“But Keep the Celery!” Dan Aykroyd on Canada’s (un)Official National Drink

Welcome to the 4th annual National Caesar Day. Yes. The Thursday before the third Monday of May has become Canadian drinkers’ hallmark holiday. That’s hallmark with a lower case “l” in the shape of a celery stick.

Caesar, like its ancient imperial namesake, is a stately cocktail that Canadians enjoy around the birthday celebrations of Queen Victoria, an imperial icon herself. And National Caesar Day unofficially kicks off this first long weekend, itself the unofficial kick-off to summer. Got that?

Yesterday, we talked with Canadian comedy legend Dan Aykroyd about National Caesar Day, its vital contribution to Canada, and his vodka’s contribution.

Q: On the Saturday or Sunday morning of this first long weekend, some Canadians look at the Caesar as a salty replacement for coffee. What do you think of lobbying to extend National Caesar Day to National Caesar Week?

Aykroyd: “Well, Canadians can have a Caesar all year round, once they have the ingredients: fresh garlic, lime juice, Sriracha sauce, Crystal Head vodka (CHV) and Mott’s Clamato.” This recipe’s his own spin on the cocktail, understandably dubbed the Hot Head Caesar. In a country-wide competition to cap it, a rice-paper garnish in the shape of a cone(head) was selected from 12,500ish entries.

“The Caesar was invented here in Canada. I heard they used to drop bull’s testicles into them.” (That wouldn’t be bad with garlic, Sriracha and lime.)

“As far as a federal decree for recognition of the day, that’s definitely the first step. Spring would be the appropriate time. A Caesar makes the perfect complement to lunch on a hot day on the dock. I had it recently with some delicious lamb. Just like I do with wine, I plan the meal and pair the flavours.”

Q: The CHV bottle is famous for being shaped like a human skull. Whose skull was the model? Surely not Beldar. He’s not Canadian, (though we’d welcome him no doubt).

Aykroyd: “I’d love to do a Beldar-shaped Conehead bottle. The top would be extra fun to make, especially with that curve at the apex. Actually, the name and design are inspired by the legend of the 13 crystal skulls”, a tradition of stories shared by several indigenous central American cultures including the Mayans and Aztecs.

“The skulls were believed to bestow the power of sight and enlightenment. Our vodka’s pure, with no additives or added sugar, and we believe in enlightened drinking. There are no glycerides or sweeteners in our vodka. No lamanin to disguise the smell … I like the smell. It has a smell. I also really like its natural viscosity. And the taste of course!

“You’ll taste the mix is this cocktail, but you can’t bury the (taste of) CHV. The water’s pure too,” he adds, coming from an aquafer made by a 16,000-year old glacier in Newfoundland.”

Speaking of purity, “no clams were hurt in the making of our Caesars. They have no brains.”

Q: Filled with red liquid, like Mott’s Clamato, then capped with a lit candle, a CHV bottle makes a great Hallowe’en decoration. But what are your suggestions for any empty skulls this Victoria Day Holiday?

Aykroyd: “See the thousands of ideas people have put on our site. They fill them with all sorts of interesting things: Reese’s Pieces; sand; cocktails. It was designed by John Alexander, the artist. It’s out of an artist’s mind. So artists around the world love it and love to fill it all sorts of creative things.”

For this holiday? “I like to fill it with the Caesar, so you pour it directly from the skull into pre-limned glasses. Or make a community liquor-fondue with several straws.”

Q: One of my favourite characters you ever played was the voice of Chip, the WASP in Antz. When his wife Muffy is swatted to death, Chip goes on quite a bender. How would a Caesar or two have affected this character’s story?

Aykroyd: “Ah, yes, well I had a wonderful partner to work with on that film, the great Jane Curtin. I LOVE working with Jane. As for his bender, if I had been the bartender, I wouldn’t have overserved. It’s important to enjoy your Caesar responsibly and at home . . . Put the keys to the Jetski away.”

Q: Which modern blues artist do you recommend as an accompaniment for an earlyish-in-the-day Caesar?

Aykroyd: “A modern blues artist? James Hunter. A classic one? Junior Wells!” Here’s the Blues Brothers searing rendition of Junior Wells’s immortal Messin’ with the Kid.

“Roll down the golf cart with the pre-filled Crystal Heads. Use the garnish that I have, a cone-shaped savoury wrap, stuffed with spicy tuna tartare.” What about the celery? Isn’t that important? “Oh, yes!” he insists with all the passion of his erstwhile bleeding-out Julia Childs impersonation, when she encouraged us to save the giblets.

“Use the garnish, but you should still keep the celery!” Some Canadian traditions are not to be messed with.

Steven Bochenek

Hot Head Caesar, Aykroyd’s 2018 Recommended Caesar

1 Tsp chopped garlic

1 Tsp Sriracha Hot Sauce

2 Quarter Wedges Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice

1.5 oz Crystal Head Vodka

4 oz Mott’s Clamato

Rim high ball glass with spicy seasoning of your choice, add garlic, hot sauce, lime juice, Crystal Head vodka and muddle. Fill glass with ice, top with Mott’s Clamato and stir.

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