Here’s Exactly How to Set Up a Raw Bar for Your Next Party

Shucks, we can totally do this.

By Jenn Rose Smith
CRU in Nantucket

When it comes to serving fresh shellfish, we don’t trust anyone but the experts. That’s why we went straight to the team at CRU in Nantucket for pro tips on how to set up a raw bar at home. The restaurant is Nantucket’s premiere oyster spot, known for it’s expansive and unmatched raw bar selection. According to CRU’s new cookbook (out May 21st), raw bar basics are a delicious balancing act between shellfish and sauce. Scroll down to discover CRU’s tips on exactly how to set up a raw bar at home for your next party, and shuck with confidence.

photos by wayne chinnock for cru oyster bar nuntucket cookbook

CRU in Nantucket

1. Hit your local seafood market.

According to the CRU experts, you can plan on roughly 4-6 oysters and 3-5 littlenecks per person. You’ll also want to serve at least one cooked seafood item (possibly presented as a cocktail, so your raw bar offers as much variety as possible.) Take advantage of your local fishmonger’s expertise and be sure to buy the freshest, best quality seafood available.

CRU in Nantucket

2. Put it on ice.

Have several platters of crushed ice ready to go before you start shucking. You can store these in the freezer until the last minute, then pull them out right before you start serving.

CRU in Nantucket

3. Don’t forget the sauce.

You should always make at least three different cocktail sauces to accompany your raw bar, and place plenty of plump lemon wedges on each platter of crushed ice before you begin shucking. Scroll down for CRU’s recipes for classic cocktail sauce and horseradish créme fraiche (featured in the photo above). CRU’s new book also includes more recipes for mignonette, key lime dijonnaise, shrimp cocktail sauce, and crab cocktail sauce!

CRU in Nantucket

4. Grab a buddy.

“Ideally, you’ll have a partner helping you shuck,” say the experts at CRU. “Place each shucked oyster or clam, as you go, immediately on the platter of crushed ice.” Grab a friend to help keep the shucking process go smoothly, so you can keep your kitchen clean and serve fish immediately upon shucking. Always wash your hands after shucking and before serving.

CRU in Nantucket

5. Throw in a cooked seafood option as well.

The team at CRU recommend always including a chilled cooked seafood option for guests in addition to your raw bar. Chilled shrimp cocktail and chilled lobster tails are both great options.

CRU in Nantucket

6. Plan your beverages thoughtfully.

The staff at CRU recommend having plenty of chilled white wine, rosé, and dry champagne on hand for guests (always a classic pairing with oysters). For a good cocktail option they suggest a classic gin martini with a lemon twist, served straight up and icy cold.



CRU's Classic Cocktail Sauce & Horseradish Créme Fraîche

Serves 1 cup

Here's Exactly How to Set Up a Raw Bar for Your Next Party

By Camille Styles

CRU's Classic Cocktail Sauce


  • 1/2 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Transfer to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until completely chilled before serving. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

CRU's Horseradish Créme Fraîche


  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup créme fraîche
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Under a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese until it is completely smooth.
  2. Add the crème fraîche and heavy cream and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Stir in the horseradish, salt, and pepper.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Comments (1)

  1. Rona says:

    Is that a misprint? I made the cocktail sauce & I don’t know if I got some ultra spicy prepared horseradish or if 1/2 c is just WAY too much.

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