The little-known clamdigger cocktail was created in 1968 by Mott's juice company as a showcase for its Clamato juice, a blend of clam and tomato juices. The marketing campaign for the clamdigger – nothing more complex than vodka mixed with Clamato juice – promoted the drink as "bright and brisk as a day at the seashore." Its savory, brine-tinged flavor is a hit with fans of the somewhat heavier bloody Mary, against which the clamdigger admirably holds its own as a brunch drink. The clamdigger is equally amenable to the addition of spice and umami by way of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, but know that these additions technically transform the clamdigger into a bloody Caesar, the national drink of Canada.
Prep Time: 2 minutes | Serves: 1
- 1.5 ounces (1 shot) vodka
- 4 to 6 ounces Clamato juice, or 2 to 3 ounces each of clam juice and tomato juice
- Fill a tall glass with ice
- Measure the shot of vodka into the glass
- Top the glass up with Clamato juice
- Use a swizzle stick or spoon to stir the vodka and juice together
Optional Seasonings and Garnishes
The original Clamato recipe calls for just two ingredients, but there's no reason not to improvise with all manner of seasonings and garnishes. With a shake or two each of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, a clamdigger becomes a bloody Caesar, a cocktail so popular in Canada (and the United States) that custom seasonings and garnishes are quite customary. Popular inclusions are horseradish, lemon or lime juice and celery salt, sometimes added around the rim of the glass. Salt and black pepper, and sometimes dried dill, are good seasonings too, although Clamato juice is already high in sodium, so taste your drink before adding more salt. If you like it spicy, switch up the hot sauce for pickled jalapenos. Celery sticks and lemon wedges are common garnishes, but olives and cocktail onions are also quite at home resting on the side of a clamdigger glass.
Variations and Gourmet Versions
The most basic variation on the clamdigger recipe simply switches up the ratio of vodka to Clamato juice. Three to four parts juice to one part vodka is typical, but you can certainly include more or less vodka to taste. If you don't have Clamato juice, use a 50/50 blend of bottled clam juice and tomato juice, or again switch the proportions to suit your tastes. Mott's makes spicy and lemon versions of Clamato juice, so you might use those for fuss-free variety. Also consider the Acapulco clamdigger, which uses tequila instead of vodka.
If you have the time, the inclination and access to fresh clams, you might shuck and mash them to make your own clam juice for a gourmet clamdigger. Fresh clams make great garnishes, too. Likewise, fresh tomatoes juiced at home can lend their superior flavor to your drink, but they will likely require some liberal seasoning to match the zestiness of bottled versions.
Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. As a specialist in all things food and drink, she has penned pieces for Livestrong, Robert Mondavi and Modern Mom, among other names. She found her first jobs in a series of kitchens before moving on to celebrate food via the written word. Thomas resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.