Prawn cocktail

  (Redirected from Shrimp cocktail)

Prawn cocktail, also known as shrimp cocktail, is a seafood dish consisting of shelled, cooked prawns in a Marie Rose sauce or cocktail sauce,[1] served in a glass.[2][3] It was the most popular hors d'œuvre in Great Britain, as well as in the United States, from the 1960s to the late 1980s.[citation needed] According to the English food writer Nigel Slater, the prawn cocktail "has spent most of (its life) see-sawing from the height of fashion to the laughably passé" and is now often served with a degree of irony.[4]

Prawn cocktail
Cocktail 1 bg 060702.jpg
Alternative namesShrimp cocktail
CourseHors d'oeuvre
Main ingredientsPrawns, cocktail sauce

History and originsEdit

An American-style shrimp cocktail made with store-bought cocktail sauce and garnished with endive and dill.

A dish of cooked seafood with a piquant sauce of some kind is of ancient origin and many varieties exist.[5] Oyster or shrimp dishes of this kind were popular in the United States in the late nineteenth century and some sources link the serving of the dish in cocktail glasses to the ban on alcoholic drinks during the 1920s prohibition era in the United States.[6]

In the United Kingdom, the invention of the prawn cocktail is often credited to British television chef Fanny Cradock in the 1960s;[7][8] however, it is more likely that Cradock popularised her version of an established dish that was not well known until then in Britain. In their 1997 book The Prawn Cocktail Years, Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham note that the prawn cocktail has a "direct lineage to Escoffier".[9]


The sauce is usually referred to as cocktail sauce, and is essentially ketchup plus mayonnaise in Commonwealth countries, or ketchup and horseradish in the United States.[10] Recipes may add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, cayenne pepper or lemon juice. Clams or oysters can be substituted for shrimp.[11]

In BritainEdit

A prawn cocktail

Nigel Slater says "it is all in the sauce", and that "the true sauce is principally mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and a couple of shakes of Tabasco."[4]

The chef Heston Blumenthal states that prawn cocktail is his "secret vice": "When I get home late after working in The Fat Duck there's nothing I like better than to raid the fridge for prawn cocktail." Blumenthal notes that it is best to use homemade mayonnaise, and recommends adding chopped basil and tarragon.[12]

The television chef and writer Delia Smith states that the best version is with self-cooked prawns, and that in the 1960s it was "something simple but really luscious, yet over the years it has suffered from some very poor adaptations, not least watery prawns and inferior sauces."[13]

As Hopkinson and Bareham note in The Prawn Cocktail Years, what was once considered to be the "Great British Meal" consisted of Prawn Cocktail, followed by Steak Garni with Chips and Black Forest Gateau for dessert; they comment that "cooked as it should be, this much-derided and often ridiculed dinner is still something very special indeed."[14]

The "prawn cocktail offensive"Edit

Before the 1992 British general election,[15] the Labour Party campaigned to win the support of business and financial leaders by persuading them that they would not interfere with the market economy. The campaign was lampooned as the "Prawn Cocktail Offensive".[16]

Spin-off productsEdit

Walkers prawn cocktail crisps (top right) in a vending machine in London

The ubiquity of the prawn cocktail has led to such products as prawn cocktail flavour crisps, which are still one of the most popular varieties of this snack food. Prawn cocktail flavour crisps were the second most popular in the UK in 2004, with a 16% market share.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Cocktail Sauce". Australian Women's Weekly. August 15, 2015. Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  2. ^ "Proper prawn cocktail". BBC. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  3. ^ Raj, Karan. (2002). Modern Dictionary Of Tourism. Delhi: Ivy Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 978-81-7890-058-2.
  4. ^ a b Slater, Nigel (16 May 2010). "Nigel Slater's classic prawn cocktail recipe". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  5. ^ Retro classics: The prawn cocktail Jassy Davis,, 5 March 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  6. ^ Olver, Lynne. "FAQs: fish & shellfish". The Food Timeline. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  7. ^ "The origins of 10 modern classic foods". Channel 4. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  8. ^ Scott, Chloe (18 June 2013). "How to make the ultimate prawn cocktail". Metro. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  9. ^ Hopkinson, Simon. "House of Brown Windsor House of Brown Windsor". Independent. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Classic prawn cocktail recipe". BBC Good Food. 14 April 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  11. ^ Lowney's Cookbook, 1912, p36
  12. ^ Blumenthal, Heston. "Prawn to be wild". GQ. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Prawn Cocktail". Delia Online. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  14. ^ "The Prawn Cocktail Years". Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  15. ^ Brandreth, Gyles (2013). Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (5th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-19-968136-5.
  16. ^ Heffernan, Richard; Mike Marqusee. (1992). Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Kinnock's Labour Party. Verso. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-86091-561-4.
  17. ^ "Stat's life; Ten most popular crisp flavours in the UK". Daily Record. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2014.

External linksEdit