The Perfect Cocktail Sauce Is Heinz With Extra Horseradish

Photo: Alexandralaw1977, Shutterstock
Photo: Alexandralaw1977, Shutterstock

After nearly three decades of eating (and making) shrimp cocktail, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: It is really hard to do better than Heinz cocktail sauce, especially if you add extra horseradish. I’ve tried fancier, more expensive brands of cocktail sauce, and I’ve made my own, but I always return to Heinz, metaphorical hat in hand. (My boyfriend made the mistake of buying the Beaver brand cocktail sauce this weekend, and I’m still a little miffed!)

This makes sense. Cocktail sauce is mostly tomato sauce, and Heinz makes the best tomato sauce, so it’s not surprising that their cocktail sauce strikes the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Plus, “homemade” cocktail sauce isn’t really homemade, is it? Even if you make “your own” cocktail sauce, you have to start with tomato sauce, and we already know that homemade tomato sauce sucks. (What’s the best tomato sauce, you ask? Heinz. It’s Heinz.)

So unless you plan on making your own tomato sauce to make your own cocktail sauce — and I wouldn’t recommend it — just get the Heinz, and doctor it to suit your whims. As much as I love Heinz cocktail sauce, I will admit it needs extra horseradish. (I’ve never actually met a cocktail sauce that was horsey enough for me, and this includes the ones that claim to be heavy on the root.)

Keeping a little jar of prepared horseradish in the fridge is therefore necessary, no matter which cocktail sauce you buy. If you’re wondering how much horseradish is “enough” horseradish, that’s easy: You want to add enough so the colour of the cocktail sauce lightens by an entire shade. You don’t want a red sauce — no, no — you want that stuff to be a dark pink. Then, and only then, is it ready for your little shrimps.

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