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Truly the Best Shrimp Cocktail Recipe Ever

Preparation 30 min Total Time 0:30

I know it's ridiculous to call a recipe "the best," buuuuttttttt this recipe is THE BEST shrimp cocktail. I've never met anyone who thought differently once they'd tried it. The poaching method gives the shrimp a wonderful, delicate texture and flavor, and the sauce has a hint of gin in it, so HI. You can make the sauce and shrimp a day in advance and just stir the parsley into the sauce and arrange it all on a platter right before serving.


For the cocktail sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon good gin
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley

For the shrimp

  • 1 1/2 pounds unpeeled jumbo shrimp
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4 fresh tarragon sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved


Mix together the ketchup, horseradish, tabasco, gin, celery salt, salt and lemon juice. Chill until ready to serve. Stir in parsley right before serving.

Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails attached. Place peels into a large pot. Add water, 1 tablespoon of the salt, wine or vermouth, peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, onion, tarragon and lemon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 30 minutes more, then strain broth through a fine sieve into a fresh pot.

  1. Bring stock to a boil, then remove from heat. Add shrimp and cover. Leave for 3 minutes (still off the heat -- the shrimp "poach" in the residual heat and remain amazingly tender).
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and the remaining tablespoon salt. Add shrimp and leave until just opaque, 3 minutes or a shade more if the shrimp are very big. Chill in fridge (I usually wrap in paper towels and put in a gallon zip top bag) until ready to serve.


Recipe Notes

You can ask the fishmonger to peel and clean the shrimp for you. Just ask them to leave the tails attached and to give you the shells.

Save the delicious stock to use in risotto if you like.

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