Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Sips & Shots: Jello Shots Get Classy

Behold, the lowly Jello Shot. Generally relegated to college parties and other youthful excess, they’re a good way to consume quite a bit of alcohol without realizing just how much.

But let’s look at just the jello for a moment. Gelatin’s been used in a number of quite grown-up recipes for centuries (various meats and veggies in aspic, mousses and the like) and in the mid-20th century became quite the novelty as packaged foods became more popular. Now it’s a subject of a few jokes but mostly a kid’s snack, a low-cal dessert or a safe food for anyone with a delicate tummy.

I’m not a big fan of the jiggly gel, mostly from associating it more with the latter of the common uses. Still, I did make jello shots a couple years back for a friends birthday party. It seemed like a good idea at the time but, well… they were horrible. I made the egregious mistake of using cherry jello and vodka for half the water and they tasted like cough syrup (though it occurs to me that maybe tasting them is not something one is supposed to do).

But in trying to figure out where I went wrong, I found an absolute trove of recipes for rather inventive, and potentially tasty, jello shots. Probably the most comprehensive collection can be found at the site of the Jellophile.

In honor of today (July 24) being National Tequila Day I thought it would be fitting to try out the idea of the Margarita Jello Shot. We gave it a few tries, with varying amounts of tequila and other ingredients, and found the following to be the most palatable.

Margarita Jello Shot
(scaled down for small-box size)

3 oz box lime jello
1 c boiling water
3.5 oz cold water
.5 oz lime juice
3 oz tequila
1 oz triple sec

Dissolve the lime jello into the boiling water then stir in the other ingredients. Chill until set.

–Posted by Panthur on RecipeZaar

You can mix up the shots in a large measuring glass with a lip and pour into individual cups (paper or plastic, the latter sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray can help), silicone ice molds or just one large container to be cut up post-chill.

You really don’t want to go over a 3:1 ratio of water to tequila… more than 1 part tequila and your treading into cough syrup territory. We noticed that the lime juice became somewhat opaque in suspension, but it wasn’t overly distracting and, contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere, using a gold tequila (I keep Jose Cuervo Especial on the bar so that’s what we used) did not turn the mixture an olive green.

Apart  from the obvious uses as a party shot, I keep thinking back to the days when jello desserts were a staple at pot-lucks or low-key dinners. Looking through an old recipe card file (Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library, circa 1971) I see there’s a Tomato Aspic ring made with lemon jello–how about updating that for a brunch menu with a bloody mary flair? Need a tropical dessert for a summer barbecue: try some pineapple jello combined with spiced rum and coconut milk, perhaps even served in a pineapple boat!

I’m really into certain kitschy foods (fondue, anyone?) and could totally see myself hosting a dinner party of boozy, throw-back food updated only a little. And I really want to try a pina colada jello shot!

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

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