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TIP OF THE DAY: Deconstruct & Reconstruct The Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

Shrimp Cocktail Bloody Mary
[1] Don’t have a proper shrimp cocktail glass? Use what you do have, from a julep glass to a Martini glass or anything other stemware. Note also that instead of cocktail sauce, the shrimp are paired with pesto (photo © Butter Restaurant | NYC).

[2] Or, how about serving the shrimp with salsa? Here, pico de gallo hits the spot (photo © Simply Organic | Facebook).

[3] This deconstructed shrimp cocktail is served with two sauces and a grilled lemon (photo © Payard Restaurant | New York City).

[4] How about serving the shrimp cocktail on lettuce leaves? Or, you can cut the shrimp into pieces that fit into a leaf of endive (photo © Goulash Riot | Bluebird London).

[5] Consider grilling the shrimp, plain or with tandoori spices (photo © Prawn & Basil | Thousand Oaks, California).

[6] At the end of the day, a plain plate and a ramekin of sauce will do (photo © Citarella | NYC).


National Shrimp Day is on May 10th, celebrating America’s favorite seafood, shrimp. For many people, the classiest first course for a steakhouse dinner is a shrimp cocktail. It’s also one of the easiest to make at home, typically a simple preparation of shredded lettuce and boiled shrimp, garnished with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge. The “classy” part is that a shrimp cocktail is popularly served in a stemmed dish.

Shrimp cocktail is not only easy to prepare, but it’s also healthful fare, low in calories.

But there’s no need to stick to Grandma’s shrimp cocktail preparation. Switch it up with these ideas.

You don’t need stemmed glass “shrimp cocktail dishes.” A pretty arrangement on a plate will work, as will a coupe (sherbet Champagne) glass, a Martini glass, Margarita glass, or a rocks glass.

Not to mention the julep glass in photo #1.

Standard plates and bowls with ramekins (or shot glasses) of sauce will work, too. See photo #6.

Switch up the greens. Instead of the conventional iceberg or romaine lettuce underneath the shrimp, use butter lettuce, a mesclun mix, arugula or watercress, or shredded radicchio and endive.

Or take that romaine or butter lettuce leaf and fill it with the shrimp cocktail: shrimp drizzled with sauce (photo #4).

You can also cut the shrimp into sizes that fit into an endive leaf boat.

You can use the shrimp to garnish an iceberg wedge (we used toothpicks to skewer them into the top of the wedge).

You can go in a completely different direction: Serve the shrimp on top of cucumber salad, pink and white grapefruit salad with red onion, red cabbage salad, wilted spinach, watercress salad.

Set the shrimp atop marinated green beans, bean salad, corn salad, or purple potato salad.

Or, serve an individual bowl of shrimp on a plate with different dipping sauces, as they do at Payard restaurant in New York City (photo #3).

You don’t need a special plate: just a bowl for the shrimp and ramekins or shot glasses for the sauces (photo #6).

Check out this Asian-inspired salad recipe.

Cocktail sauce (see the recipe below) is traditional, but you don’t need to stick with tradition. Add curry powder or some mild fresh chile to spice up a conventional cocktail sauce, or use salsa, like the pico de gallo salsa in photo #2.

Thousand island dressing, rémoulade, green goddess or other favorite works just as well.

Spicy mayonnaise is also an option, as is the surf-and-turf suggestion of Baconnaise, a delicious bacon-flavored mayonnaise.

A lemon or lime wedge adds color to the plate and a hit of citrus juice is welcome in just about anything.

How about a garnish of chopped hard-boiled egg or even crumbled bacon (another surf-and-turf).

You can serve a garnish like a hard-boiled egg or sliced avocado or mango on a plate, arranged with the shrimp and the sauce.

Consider additional garnish options, from snipped chives, scallions, or a few different olives to crumbled bacon (surf and turf again!) to a sweet counterpoint, such as a small pineapple wedge or cube, or lychee.

We also like a scattering of freeze-dried vegetable snacks like Crunchies.

Instead of boiled shrimp, you can grill the shrimp over coals or fire for that special grilled flavor.

Consider tandoor or other global spices for even more panache.


  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • For serving: lemon wedge

    1. BLEND the ingredients.

    2. CHILL for two hours or longer to allow flavors to meld.
    What’s your approach to shrimp cocktail? Let us know!




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