Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cocktail de Fruits de Mer - How Seafood Cocktails Ended up on Menus in France.

Seafood Cocktails in France.
Behind the French Menu.

 Cocktail -  A cocktail.  Cocktails, under that name, began as the alcoholic and liquid kind. They reached France with tourists along with recipes imported from the UK and the USA about 150 years ago.  Since then imported and home-made alcoholic cocktails have gone in and out of fashion in France.  Despite the imports of cocktails in the late 1800's France always had its own macerated fruit juice and wine apéritives, and they originated with the Romans and came to France as ratafias.

Photograph by courtesy of Uli & Liz Baecker

 Cocktail de Crevettes - A shrimp cocktail
 (There will have to be a separate post on the origins of ratafias as the name ratafia comes from the Latin rata fiat to settle or “ratify” an agreement. Even the Greeks and Romans  would say "let's drink on it".  Agreements were sealed with a drink, hence ratafias. The word ratafia is now part of French cuisine.
Those first alcoholic cocktails and their true origins have been lost, probably to over-drinking!  There a  large number of stories that surround the origins of the word cocktail. but none are particularly convincing and I have left them out of this post.
The arrival of prohibition in the USA in 1920 brought the cocktail back into fashion in the USA. Then sweet fruit juices and other additions served to make poor tasting, illegally distilled, alcohol drinkable.  Times have changed and today’s cocktails are today, mostly, made with the best of ingredients.

As the American taste for cocktails became established so did the American creation of cocktail bars,  Then the cocktail bars added the cocktail hour, and that later that became the happy hour.  Bars that offered a cocktail hour were also the first to provide cocktail snacks. The variety of tasty snacks kept the customers coming back as in the beginning cocktail snacks were free

The better cocktail bars began competing to serve even more interesting and tastier cocktail snacks.  Many of these cocktail snacks have long since been incorporated into restaurants menus around the world. A French entrée, the American starter, may be made with seafood.  From then on at the tourists request French restaurants added seafood and other cocktails to many menus. Your French dinner menu may well offer:

                                       Cocktail de Crabe - A crab meat cocktail.

Photograph by courtesy of Pocket full of chelle.

                          Cocktail de Crabe - A crab meat cocktail.

                            Cocktail de Crevettes - A shrimp cocktail

Photograph by courtesy of Renée Suen. www.flickr.com/photos/sifu_renka

A shrimp cocktail.


                       Cocktail de Fruits de Mer  - A mixed seafood cocktail.


Photograph by  courtesy of frankartculinary.

A mixed seafood and ravioli cocktail.

A USA cocktail sauce will not be served with your seafood cocktail in France. The European taste for seafood cocktails does not include horseradish. The French sauce while it may be occasionally called a Sauce Cocktail  is more usually called a Sauce Rosé or Sauce Marie Rose. The basic recipe is mayonnaise, ketchup, Tabasco and occasionally cognac. The French cocktail sauce provides a tasty dressing that is, to my mind, far less overpowering than the American version. 

Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010,2012, 2015
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman