Icelandic "Kokteilsósa" Origin Called Into Question - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic “Kokteilsósa” Origin Called Into Question

Published October 30, 2014

Photos by
Kristleifur Daðason

Iceland’s ubiquitous kokteilsósa (“cocktail sauce”) did not come from Iceland, as was recently asserted, but variations of the condiment can be found across continents.

Master chef Úlfar Eysteinsson told listeners on Reykjavík siðdegis last Wednesday that the pink sauce found on countless Icelandic burgers and sandwiches was “completely Icelandic”, allegedly first concocted by Magnús Björnsson. The initial recipe, he said, consisted of ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.

When asked if the sauce has been copied elsewhere in the world, Úlfar agreed.

“Yeah, you can find it all over,” he said. “It quickly took form in salad dressings such as Thousand Island. It appeared there. You then started finding it in Spanish restaurants. It’s also been in Scandinavian restaurants where Icelandic chefs were working.”

Icelanders commenting on the Vísir story were quick to point out a number of inaccuracies in these claims.

Icelandic kokteilsósa could have originated from Marie Rose sauce, a British condiment with a very similar recipe to the one Úlfar describes. It was created in the 1960s. Thousand Island dressing, by contrast, was invented before at least 1900, appearing in a cookbook that year.

Variations of this recipe can be found in Belgium, where it is inexplicably known as “sauce andalouse”, despite having no connection to Andalusia. In Argentina, there is a version called “salsa golf”.

All of these sauces belong to a global family of condiments known as Fry Sauce, and can be found as far afield as Brazil, French Polynesia, and Oman. Ketchup-and-mayonnaise-based cold sauces form an international network of condiments, of which Iceland is a part.

Go travel with Grapevine tried and recommended tours by Grapevine. Fund Grapevine journalism by booking with us.


Show Me More!