Oyster Cocktail Recipe
Oyster Shot - Oyster Shooter

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The Oyster Cocktail or Oyster Shooter, a popular West Coast treat, originated in a San Francisco restaurant around 1860 by a miner back from the gold fields. The miner was loaded down with gold nugget bigger than ballpark peanuts. Being hungry, the miner asked on the the restaurant's waiters to bring him a plate of California raw oysters with some ketchup, horseradish, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and a whiskey cocktail. After drinking the whiskey, he put the oysters into the goblet, adding salt and pepper, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and ketchup. The restaurant keeper looked on with interest. "What sort of mess do you call that, partner?" he asked. The miner responded, "That is what I call an oyster cocktail." The next day a sign appeared in the restaurant's front window: OYSTER COCKTAIL - FOUR BITS PER GLASS. Within a week, every restaurant in San Francisco was serving the new dish.

oyster shooter in a martini glass

Oysters were popular with the gold miners because most of the miners thought that rich people always ate oysters. They figured that what was good enough for the rich swells back East was certainly good enough for them! During the gold rush era, there was a great demand for oysters in San Francisco, and stories were told of oysters being paid for with gold. Originally local oysters were harvested, but it took only a short time to over harvest and deplete the beds in San Francisco Bay.

Starting in 1850, large numbers of native oysters, also known as Olympia oysters, were harvested from Willapa Bay in northwestern Washington State and shipped live to San Francisco by large oyster schooners. Nearly 200,00 bushels of oysters were shipped annually to California. The native beds of oysters, several feet thick, were heavily harvested, and nothing was done to help them replenish themselves. The oyster trade continued until around 1870, when both the numbers of oysters in the Willapa Bay began to diminish due to over harvesting and the first transcontinental railroad reached San Francisco, bringing East Coast oysters. By early twentieth century, 85 percent of the oysters sold in California were from the East Coast.

Oysterville, a small town on the Long Beach peninsula, was the center of the burgeoning oyster industry. For a time Oysterville was the wealthiest town in Washington, earning it the nickname "the Baltimore of the West."

oyster shooter in a shot glass

oyster shooter in a martini glass

Check out more of Linda's great Oyster Recipes.

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Oyster Cocktail - Oyster Shot - Oyster Shooter Recipe:

If you are a raw oyster lover, wait until you try this Oyster Shooter. You will definitely be in "Oyster Heaven!" Oyster shooters are popular because they're breathtakingly simple to prepare and consume, and also delicious!

Recipe Type: Cocktail, Oysters
Yields: makes 1 oyster shooter
Prep time: 5 min


1 small freshly-shucked fresh (live) oysters with its juice (liquor)*
1 ounce ice cold high-quality Vodka**
Dash of Tabasco sauce or your favorite hot sauce
Squeeze of fresh-squeezed lemon juice

* If you ca not find small oysters, cut oysters into smaller pieces that are easy to swallow.

** By chilling the vodka, it acquires a thick, silky texture.


Learn How To Shuck Oysters.

Place oyster and its liquor (juice) in bottom of a chilled martini or shot glass (any small glass may be used).

Pour in Vodka; add Tabasco Sauce and lemon juice.

Drink as a shot, allowing oyster to slide down your throat, try not to chew. Enjoy!

Variation: Add approximately 1/2 to 1 ounce of V8 Vegetable Juice.

Makes 1 oyster shooter.


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