We are huge fans of shrimp cocktail in all of its forms here at The Takeout, and frankly, we hope you are too. When I’m not in the mood to cook dinner, it’s almost always a shrimp-cocktail-and-salad kind of night. The only issue is that most jarred shrimp cocktail sauce isn’t strong enough; I love that nearly violent sinus-clearing sensation I get from horseradish and wasabi. If you, too, are a fan of that burn and always find yourself seeking the heat, there’s only one brand all horseradish lovers must know about: St. Elmo Steak House Very Spicy Shrimp Cocktail Sauce.
St. Elmo Steak House is a restaurant and culinary institution based in Indianapolis. While the place is known for steak, of course, it’s also lauded for shrimp cocktail, the lone appetizer on its menu. The shrimp is served with searingly spicy cocktail sauce that’s loaded with horseradish, and back in 2018, the restaurant was using over three tons of it per year to make the sauce in-house, Indianapolis Monthly reported.
It turns out you don’t have to visit Indianapolis to get ahold of the sauce, however. In 2012, the restaurant started bottling up the stuff and it’s now available for purchase across the country. I am going to warn you, however, it can be tricky to find. I’ve located it at ALDI on extremely rare occasions; it’s previously been sold in Midwestern Costco locations; and I’ve seen it for sale at my local seafood market. (At its most expensive, you can get it shipped via Goldbelly, where it comes as part of a variety gift box with other St. Elmo condiments.)
If you do find this cocktail sauce in person, it’ll run you about $8, which isn’t cheap, but I can’t stress enough just how worthwhile it is. This shit is strong. A modest dip of a shrimp will result in a brief assault on your nasal cavities, and a full-on dunk into this sauce will bring you to your knees for about two seconds. Then, just as fast as it hits you, the sensation dissipates. Talk about a rush. There’s not a lot of other food out there that feels like such a rollercoaster ride.
As you might expect, there’s a lot of YouTube reaction videos documenting the reactions of people who try St. Elmo Steak House’s spicy shrimp cocktail sauce for themselves. Personally, I love this footage of the 2013 annual St. Elmo shrimp cocktail eating competition, where you can see professional eating champion Joey Chestnut’s facial expression change once the burn of the stuff really starts to kick in. (The fun stuff starts around 3:50.)
Do not hesitate to grab a bottle of this stuff if you find it near the seafood at your local grocery store. Take the plunge into its fire. Hell, grab two of them and save one for me. I’ll be right over with a giant bag of frozen shrimp.