Whether you’re lounging around at home or hosting a fancy dinner party, the spicy and tangy flavors of cocktail sauce is a staple for shrimp and seafood. And you’re in good company—according to Tastewise, there’s been a nearly 84% increase in cocktail sauce consumption since August 2019. But you may be wondering: what’s the best cocktail sauce brand?
In this article, we’ll be talking about our five favorite cocktail sauce brands and highlighting each one’s unique quality.
Best Cocktail Sauce Brand Reviews
1. Old Original Bookbinder Cocktail Sauce
Best for: People wanting a mild to medium spice from an 1800s American restaurant.
Old Original Bookbinder was a restaurant in Philadelphia established in 1865. The store closed in 2009 as a result of the recession. But thanks to a food division the Taxin family started in the 1970s, it’s still possible for families across the country to enjoy Old Original Bookbinder’s classic cocktail sauce.
The 32-ounce jar weighs in at 2.25 pounds and is perfect for large families and parties. Lovers of mild to medium cocktail sauces will be pleased that Old Original Bookbinder uses just the right amount of fresh horseradish and spices to give the sauce a little kick without it landing too hot on the tongue.
When it comes to cost, Old Original Bookbinder’s cocktail sauce sits about in the middle. It isn’t the cheapest cocktail sauce on the market, but there are plenty of pricier (and smaller) jars of cocktail sauce out there.
Old Original Bookbinder’s cocktail sauce is sold in many grocery stores across the United States, although Sam’s Club no longer carries it. Fans of Old Original Bookbinder can rest easy, though, since it’s still widely available for sale on websites such as Amazon.
Standout Features of Old Original Bookbinder:
- Uses fresh horseradish
- Established in 1865
- Kosher certified
2. St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Best for: Lovers of spicy cocktail sauce.
St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Sauce is another cocktail sauce derived from an American restaurant. The St. Elmo Steak House was founded in Indiana in 1902. Upon the request of countless customers, they launched their cocktail sauce into retail grocery stores.
The 12-ounce, 1.5-pound bottle of St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Sauce is appropriately labeled “Very Spicy.” Fans of this cocktail sauce joke that you should have a fire extinguisher ready. However, you’d have to be quick—the burning sensation mercifully lets up after a short period.
St. Elmo recommends storing their cocktail sauce in the refrigerator to maintain its spicy flavor. Moreover, this is the best practice for any cocktail sauce.
Thick and gluten-free, St. Elmo stands out for making cocktail sauce without high-fructose corn syrup.
A unique feature of St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Sauce is that it comes paired with St. Elmo’s Steak House Seasoning bundle. Use this flavorful bottle to season up meat, seafood, and vegetables. Like the cocktail sauce, St. Elmo’s seasoning is Kosher and gluten-free.
St. Elmo packages their cocktail sauce using an attractive, rustic-looking design. Therefore, it makes a perfect gift for spicy cocktail sauce lovers.
The price point for St. Elmo Shrimp Elmo Cocktail Sauce edges towards the higher end of the shrimp cocktail spectrum. However, one must consider that it also comes bundled with St. Elmo’s delicious steak house seasoning.
If you’re after a robust flavor with the hottest horseradish spice you’ve ever encountered from a cocktail sauce, St. Elmo is the perfect choice for you. Just don’t be surprised if you become addicted to it!
You can purchase St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Sauce in stores such as Costco, Target, Whole Foods, and Kroger, depending on your region. If your local grocer doesn’t sell it, fear not—you can order it online and have it shipped to you anywhere.
Standout Features of St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Sauce:
- Sharp horseradish flavor, offering lots of heat
- No high-fructose corn syrup
- Sold with St. Elmo’s Steak House Seasoning
3. Johnny's French Cocktail Sauce
Best for: People who love meat and want a beefy flavor in their cocktail sauce for dishes such as meatloaf.
When thinking about the best cocktail sauce brand, Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce might not be at the forefront of your mind. Why’s that, you ask? Because Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce is technically an au jus.
“Au jus” is French for “with juice.” Au jus is a general term that uses broth or sauces to improve the flavor of meats and vegetables. But when it comes to cocktail sauce, it gives dishes an extra kick.
Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce’s roots are in Seattle. After much trial and error testing different spice combinations, in 1940, Johnny Meaker opened up Crawford’s Sea Grill. With raving customer reviews encouraging him along, Johnny went on to fine-tune his cocktail sauce into the beloved au jus available today.
As you’ll learn in our FAQ section, cocktail sauce’s use goes beyond shrimp and seafood. For example, pairing cocktail sauce with meatloaf is a fantastic way to add flavor. Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce is an excellent choice for this kind of dish.
Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce comes as a concentrated form. If you plan on using it as a dip, pour the sauce into a container and serve as is, treating it as you would with any traditional cocktail sauce. Alternatively, you can dilute it with a little water and pour it over meat and vegetables.
It comes in an 8-ounce jar and is on par with the prices of Old Original Bookbinder’s cocktail sauce, but don’t let its smaller size fool you. Since the concentrated sauce can be diluted and used in countless ways, this little bottle will last you a long time.
Standout Features of Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce:
- Beefy flavor, making it an excellent cocktail sauce for meat
- An original recipe from Johnny’s Seattle restaurant
- Uses ingredients such as red wine vinegar and tomato paste
4. Stonewall Kitchen Cocktail Sauce
Best for: An affordable, award-winning cocktail sauce with a sweeter flavor.
Stonewall Kitchen is a recognized brand across the United States and abroad. As such, it’s the best store bought cocktail sauce due to its accessibility. You’ll have access to Stonewall Kitchen Cocktail Sauce in over 6,000 stores across the globe.
