Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Clamato bloody Mary (bloody Caesar)

David Moyle is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

The bloody Mary is a drink that took me quite some time to embrace. When positioned as a recovery/morning beverage and served alongside my eggs and self-pity, it looks too much like another lost day to me.

But the clamato bloody Mary (aka bloody Caesar) brings a whole other culinary leaning. Its umami flavour and additional nutritional benefit lends it to afternoon or evening salutations. Picture an oceanside deck with the sun setting and some oysters or chilled seafood.

The mescal in this cocktail is arguably the origin of clamato. Mexico had long been using clam juice with tomato prior to it being recognised as a Canadian–American staple. And, frankly, the mescal works so much better than vodka with these flavours. The rich smokiness and the body that comes from a good mescal is unbeatable in furthering the bloody Caesar’s standing as pseudo food.

I have written before on my love of all things bivalve. Molluscs bring so much to the party, and when the ocean water warms up at this time of the year, the best of them all, the pipi, sits closer to shore. Collecting pipis is one of the most enjoyable group activities you can do that also results in dinner. Spotting the gutters they move in, shuffling in bare feet to locate them, then scooping them up and placing them in a bucket can be fun for all the family. Just make sure you purge these pipis for at least 24 hours in salt water before eating them, as there is absolutely nothing pleasant about a mouthful of sand.

So why not try repositioning this bloody Mary adaptation as a sunset drink rather than a morning-after cure. In the fading light, it’s a sipper, not a sculler. And one worth bringing into your cocktail repertoire. Feel free to further embellish the pintxos skewer with anchovies or whatever else tickles your fancy. I love crunchy cucumbers, pickled onions or complementary herbs such as basil as an occasional change from the suggestion in this recipe. 


Time: 30 minutes preparation

Serves 4

  • 10ml olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1kg pipis (or clams)
  • 200ml dry vermouth
  • 400ml tomato juice
  • 30ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 20g horseradish, prepared
  • 200ml mescal
  • several shakes Tabasco sauce
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 4 pickled guindilla peppers
  • 4 large green olives
  • celery salt
  • 4 good sticks celery
  1. Heat up a pot that has a firm-fitting lid and then add the oil and the garlic. When the garlic starts to brown, add the pipis and the vermouth. Put the lid on to steam for a minute or so.
  2. Agitate the pan regularly, then pick the pipis out as they open and place in a bowl. When most of them are open, tip the rest into the bowl, complete with the liquid. Let this cool a little, then shuck the pipis out of the shell (press the connective muscle into the shell to remove them cleanly) and strain the liquid to use in the cocktail.
  3. Mix 80 millilitres of the pipi juice with the tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, mescal, Tabasco and lemon juice.
  4. Taste for seasoning and adjust with lemon juice etc, depending on your preferences. Strain into a pouring jug.
  5. Thread a pipi, guindilla pepper and olive onto a cocktail skewer.
  6. Rim your glasses with celery salt and then pour your clamato over ice and serve garnished with the skewer and a stick of celery in each glass.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on January 20, 2024 as "Hail Caesar".

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