When it comes to party drinks, one of the most reliable staples on the list are jello shots. They’re tasty, easy to make, fun to serve, and perfectly potent.
But jello shots don’t have to just be featured on the drink table at your typical house party. With some advice from veteran NYC bartender and current Pernod Ricard “national mixologist” Jane Danger — whose time behind the stick includes stints at CBGB, Please Don’t Tell, Cienfuegos, and The NoMad — it’s easy to transform these boozy drink-snack combos and take them to a whole new level for any kind of event.
Experiment with your spirits
If you ever downed a jello shot, you likely tasted a whole lot of vodka. And, in fact, Danger says that “vodka is probably the most traditional spirit used in gelatin drinks.” However, there’s no need to resort to bottom-shelf vodka, as jello shots can be great for showcasing higher-quality spirits, especially if you’re willing to experiment with flavors and different liquor varieties.
Danger recommends “mixing up your vodka taste profile with something like watermelon vodka” or coconut rum, which she calls “a great option that pairs well with tropical flavors that are typically found in jello packets.” She also likes to use tequila in jello shots (if you’re using citrusy jello as the base of your shots, you can create an appealing spin on the margarita this way). If you’re not a fan of clear spirits, you can try whiskey or Cognac, which Jane says are “a lot of fun with peach, apple, cherry — all the orchard fruit flavors.”
The best jello-to-alcohol ratio
Danger suggests using a ratio of 1 part liquor, 1 part instant gelatin, 2 parts boiling water, and 1 part cold water. “Keeping this ratio will help ensure that the taste is fairly balanced and the drink can set easily in a solid form,” says Danger.
Jello shot upgrades
The beauty of this drink/snack is that it’s very open to customization. According to Danger, “you can easily add sprinkles, candies, fresh fruit or herbs to make it your own.”
- If you’re serving jello shots at a tailgate party, add sprinkles with your team colors to the shot glasses before pouring in the jello-alcohol mixture. Use red, white, and blue colors to turn them into fun treats to enjoy on the Fourth of July.
- Pop Rocks give jello shots an extra level of sweetness, along with a fun textural (and sensational) surprise.
- Gummy bears go well with jello, and if you soak your bears in spirits before adding them to the jello shot molds, you’ll add an extra kick to your shots.
- Top off your orange jello shots with whipped cream for a tasty creamsicle effect. Opt for flavors and colors in support of your team at a tailgate, or go all-in with black and orange sprinkles for Halloween. You can also finish with whipped cream or sugared rim for added flair.”
As a general rule, “add-ins” can be put into the jello molds when the gelatin mixture is poured into the shot glasses. However, Danger does warn that you should “be careful when using highly acidic fruit like citrus or certain fresh tropical fruits. They can inhibit the jello from fully reaching the solid state. If you do want to use these flavors, add them as an accent garnish at the end.”
How long do jello shots last?
If you keep your jello shots in the refrigerator in a tray with a plastic or aluminum cover, they can last for over a week; some enthusiasts say that they’ll stay good for up to 10 days.
It may seem like a good idea to freeze your jello shots to get a longer life out of them, but the nature of gelatin makes this a counterproductive idea. When they thaw, they’ll lose the structure and the texture that makes jello shots so appealing.
Thanks to their fruit-forward flavors, their easy-to-make (and easy-to-consume) nature, and their portability, jello shots are a party classic. Using higher-quality spirits and including some fun add-ins like candy and sprinkles can take your jello shots from just another beverage for party guests to consume, to a statement serving at any event.