The ingredients in Stonewall Kitchen Cocktail Sauce stand out from others on this list. They use fresh California tomatoes ripened right on the vine. Agave nectar and cane sugar offer a touch of sweetness without the use of high-fructose corn syrup. People with fish allergies should take note that its ingredients include anchovies.
Stonewall Kitchen Cocktail Sauce is 100% made in the USA and is gluten-free. It’s ideal for people who prefer a touch of sweetness to their cocktail sauce versus a high spice content from lots of horseradish. It tends to err on the side of a tomato taste, thanks to its California tomatoes.
At 8.75 ounces, Stonewall Kitchen’s New England Cocktail Sauce comes in an attractive glass bottle and is the most economical cocktail sauce option on this list. It’s a great option to use at the family dinner table or for a gourmet gift that looks like you spent more money on it than you did.
In case you need more convincing, Stonewall Kitchen has won 28 awards from the Specialty Food Association and three awards as an Outstanding Product Line. The company has only been around since 1991 and have made impressive strides from their start at local farmers markets.
Standout Features of Stonewall Kitchen Cocktail Sauce:
- Gourmet product made in the USA
- Made with fresh vine-ripened California tomatoes
- Award-winning brand
5. Crosse & Blackwell Cocktail Sauce
Best for: A versatile cocktail sauce with a strong tomato flavor. You can pair the sauce with seafood, french fries, and onion rings.
Crosse & Blackwell is a British company established in 1706, making it the oldest cocktail sauce brand on this list. It’s famous for its pub-style sauces and is now part of the world-renown J.M. Smucker Company.
Crosse & Blackwell Cocktail Sauce is ideal for people looking for a mild, multi-purpose sauce. It pairs beautifully with shrimp and other seafood. However, thanks to its strong tomato base, it makes a fantastic dip for french fries and onion rings.
Although the tomatoes elicit a sweeter flavor from this sauce, it isn’t devoid of a small kick. Thanks to a hint of horseradish, your sinuses will be clear. However, the sensation goes away quickly, making it perfect for those who prefer to avoid spicier sauces.
A unique ingredient in Crosse & Blackwell Cocktail Sauce is tamarind, a sour pulp around seeds that grow on trees in Africa and other tropical areas. Traditionally, it’s paired with a bit of sugar, which this cocktail sauce also has, helping to make up the classic Crosse & Blackwell Cocktail Sauce flavor.
Crosse & Blackwell sells their cocktail sauce in a 12-ounce glass jar. It’s on the pricey side for cocktail sauces, but talk to any fan, and they’ll tell you it’s worth shelling out the extra cash.
Standout Features of Crosse & Blackwell Cocktail Sauce:
- Versatile enough for pairing with foods like french fries and onion rings
- Mild, tomato-based flavor with a hint of horseradish
- Kosher pareve
Cocktail Sauce FAQs
Now that we’ve covered brands offering the best cocktail sauce for shrimp, let’s look at some common cocktail sauce questions.
Does cocktail sauce go bad?
A Cocktail sauce does go bad, so it’s essential to check the expiration date. Unopened cocktail sauce containers don’t need refrigeration, but they must be away from direct sunlight. Once opened, the cocktail sauce should be refrigerated to prevent it from going rancid extra quickly.
How long does shrimp cocktail sauce last in the fridge?
An opened can of shrimp cocktail sauce lasts approximately six to nine months in the fridge. It isn’t necessary to refrigerate an unopened can of cocktail sauce. Keep in mind that the longer a jar of cocktail sauce has been open, the more likely it will start losing its flavor over time.
How long does cocktail sauce last once opened if not refrigerated?
Once you open a can of cocktail sauce, it can last anywhere from a few days to up to one month without refrigeration. Nonetheless, you should store your unrefrigerated cocktail sauce in a tight jar and keep it away from sunlight.
Can you eat cocktail sauce after the expiration date?
Like most food, the expiration date on cocktail sauce jars is typically an underestimate. Therefore, you should learn what to look out for to tell if your cocktail sauce is terrible. Signs that your cocktail sauce should be tossed include:
- Rotten smell
- Specks of white or fuzz on the surface, showing signs of mold
- Bad taste
It’s important to note that a gel consistency is not an indication that your cocktail sauce is terrible.
With what can you pair cocktail sauce?
Cocktail sauce is most commonly paired with shrimp, but its uses extend far beyond this for creative cooks. You can use cocktail sauces on fried seafood, meatloaf, oysters, fish cakes, and even chili and Bloody Mary’s.
What are the main ingredients in cocktail sauces?
The main ingredients in cocktail sauce include horseradish, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and Tabasco sauce. However, some brands include touches of other ingredients for a unique taste. Examples include onion, garlic, and cloves.
What makes cocktail sauce spicy?
Tabasco sauce and horseradish are the two ingredients that contribute to cocktail sauce’s spicy, hot flavor. Horseradish is a root vegetable and is touted for its sinus-clearing benefits since it increases facial circulation.
Choosing the best cocktail sauce comes down to personal preference. People who crave the spicy flare of horseradish will fall in love with St. Elmo and Old Original Bookbinder’s brands.
Those who prefer a sweeter taste are bound to crave Stonewall Kitchen and Crosse & Blackwell’s cocktail sauce products. And finally, anyone looking for a beefy infusion will be impressed with Johnny’s French Cocktail Sauce.
Regardless of the cocktail sauce you choose, you can be sure that those on this list will enhance the taste of your food and put smiles on everyone’s faces.