The differences between Canada and Mexico may be as vast as the distance between the Rio Grande and the Great Lakes and the winter temperature variance between Calgary and Cabo San Lucas. But at least one bold and zesty beverage translates well to both Canadian and Mexican tastes.
Clamato enjoys a strong following in both countries. With 97 percent market share in Canada and 78 percent in Mexico, the word “seafood cocktail” isn't even used to describe the delicious concoction of tomato juice and clam broth that's behind many of the countries' most popular drinks. Instead it's simply “Clamato,” or in the case of Canada, “Motts-Clamato,” depending on who you talk to, says Cameron Butt, Motts-Clamato brand manager for Canada Dry Mott’s, Dr Pepper Snapple’s Canadian subsidiary.
With a strong hold on both of these markets, Clamato is the key ingredient in some of their most emblematic drinks. In Canada, that drink is the Caesar, and in Mexico, it's the Michelada. Both drinks are sources of national pride in their respective countries, such as in the case of the Caesar. Regular tomato juice won't do - it has to be Clamato.
Here’s a closer look at the drinks in North America that call for Clamato by name:
Made with Motts-Clamato, vodka, lime, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, the Caesar is one of the most popular—if not the most popular—mixed drink in Canada. It's also a drink that's traditionally Canadian—and proudly so. Created by Walter Chell, the bar and restaurant manager of the Calgary Inn in 1969, the Caesar was originally meant as a publicity stunt for the opening of the hotel's Italian restaurant. What might have begun as a publicity stunt has now turned into a nationally recognized cocktail. In fact, the Caesar was named Canada’s official cocktail by parliament in 2009.
The story goes that Chell was given the task of creating a special drink for the restaurant's opening, so he modeled it off his favorite Italian dish—spaghetti vongole, mixing clam juice with tomato juice, vodka and a few other spices for a drink that would later take Canada by storm. The Caesar, as he called it, took off, gaining a tremendous amount of popularity across the nation.
And it's not just the original Caesar that has taken off—a whole variety of Caesars have arisen over the years, so much so that Motts-Clamato now carries five flavors in Canada – Original, Lime, Extra Spicy, The Works and Pickled Bean, a bold and tangy flavor modeled after the country's pickled green beans. In fact, it's this ability to customize the Caesar that is a big driver of its popularity, says Butt. Some consumers even switch out the vodka for whiskey or other spirits,” he says.
The same could be said for Mexico. In Mexico it's not only the Michelada that relies on Clamato—it's a variety of different drinks across different regions that utilize two key ingredients—Clamato and beer—for a refreshing pick-me-up on a hot afternoon or an especially cruel morning-after.
Traditionally consisting of Clamato, beer, salt, and lime, the Michelada has many different versions—and many different names across the country. For example, in Mexico City, if you want Clamato with your beer, you're best off ordering a cerveza con clamato, or a clamachela. And it will most likely come with a dash of Worcestershire or Maggi, a sauce similar to soy.
However, more often than not, these other salsas and spices are added, ranging anywhere from soy sauce to Worcestershire, chili powder and chamoy, a sweet and salty chili sauce. The version Cubana adds them all, utilizing Clamato, beer, Worcestershire, Maggi and even Tabasco sauce for a spicy kick that's refreshingly cool at the same time. There are even versions with gummi bears, known as gomichelas.
On the coasts, it's an entirely different story. In the Riviera Maya, they are ojo rojo, while on the Pacific coast, they are simply cheladas. In fact, it was on Mexico's Pacific coast where Clamato first gained its popularity. Although several bars claim to be the first to introduce the “chelada,” there's no doubt that the mix of ice cold beer and refreshing Clamato was a hit, soon prompting the name “Michelada” a nod to the phrase in Spanish "mi chela helada," meaning “my iced beer.”
A Drink to Stay
Good food and drink do not stop at the borders, and Clamato is no exception. Across the continent and across its various iterations within Mexico and Canada, Clamato remains the constant. No matter the name, in North America it's not a Michelada without Clamato y cerveza, just like a Caesar in Canada isn't a Caesar without
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