5 Cocktail-Inspired Jello Shots

Bite-Sized Cocktails

If you're feeling the mid-winter blues, you're not alone — not by a long shot. Sure, you could try to cheer yourself up with a mug of hot cocoa, but some days just call for something a little stronger.

5 Cocktail-Inspired Jello Shots

Remember those jello shots you threw back in college? You know, the ones made from a combination of brightly colored, flavored Jell-O packets and cheap liquor (heavy on the liquor)? Well, these jello shots are nothing like those.

For starters, these aren't all about the booze. Yes, they all have booze, but it's more about transforming your favorite cocktail into a wiggly-jiggly, fun-to-slurp treat. Also, we're skipping the flavored Jell-O in favor of plain gelatin powder because we know there's plenty of flavor to be found elsewhere.

Molding the Shots

When it comes to molding and shaping your jello shots, you have some options in front of you — and I'm not talking about tiny paper or plastic cups.

Silicon molds, mini muffins pans, and ice cube trays will give you bite-sized shots that are ready to go. You can also use loaf pans or an eight-inch round or square baking pan, and then cut the shots to the size of your choosing or break out the cookie cutters (my favorite method). No matter which type of pan or mold you use, do remember to give it a light coating of cooking spray. You'll wipe most of it off, and the residue that remains won't affect the taste of the shots; it's super helpful when un-molding them.

Your Jello Shot Template

No matter which of these jello shots you make, they all follow the same template and process. Keep an eye on the amounts of liquor; it will vary from recipe to recipe — just as it would with a cocktail.

While you can scale back on the liquor in each recipe if you prefer a more mild shot, I don't recommend adding any more. The alcohol affects how the jello sets, and using too much creates an overly soft shot that might not completely set.

Non-alcoholic liquid + liquor + gelatin powder

Prepare a mini muffin tin or silicone mold by spraying lightly with baking spray, then wipe each well with a paper towel so only a faint residue of grease remains.

Whisk together the non-alcoholic liquid with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over top and let sit for 5 minutes, or until the gelatin is softened and the surface of the liquid is wrinkled.

Warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. To double-check whether the gelatin is dissolved, rub the liquid between your fingers; if it feels slippery and smooth, it's ready.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the liquor.

Fill mini muffin or silicon wells with the mixture. Chill in the refrigerator for four hours, or until set. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then submerge the bottom of the pan or mold in warm water in 10-second increments until the jello shots come out easily when flipped over or pressed lightly with your thumb.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Margarita Jello Shots

Makes about 16 (one-ounce) shots

Just like the drink, these jello shots are packed with sweet and tangy lime flavor, plus a nice balance of tequila. And of course, what margarita would be complete without the salt?

Prepare the mold according to the directions above. Whisk together 1/2 cup water and 1 cup limeade in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the 2 packets of powdered gelatin over top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened and the surface of the liquid is wrinkled. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup tequila and 1/4 cup Cointreau. Garnish with sea salt before serving.

Cosmo Jello Shots

Makes about 16 (one-ounce) shots

Skip the martini glass — these cranberry and lime cosmos are meant to be eaten with your fingers.

Prepare the mold according to the directions above. Whisk together 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup cranberry juice, and 1/4 cup lime juice in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the 2 packets of powdered gelatin over top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened and the surface of the liquid is wrinkled. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup vodka and 1/4 cup Cointreau. Garnish with lime zest before serving.

Lemon Drop Jello Shots

Makes about 16 (one-ounce) shots

Just like the namesake drinks, these shots are super lemony with a nice balance of sweet and tart flavors.

Prepare the mold according to the directions above. Whisk together 1/2 cup water, 1 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons superfine sugar in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the 2 packets of powdered gelatin over top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened and the surface of the liquid is wrinkled. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup vodka and 1/4 cup Cointreau. Garnish with lemon sugar before serving.

Dark and Stormy Jello Shots

Makes about 12 (one-ounce) shots

These little bites deliver a punch of spicy ginger beer, a hint of tangy lime, and a rich, smoky hit of dark rum.

Prepare the mold according to the directions above. Whisk together 1/2 cup water, 1 cup ginger beer, and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the 2 packets of powdered gelatin over top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened and the surface of the liquid is wrinkled. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/4 cup dark rum. Garnish with lime zest before serving.

Bellini Jello Shots

Makes about 16 (one-ounce) shots

This classic bubbly brunch drink might just be even better when served on a plate. Take your pick between using sparkling wine, Champagne, or prosecco.

Prepare the mold according to the directions above. Whisk together 1/2 cup water, 1 cup peach juice or purée, and 1 tablespoon superfine sugar in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the 2 packets of powdered gelatin over top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened and the surface of the liquid is wrinkled. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 cup sparkling wine, prosecco, or Champagne. Divide 1 diced peach between the wells of the mold before filling with the liquid.

(Image credits: Kelli Foster)