This is the secret to perfect shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktails are a staple of celebrations and dinner parties. They can be picked up at your local grocery store, but sometimes the ones on offer at your corner Publix or Kroger can either be expensive or look a little off-putting. One way to ensure that your shrimp cocktail is perfect is by making your own. Making the appetizer at home is a fully customizable undertaking. If you're up for a challenge, try preparing both the shrimp and the cocktail sauce. The best part of crafting your cocktail sauce at home is you get to make it completely your own (double the horseradish, if you dare!). In a bit of a hurry and pressed for time? Use pre-made cocktail sauce. If store-bought cocktail sauce doesn't have enough oomph to it, you can always add a few dashes of hot sauce. But a perfect shrimp cocktail starts with how you prep the shrimp.

How to cook the perfect shrimp for a cocktail

The best way to cook the main course of your beyond-yummy snack is to poach the shrimp — which should be large, deveined, and easy to peel, but of course, uncooked — instead of boiling them, and to use aromatics in the water (via Cook the Story). Adding lemon, parsley, bay leaves, or peppercorns (or some combination of them) compliments the shrimp flavor. To poach them, bring your pot of water to a boil, and when it comes to a rolling boil, remove the pot from the heat. Then, put the shrimp in, put the lid on, and allow them to cook for around four to seven minutes (depending on the size) in the residual heat. 

Once they're finished, submerge the shrimp in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. You can serve them immediately, or you can store them in the refrigerator, so it's a recipe that can easily be made ahead of time. 

Making cocktail sauce and serving

There's nothing wrong with store-bought cocktail sauce. Heinz, McCormick, and Old Bay all make perfectly passable versions (via Ranker). However, as with most things, if you're at all inclined to spend a little time in the kitchen, you can improve on the store-bought variety. Given that the majority of the ingredients are kitchen staples, (horseradish is likely the only thing that you would have to go to the grocery store for), there's no reason not to give it a try. 

Just combine ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and grated horseradish (via Add a Pinch). Like a cocktail sauce with a little more kick? You can even add a dash or to of Tabasco. While recipes will call for specific ratios, the great thing about making it at home is that you can experiment and adjust to taste.

Given shrimp's "C" shape, it allows for them to be hung quite easily on the edge of a glass or a bowl. Martini glasses are an elegant option for serving the cocktail, but a wide and shallow bowl works as well. Serve with homemade or store-bought cocktail sauce in the middle, and garnish with lemon and sprigs of parsley.