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What Is Worcestershire Sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is used to flavor a Bloody Mary.
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  • Written By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2014
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Worcestershire sauce – pronounced wust-ter-shire, woos-ter-sheer, or woos-ter-sher – is a vinegar and molasses-based condiment used to beef up the taste of meat and add a dash of flavor to Bloody Mary cocktails. Although Worcestershire sauce is now the generic name for the popular condiment that also uses anchovies and the Indian spice tamarind, it is mostly widely associated with its first manufacturer, Lea & Perrins®. Lea & Perrins® Worcestershire Sauce, named for the English county of its birth, was first imported to the United States (US) in 1839 and is the oldest bottled condiment in the country – by contrast, Heinz launched its ketchup in 1876.

The sweet, tangy, salty taste of Worcestershire sauce was inspired in the mid-1800s by Lord Sandys, a British nobleman who enjoyed the distinctive sauce he remembered from his travels in India. He asked Worcester chemists John Lea and William Perrins to attempt to duplicate the sauce, which combined vinegar, spices, fish, and molasses. The resulting recipe was so smelly and unpalatable that the chemists bottled their stock and forgot about it in the cellar. According to the company, Lea and Perrins stumbled upon the bottles a few years later and, to their surprise, the concoction had aged into a delectable sauce.

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In 1837, Lea & Perrins® bottled and sold their Worcestershire sauce throughout Europe. In 1839, John Duncan, a New York businessman, began importing the sauce to the US. Bottles are still wrapped in paper that originally protected them from breakage during shipping and is now a symbol of the Lea & Perrins® brand. Although the recipe for Lea & Perrins® Worcestershire Sauce is a trade secret, ingredients labeled on the bottle include vinegar, molasses, anchovies, water, onions, salt, garlic, tamarind concentrate, cloves, and chili pepper extract. The sauce is aged in wooden barrels for 18 months.

Worcestershire sauce is used as a steak sauce and burger booster in the US, as a dipping sauce in Hong Kong, and as a dash of flavor for the ultimate cheese toast in the United Kingdom (UK). In 1921, Harry’s New York Bar in Paris splashed a bit of Worcestershire sauce in a glass with vodka and tomato juice to create the first Bloody Mary. The sauce is gluten free, but it is not considered an appropriate sauce for vegetarians because it contains fish. The sauce does not need to be refrigerated, although refrigeration helps it stay fresh longer.

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StormyKnight
Post 4

Wow! I had NO idea that worcestershire sauce was made from anchovies. I have learned so many interesting things reading these articles!

BoatHugger
Post 3

@kusinero: From what I have read, Worcestershire sauce came around after garum died out. Garum was a very popular fish sauce with the Romans. They fermented a fatty fish in brine and added other flavorings to make the garum.

To make garum, the fish, along with their intestines and salt were mixed together and then fermented in containers which were sealed. The use of garum died out with Roman Empire, but the fermented fish products survived in Western cuisines in the form of anchovy paste (allec) and Worcestershire sauce.

WaterHopper
Post 2

I remember my children being little and not being able to pronounce Worcestershire sauce so they called it "rooster sauce". They still call it that to this day!

kusinero
Post 1

I wonder how worcestershire sauce compares to garum?

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