Prawn Cocktail: A Retro Starter Straight From The 1980s
Image Credit: Prawn Cocktail

It’s time for a delicious retro prawn cocktail that dates back to the 1980s. It tastes like something out of this world when plump, juicy prawns are mixed in a pink rose marie sauce that is much filled with savour. Prawn Cocktails are shelled, cooked prawns served with a Prawn Cocktail Sauce (also known as Marie Rose Sauce), which is composed of mayonnaise, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, with optional horseradish.

From the 1960s through the late 1980s, it was the most popular hors d’oeuvre in both the UK and the US. Prawn Cocktails might be a classic from the 80s, but they have never gone out of fashion and never will. Prawns can be prepared in a variety of ways for prawn cocktails. They may be poached in boiling water or cooked in a skillet for 3-4 minutes on each side in a little olive oil.

Historians can trace the shrimp cocktail origin back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. Twentieth century American cookbooks report combinations of shellfish (typically oysters) and spicy tomato-based sauces (ketchup spiced with cayenne, tabasco, and horseradish) served as appetisers. Cocktail appetisers, typically fruit or shrimp cocktails, were standard in the 1920s. This period was also called the decade of prohibition of alcohol in the US. They would serve these appetisers in cocktail glasses primarily meant for holding alcoholic beverages. The method of serving came about to give these glasses a new use, and obviously, the process has stuck.

Meanwhile, the British culinary landscape engrains the shrimp cocktail, so much so that most people think the dish’s invention originated in Britain. According to a more believable story, however, the prawn cocktail in a glass traces back to a 19th-century miner in California. 

Prawn Cocktail

Here’s the recipe for Prawn Cocktail.


    Lemon juice, to taste

    Malt vinegar, to taste

    20 raw tiger prawns

    1 little gem lettuce

    1 sprig of fresh thyme, leaves picked

    Cayenne pepper, to serve

For the sauce:

    ½ lemon, juice only

    1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

    5 tbsp tomato ketchup

    A few drops pepper sauce

    2 pinches smoked paprika

    ½ tsp paprika

    1 tbsp double cream

    4 tbsp mayonnaise

    1 pinch cayenne pepper

    1 pinch salt

    1 tsp cracked black pepper


1.    Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of vinegar.

2.    Add the whole prawns and cook until they rise to the surface then cool the prawns in ice cold water.

3.    Peel the cooled prawns, leaving one prawn per serving.

4.    Cut the little gem lettuce in half and place in ice cold water to crisp it up.

5.    For the sauce, mix all the sauce ingredients together.

6.    To assemble the cocktails, drain the lettuce and pat dry with kitchen paper.

7.    Arrange the lettuce leaves in martini glasses. 

8.    Add the peeled prawns and spoonful of sauce to the martini glass.

9.    Top with the unpeeled prawn and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

This prawn cocktail is a mouthwatering seafood meal, which is excellent for parties. The fact that this prawn dish is presented in a glass that resembles a salad is fascinating.