The History of the Shrimp Cocktail in Las Vegas

The History of the Shrimp Cocktail in Las Vegas Header

Las Vegas: the city of neon lights, the spot to place your bets, and home of the famous shrimp cocktail! In 1959, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino introduced its famous, world-recognized, 50-cent shrimp cocktail. From its early roots at Golden Gate to the legacy it has left today, Las Vegas’ Original Shrimp Cocktail® returns to the city at Circa Resort & Casino!


Shrimp Cocktail History


The story of the shrimp cocktail begins in the early 50’s with Emilio “Gumba” Giorgetti, who owned the old Westerner until he was subpoenaed during the Kefauver hearings. Local authorities explained that they were not comfortable with Giorgetti owning and operating a casino, so he went to his San Francisco attorney, Joseph Alioto, to inquire about potential buyers. He was put in touch with a man who formed a group of Bay Area investors who then approached with an offer. 

A few years later, this group sold the Westerner at a profit and were on the hunt for another business venture – which they found at the Sal Sagev (that’s Las Vegas spelled backward). The group leased out the first-floor casino and eventually took over the entire property and named it Golden Gate with business partner Italo Ghelfi, who eventually became the Golden Gate Managing Partner.

In 1959 Italo Ghelfi introduced the 50-cent shrimp cocktail in Las Vegas as a promotion. Rumor has it, Italo Ghelfi brought the seafood dish to Las Vegas because he was homesick for the fresh seafood he left behind in California. The dish was an immediate success and drew large crowds from everywhere, leading the Golden Gate to keep it as a permanent feature of the resort. People from all over the world were interested in the Las Vegas shrimp cocktail because it was simple, easy to get, and unique to Vegas – something people didn’t eat everyday at home. 


Vintage Photo of the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino Las Vegas


The Famous Golden Gate Casino Shrimp Cocktail


The most popular appetizer in the US from the mid-60s until the late 80s, the Golden Gate Casino shrimp cocktail, called people from all over the world to Las Vegas. The quality of a shrimp cocktail can be determined by the freshness of the shrimp, which makes a huge impact on the taste. This simple dish consists of cooked shrimp which is then chilled and served in a 6-ounce tulip sundae glass, topped with spicy cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge. The sauce is typically a mixture of ketchup, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire, and lemon, often homemade. 

Throughout the years, the Golden Gate Casino sold as many as 2,000 shrimp cocktails in one day.  In fact, even today, the city of Las Vegas goes through over 60,000 pounds of shrimp in a single day! In 1991, the Golden Gate Casino celebrated the sale of its 25 millionth shrimp cocktail with an event featuring four former mayors of the city, open to the public. It was then that the price of the shrimp cocktail was raised for the first time in 40 years, from 50 cents in 1959, to 99 cents in 1991. Over time, the price has continued to increase, and often costs at least $9.99 today.


Woman with Pancakes and Golden Gate Casino Shrimp CocktailSource: Las Vegas Weekly


The famous Golden Gate Casino shrimp cocktail was initially sold in the deli, located inside the hotel and casino, until it was replaced in 2010. Du-Par’s, the hotel’s 24-hour diner, was built in place of the deli and carried on the hotel and casino’s shrimp cocktail tradition until it closed in 2017. Since then, the Golden Gate Casino has taken a break from selling their famous Las Vegas shrimp cocktail. 

Over the years many Las Vegas joints have begun selling a rendition of the Golden Gate Casino’s shrimp cocktail. But the good news is that the classic, traditional Golden Gate Casino recipe will return to the city of Las Vegas upon the opening of Circa Las Vegas. A sister resort to the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and the D, Circa Las Vegas is set to start opening October of 2020 and fully open in December of 2020. Although the new downtown Las Vegas resort may not be opening for a few months, they have already announced their restaurant lineup, so stay tuned for more details about the shrimp cocktail’s return to its Las Vegas home!