If you’ve never tried one, have your first one naked
I won’t even recommend lemon for your first. Any accoutrement will change the flavor profile and make it hard for your palate to know exactly what the oyster tastes like.
Then proceed to the accoutrement
Otherwise known as sauces and condiments. Experiment whenever you can. Herbs? Spirits? Vegetables? Try ‘em all!
Try a squeeze or two of citrus
Don’t feel limited to lemon -- lime and even grapefruit work just as well. Rumor has it that lemon was originally used on raw oysters as a way to prove that it was shucked live, fresh, and served in its own cup. The acid was supposed to make the still-live animal “quiver,” as more proof it was just shucked for you. Can’t say I’ve actually seen this though!
Add a lil’ mignonnette
A classic French mignonnette consists of red wine vinegar, finely diced shallots, and fresh ground black pepper. A few drops is all you need -- a little bit goes a long way!
Reconsider cocktail sauce
Cocktail sauce consists of two items: horseradish and ketchup. Horseradish is great, but ketchup has no business on an oyster. This tradition began as a way to mask the scent and taste of rancid, unrefrigerated, and unregulated oysters. Would you put ketchup on any other fresh seafood?
Elegantly slurp, then chew!
Separate the meat from the shell before you slurp, but with a fork not your finger! Don't use the fork to pick it up; hold it at the hinge, slurp that sweet, sweet meat and all of its liquor (the mixture of seawater and clear oyster blood) from the edge. Then chew, because like a fine wine, an oyster must be aerated. Its merroir is just as much in the meat as the liquor, and the real flavors will be released as you break up those cells.
Don’t put the shell back on the ice tray
Unless you are with someone you’re comfortable swapping spit with, the best place for a spent shell is anywhere but back on the tray of ice.