California oyster cocktail

Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 6
California oyster cocktail

Mix together the ketchup, lemon juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and paprika. Add salt to taste. Chill the sauce in the refrigerator while you shuck the oysters.


Fill a medium bowl with ice and place a smaller bowl into the ice. Shuck the oysters, placing them into the small bowl so that the oysters are kept chilled.


Spoon the chilled sauce over the shucked oysters and mix. Divide the sauced oysters among 6 small bowls or glass cups.

This recipe appeared in The Times in 1903, fewer than nine years after Al Levy first wheeled his cart to the corner of 1st and Main streets, so it is presumably close to Levy’s recipe. The original called for Harvey’s sauce, which can still be obtained in England. It tastes rather like Worcestershire sauce, though with a stronger anchovy note. An 1894 newspaper account of Levy’s cocktail described it as “half a dozen California oysters, a liberal allowance of city water, a dash of pepper-sauce, another of tomato catsup, and a pinch of pepper and salt.” Seattle-based seafood marketer Jon Rowley suggests that the “city water” referred to the fact that shucked oysters were kept in a bowl of water, some of which would have made its way into the cocktail.

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