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Mazatlán Sets World Record for Largest Shrimp Cocktail

Mar 29, 2023

12 years and 10 hours later, Mazatlán regains its title as the Shrimp Cocktail champion. With more than 3,700 pounds of shrimp, our bustling port city, teeming with the tiny orange crustaceans, once again earned its rightful place in the Guinness Book of World Records. How did they do it? Who was there to see it? And why did the contest happen in the first place? Read on! This jumbo-sized shrimp story takes place right in Pueblo Bonito Mazatlán’s backyard.

For the second time ever, Mazatlán is in the record books for shrimp, but not just any shrimp: the largest shrimp cocktail in the world. The port city won the title at Coctelazo (“Cocktail”) 2023, an annual contest that brings together talented experts and entrepreneurs from the tourism and fishing industry from around the world to prepare their biggest cocktail ever. (This particular title will be added to that of the "largest mural created by a single artist" held by Ernesto Ríos Rocha for the Mazatlán International Center.) The previous "World's Largest Cocktail" title was held by the restaurant, El Coco Pirata in Denver, Colorado, with a cocktail that tipped the scales at 3,260 plus pounds in total weight.

Volunteers, cooks, Tourism and Gastronomy students from the University of Sinaloa worked together with chefs to prepare the shrimp, with 16 hours required simply to defrost it all. Then, of course, they had to cook the shrimp and prepare the sauce. Attendees included Municipal President Édgar González Zataráin and Governor Rubén Rocha Moya, and both commented on the importance of this type of event as it helps to highlight one of the region’s biggest and most delicious attractions for tourists. It also celebrates Mazatlán loyalty to tradition, and a record-breaking win will reinforce Mazatlán’s place on the international gastronomical map.

Strong culinary traditions often cause visitors to fall in love with a country and its people—and the traditions of Mexico are no exception. From the cattle ranches of northern Mexico to the famed cheese of Oaxaca, there are treats that evoke the feeling of a specific location in every corner of the country. In Mazatlán, a mid-sized Pacific Coast city in the state of Sinaloa, that local delicacy is most definitely shrimp. Walking through the street markets in Mazatlan’s city center, the abundance of shrimp becomes immediately obvious. Vendors known informally as the ‘Mazatlán Shrimp Ladies’ sit in front of barrels of fresh shrimp that range in size from a few inches to half a foot in length, all available for just a few pesos, and it all comes straight off the boat. But how did it come to pass that shrimp became Mazatlán’s gold?

Back in the 1800s, Mazatlán was a bustling cosmopolitan mining and trading city with connections to the US, Europe, and South America. Fish wasn’t an important trade item, but this changed drastically after the Mexican Revolution in the second decade of the 1900s. Scared away by the economic insecurity caused by the war, many foreign traders sold their businesses and left the country. This left the Mexican economy in ruins with little hope for recovery. That is, until local commerce got a lucky break in the 1930s a Japanese delegation suggested that Mexico consider fishing for shrimp. Until then, shrimp was seen only as a by-product. And so it happened, that the city of Mazatlán was became a shrimping capital, and fisheries—primarily shrimp and tuna—became the engine fueling the local economy during the 20th century. 

Surprisingly, although it’s all local, the shrimp you’ll eat at the restaurants comes from several different styles of fishing. The first is shrimp caught by small fishing boats, or pangas in Spanish, with round nets that are thrown out into the sea. In this instance, coastal fishermen can only catch shrimp close to shore or in the estuary areas. Shrimp caught by the coastal fishermen are referred to as ‘camaron de estero.’ To prevent over-fishing, the Mexican government has imposed seasonal bans. Look for ‘camaron de estero’ between late September and March; it’s perfect for a shrimp ceviche or spicy Aguachile.

The second type is shrimp caught by shrimp trawlers, or ‘barcos camaroneros.’ Trawlers, a certain type of ship, sail for three weeks and catch their shrimp at sea. The shrimp is processed on the ship and flash-frozen in batches. A common allotment of shrimp in this form is called a ‘marqueta’ which is composed of four pounds of frozen shrimp selected by their size. The letter ‘U’ with a number indicates how many shrimp fit in a pound.  So the lower the number, the larger the shrimp. For example, there are 12 shrimp size U-12 in a pound, or 48 in a marqueta. If you have to feed many people, this is a more economical option to buy shrimp. Also subject to seasonal fishing bans, you can find high-sea shrimp between October and April. These larger shrimp are perfect to prepare as beer-battered, coconut or bacon-wrapped shrimp.

The third variety is shrimp from the shrimp farms that you may see as large pools of water or ponds when landing at the Mazatlán airport. It’s the fastest growing shrimp industry because it’s not subject to fishing bans. Its yearly production almost triples that of coastal and high-sea shrimping production combined. You can find farmed shrimp, or camaron de granja all year round and it’s mostly consumed as ceviche because it doesn’t have a strong fish flavor. Farmed shrimp is usually less expensive than high-sea or estuary shrimp. All three are delicious, and all three are available for you to try when you visit Mazatlán.

With the history lesson under your belt, let’s go back to the Mazatlán Convention Center. Hundreds of Mazatlecos gathered at the venue to witness the preparation of the colossal cocktail—and to eat it when all was said and done. Though it’s traditionally served warm in Mazatlán, Guinness Record statutes mandate this recipe be served cold, with ingredients such as orange juice. So Shrimp wasn’t the only ingredient constituting the weight; several liters of sauce had to be prepared, too, with onion, tomato, garlic, and horseradish which were then seasoned with oregano, pepper and salt, to lend it a dynamic and layered flavor. Once prepared, participating teams had to fill the giant cup, which had to be reviewed and approved by the Guinness Record judges first. Sinaloa Governor, Rubén Rocha Moya, officials of the Ministry of Tourism, as well as hotel, restaurant and fishing businessmen and women, witnessed the delivery of the title before the cocktail was distributed to the crowd. In a brief series of remarks to the crowd, Governor Rubén Rocha Moya reinforced the importance of the cocktail as a means to celebrate the collaboration between the members of the productive sector of the town, such as the tourism and those who fish local waters. "Congratulations to the hoteliers and tourism industry people, particularly chefs, for this effort…it's an enormous task, but you’ve done it!”

Come sample Mazatlán’s culinary history and savory present with a bite-sized shrimp cocktail at one our fabulous restaurants like Cilantros or Casa 46, or try shrimp straight off the boat and cooked to order at one of the city’s local markets. We promise you won’t have to eat a whole ton. Come and taste the fruits of our record-winning bounty for yourself.

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