Does Shrimp Cocktail Have Alcohol?

Considered a staple appetizer of al la carte and fine dining restaurant menus, a shrimp cocktail is an excellent way to start a meal. However, does a shrimp cocktail contain alcohol?

Shrimp cocktails do not contain alcohol; instead, the shrimp is served with a pink Marie Rose sauce made of ketchup, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. The term “cocktail” is used because a shrimp cocktail is an appetizer eaten before your main meal and traditionally served in a martini glass.

To better understand why shrimp cocktail is served in a cocktail glass, despite not containing alcohol, we will look at the role of presentation in serving shrimp cocktail. Where after we will explore popular shrimp cocktail recipes and determine if there are alcoholic variants:

Why Is Shrimp Cocktail Served In A Martini Glass?

While it may appear strange to serve an appetizer like a shrimp cocktail in a glass rather than on a bowl or plate, there are valid reasons for doing so. These reasons can be divided between form and function.

Martini Glass Form

Beginning with form, martini glasses are often used to elevate drinks and enhance their appearance. Consequently, the martini glass became associated with high society and eloquence, hence the use of the glass as a vessel for shrimp cocktails at upscale restaurants during the 1960s.

While the association between martini glasses and elegance began to fade in the 1980s, the continued use of martini glasses when serving shrimp cocktails is due to tradition and the function of the martini glass.

Martini Glass Function 

The wide brim of a martini glass and the hooked shape of the shrimp means that you can easily serve multiple shrimp on a martini glass without risking the shrimp falling off.

Meanwhile, the large circumference and relative depth of the glass allow patrons to easily and conveniently dip their shrimp into the cocktail sauce without requiring the use of two vessels (namely a bowl and a plate if they were used instead of a martini glass.)

Furthermore, martini glasses have long stems and wide brims to keep drinks cold and not allow drinks to be warmed up by a person’s body temperature as they heat the glass.

Consequently, this is perfect for a shrimp cocktail, which is often served with cold sauce and ice blocks.

Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

The following is a shrimp cocktail recipe you can prepare at home to elevate your dinner parties and wow your guests!

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 13 minutes

Total Time: 38 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6 servings.

Court Bouillon Ingredients:

  • Ten cups of cold water,
  • Two medium carrots,
  • Two celery stalks,
  • One large onion,
  • One head of garlic,
  • One lemon,
  • ½ bunch of parsley,
  • Five sprigs of fresh thyme,
  • Two bay leaves. 

Shrimp Ingredients:

  • One pound of medium to large shrimp (preferably uniform in size)
  • One tablespoon of kosher salt,
  • Lemon wedges.  

Cocktail Sauce Ingredients:

  • One cup of ketchup,
  • One juiced and grated lemon,
  • Four teaspoons of prepared horseradish,
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce,
  • Hot sauce (optional.)  


  • Place the water, carrots, celery stalks, onion, garlic, lemon, parsley, bay leaves, and thyme in a pot.
  • Bring the pot to boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, reduce the liquid to a simmer and let the pot lid remain ajar. Allow the liquid to simmer between 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Carefully place the shrimp into the pot and turn off the heat.
  • Stir the shrimp occasionally and continue to cook them until they curl and turn pink (typically 2 minutes for medium shrimp and up to 3 minutes for larger shrimp.)
  • Drain the liquid and allow the shrimp to cool to room temperature.
  • Peel the shrimp and refrigerate if not served immediately, (note: once removed from the refrigerator, bring the shrimp to room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.)
  • Preparing the cocktail sauce requires carefully mixing ketchup, lemon zest, lemon juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce in a mixing bowl (add hot sauce and ice cubes if desirable.)
  • Prepare the dish by pouring the cocktail sauce into a martini glass and rim it with the curved ends of the shrimp, ensuring they are secured. Garnish with lemon and serve.

Important Tips:

  • When peeling the shrimp, it may be necessary to devein the shrimp.
  • Alternatively, you can devein the shrimp before cooking them. To devein the shrimp, hold a shrimp between your thumb and forefinger, with the rounded side of the shrimp facing upward. Carefully insert a wooden skewer about 1/8 an inch from the top of the shrimp and carefully lift to remove the vein.
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Are There Alcoholic Variants Of Shrimp Cocktails?

Although shrimp cocktail is seldom alcoholic, there are alcoholic variants you can enjoy, like “Drunken Shrimp Cocktail.”

Drunken Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

Drunken Shrimp Cocktail is an alcoholic variant of the classic appetizer that brings added depth and complexity to the dinner party staple!

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Servings: 6 servings.

Shrimp Ingredients:

  • ½ pound of shrimp (washed, peeled, and deveined)
  • One tablespoon of  extra virgin olive oil,
  • One tablespoon of kosher salt.

Cocktail Sauce Ingredients:

  • One and ½ cups of tomato juice,
  • Six ounces of vodka,
  • One tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce,
  • One tablespoon of horseradish,
  • Two tablespoons of hot sauce,
  • ½ a lemon’s worth of lemon juice,
  • ¼ c. of Old Bay seasoning,
  • Parsley for garnish.


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°.
  • Place the shrimp on a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Season the shrimp with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Place the shrimp into the oven and bake thoroughly until pink (approximately 8 to 10 minutes.)
  • Mix tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, horseradish, and lemon juice in a pitcher.
  • Wet the glass rims of 6 shot glasses with a slice of lemon and dip in Old Bay seasoning.
  • Fill the glasses with the cocktail mixture and a single shrimp.
  • Garnish with lemon and parsley to serve.

Important Tips:

  • If you do not have pre-washed, peeled and deveined shrimp, see the Shrimp Cocktail Recipe above for hints and tips on preparing shrimp before cooking.


In conclusion, while the name can be misleading, the history and use of martinis in presenting shrimp cocktails explain why most recipe variants do not contain alcohol.