If you are a child of the ‘70s, as I am, you have seen your fair share of shrimp cocktails. It is a classic, but I am waking it up with a fun flavor twist in the cocktail sauce. You’ll find the flavors familiar—from a brunch standard, the bloody Mary—and it’s bringing a zesty jolt of flavor to the chilled freshness of sweet juicy shrimp, which never goes out of style.
If you’re entertaining for New Year’s, this is an easy way to elevate a classic and please any palate. Begin with your favorite ketchup and dress it up with the ingredients you’d enjoy in a bloody Mary; think crunchy pickles, zippy horseradish, herbaceous celery seed, a shake or two of hot sauce or Worcestershire (or both) and, yes, a shot of vodka.
We like our flavors hot at our house, so I used a “hotter” variety of Texas Pete hot sauce, plus spicy Wickles brand pickles and “extra hot” horseradish. But if you prefer milder flavors, adjust accordingly. You could swap any flavors to suit your fancy. Pretty much anything that would work in a bloody Mary will work here. Same with your garnish.
For the shrimp, do what’s best or easy for you, whether purchasing already cooked, steaming them or perhaps trying the roasting method I’ll demonstrate below. Whichever method you choose, be sure the shrimp have plenty of time to chill. Serve them in individual cocktail glasses for an impressive presentation and garnish as you would a bloody Mary!
Ingredients (serves 6)
18 jumbo shrimp* (see notes)
6 Tbsp. ketchup
2 Tbsp. finely minced onion or shallot
2 Tbsp. finely minced sweet, spicy or dill pickle
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. cayenne hot sauce, such as Texas Pete or Tabasco
1/2 tsp. celery seed
Splash or two of pickle juice
1 shot good quality vodka
Take time to notice where your shrimp has been sourced, as some farming methods are bad for the environment and the seafood processing standards in some parts of the world are rife with human rights violations. Whenever possible, choose domestic (U.S. produced) shrimp that is either wild caught or sustainably farmed. Clean, peel and devein the shrimp, but keep the tails on for best presentation.
I used 16-20 count shrimp, which means there are 16-20 per pound. If you are serving the cocktail as an appetizer, three shrimp per person is a good starting point.
As a side note, it occurs to me that this zesty cocktail sauce would also be terrific with raw or steamed oysters.
Cook the shrimp, using your preferred method. Chill it thoroughly in the refrigerator before serving.
Stir all sauce ingredients together in a bowl and chill until ready to serve. For presentation, spoon about 2 tablespoons of sauce into a shallow cocktail glass and hang the chilled shrimp on the edge of the glass. Garnish with a wedge of fresh lemon and a cocktail olive, onion, pepperoncini, etc.
Easy Roasted Shrimp
The roasting method may seem fussy, but it is actually easier than boiling or steaming, because it doesn’t move so quickly. It’s so frustrating to accidentally overcook something as delicate and expensive as shrimp.
Preheat the oven to 400° F, with oven rack in center position. Peel and de-vein shrimp and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Give them a quick spray of olive oil (or toss them lightly in olive oil) and sprinkle both sides lightly with Old Bay seasoning or (more simply) salt and pepper.
Roast for 7 minutes, until shrimp are just opaque. Immediately transfer shrimp to a bowl and chill them down quickly in the freezer for several minutes or plunge the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice. The goal is to bring down the temperature quickly so that the shrimp don’t overcook to become tough.