What The Hell is “Wooster”?
The Bloody Mary as we know it has reportedly been around since the 1930s, at least, but Lea & PerrinsⓇ Worcestershire Sauce has been around much longer - about 1835.
According to their website, Lea & PerrinsⓇ Worcestershire Sauce was created by two chemists, John Lea and William Perrins, at the behest of a nobleman, Lord Sandys, upon his return home to England from his travels to Bengal. He had come across a sauce he liked, and requested the pair to duplicate it. The first tries were unsuccessful, but the results were stored in a cellar. Years later, when cleaning out the cellar to make room, the pair discovered the jars, and before throwing them out, decided to taste the mixture once again. They found that the aging process had mellowed and deepened the taste, and Lea & PerrinsⓇ Worcestershire Sauce, named after the county of Worcestershire where they resided, was born.
But what is it, exactly? To say that it’s fish sauce, like its cousins, soy sauce and garum, is close, but not completely accurate.
For one thing, unlike soy sauce, Worcestershire Sauce is not fermented. It is, however, made from fish - anchovies, to be exact. There are only four people that know the exact ingredients and proportions of Lea & PerrinsⓇ, but the ingredient list also includes vinegar, spices, tamarind, chiles, onions, sugar, and garlic. It is not cooked, nor are preservatives added. The ingredients are steeped in brine for three years before being mixed together, then it is matured and stirred for about three months before it is ready to be bottled.
The sauce is used all over the world for cooking, as a dip, and of course, for Bloody Marys. It provides that fifth taste sense - umami - to the cocktail.
There are other brands - Col Pabst, Heinz, and French’s - and even some vegan/vegetarian brands, but Lea & PerrinsⓇ Worcestershire Sauce is the original.
So, finally, how do you say it? There are several ways, and all are correct. “Wooster” and “Wooster-shire” are fine. Pronouncing it “Wust-er (shire)” is OK, too.
But if that’s still a tongue-twister, or you’re too hungover to bother, just say what WiscoMary Christin says - “the Lea & PerrinsⓇ”.