Turn up the heat

Posted on Nov 25 2022 in Indiana Eats

The origin of the shrimp cocktail is a little fishy, but Indianapolis’ St. Elmo Steak House has been serving their own delicious version since 1902. According to writer Nick Kindelsperger, another one of the earliest recorded mentions of the dish was an advertisement in the Nov. 30, 1914, issue of The Chicago Daily Tribune. Along with turkey cutlets and beef goulash, the ad mentioned a “fresh shrimp cocktail.” 

As most folks know it today, a shrimp cocktail is an array of shelled, cooked shrimp perched in a glass, served with a ketchup-based cocktail sauce and perhaps a lemon wedge or two. Depending on the amount of horseradish in the aforementioned sauce, the taste can range from mild to sinus-clearing. 

Randy Kleaving with Shrimp Eating certificate
Indiana Electric Cooperatives President Randy Kleaving was able to beat the heat and win the contest.

If you have friends who enjoy seafood and a good challenge, why not invite them over for a shrimp cocktail eating contest? You can make the sauce as spicy as you dare and offer a trophy or certificate to the winner. The Indiana Connection team held its own in-house championship, and after one minute of fast and furious eating Indiana Electric Cooperatives President Randy Kleaving emerged victorious, having eaten 11 shrimp. 

Visit goiec.org/shrimpcertificate to download your own printable award certificate — and make your party “shrimply” the best!

The 9th annual “World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Eating Championship” will be Saturday, Dec. 3, in downtown Indianapolis. It will feature the historic St. Elmo Steak House’s signature shrimp cocktail — which includes an ultra-spicy, horseradish-laden sauce. Competitive Competitive eater Joey Chestnut, who lives in Westfield, Indiana, is undefeated since the contest’s inception; last year he consumed 17 pounds, 1.6 ounces of shrimp in eight minutes to win. Chestnut also set a world record in 2018 by eating 18 pounds, 9.6 ounces of seafood. 

At-home contest tips

  • Be sure to buy plenty of shrimp. We bought 20 large shrimp per person, but you can adjust the amount depending on the time limit you set for your competition. (Our contest lasted one minute but we suggest hosting a competition lasting at least two minutes.) Cut the tails off beforehand. Pour the cocktail sauce in individual large baking pans (one for each competitor) and place shrimp in the sauce before the competition starts.
  • Milk helps calm the heat of the spicy cocktail sauce. Have glasses or small bottles of milk available for the competitors to drink after (or perhaps during) the competition. Make sure each contestant has a bottle of water nearby as well.
  • To determine the winner, count the number of shrimp that are left in the baking pan. The person with the fewest number of shrimp left is the winner.