontario soon – it’s widely available across Canada, and the Walter people keep a list of stocking restaurants, bars and retailers here). It took Harowitz and Silverman a full year to simply find the component ingredients. Just to be sure, I asked Harowitz about the MSG – there isn’t any. Then, I asked about sodium in general, to which he smiled and said, “I find it funny that we get asked that about a drink that is traditionally served in a glass rimmed with salt.” Point taken.
And how does it taste? Compared to the Texas-derived leading brand, it’s a much richer, more vegetal and pulpy experience – I mean it actually tastes of tomatoes, but also Caesar mix: lime, horseradish, Worcester, hotsauce, all underlined by the mysterious and subtle lift of clam. It comes in two flavours: mildly spiced and well spiced, but the difference really only seems to be how much chillie was added – merely a question of heat, rather than flavour. The well spiced was particularly delicious onthe rocks with a generous splash of Dillon’s (all natural, of course) gin. Between sips of my Walter Ceasar, I went back to taste leading Texan brand. It seemed insipid and weak in a watery way, despite the MSG and HFCS… sad, really.
*If that face looks familiar to GFR readers, its because Scott (then Smith) was featured in this GFR post by Rebecca Feigelsohn in her previous role as a partner in
the now defunct Cake Opera, which continues under the sole ownership of Alexandria Pellegrino.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley.