How To Make Layered Jello Shots

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

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Labor Day is almost here, so we decided it was precisely the right time to show you how to make jello shots. Summer is nearly over — seize the day, right? Wait, you say. Jello shots? Dorm room, frat party, neon green vodka bombs?

No, no. What I'm about to show you today is jello shots all glammed up, and even, dare I say it, healthy. OK, healthier. I adore gelled desserts of all shapes and flavors — I have a whole chapter on them in my book Bakeless Sweetsand I've been waiting for just the right moment to talk jello shots. Raspberry lemonade jello shots, to be specific.

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Building a Better Jello Shot

The old-school jello shot is made by mixing industrial-grade (read: cheap) vodka or spirits with a box of flavored Jell-O to make potently alcoholic treats that go down just a little too easy.

Let's stop right there. The first step in making a better jello shot is this: Don't use Jell-O. (Sorry, Jell-O.) Fake flavorings, artificial colors — the lime stuff doesn't even taste like a lime.

Folks, Jell-O doesn't have a monopoly on gelatin; you can gelatinize just about any liquid, even your own homemade juices and local artisanal gin, using plain unflavored gelatin like those in the packets from Knox.

You can make jello jigglers, layered desserts, and yes, jello shots, out of any liquid you like, mixed with some alcohol and plain gelatin. It's easy as a snap, and if you do something special like make your own lemonade, or use a fruit puree, even better.

One other way to make jello shots a little better, in my opinion, is to reduce the alcohol content. Slamming a full ounce of liquor in one teeny bite of jello is all well and good in one's party years, when you have the constitution and metabolism to match your post-adolescent hormones and all-nighter stamina. But most of us have, ahem, grown up a little since then, and I prefer a much more modest ratio of alcohol in these shots. It's not very nice to get drunk accidentally.

Here is the most basic formula for making jello shots — or, indeed, any jello bite, with or without alcohol.

Basic Jello Shot Formula

(1 cup liquor + 1 cup non-alcoholic liquid + 2 envelopes (5 1/2 teaspoons) gelatin powder) x 4 hours chilling time = 16 1-ounce Jello Shots

This formula shows the maximum amount of alcohol you can use in jello shots. Alcohol can interfere with the setting properties of gelatin, so don't increase the proportion of alcohol to non-alcoholic liquid past this.

You can, however, decrease the amount of alcohol. The maximum formula makes pretty strong shots; each has 1/2 ounce of hard liquor. That is honestly a little more than I like in a party treat. You can decrease the alcohol as much as you like, or use lower-alcohol beverages like sweet wine or vermouth. The gelatin quantity won't change.

And of course you can make these with no alcohol at all! I love fresh fruit jellies made with fresh juice or tea; they're beautiful and can be healthy, with no added sugar.

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Jello Shot Molds

Some ideas for ways to hold or shape your Jello shots:

  • Silicone molds or ice cube trays
  • Plastic ice cube trays
  • Mini muffin cups
  • Mini paper cups, like those used for ketchup (find at restaurant supply stores)
  • Dixie paper cups
  • Loaf pan or 8x8 baking pan — cut into squares when chilled
  • Fruit: Pour jello shot liquid into hollowed-out fruit, such as strawberries or lemon or lime shells.

Raspberry Lemonade Layered Jello Shots

The recipe I am using in today's jello shot instructional is a little more elaborate than the basic formula above. I give you a lemonade jello recipe, which sets up first. Then you create a raspberry puree that also gets some gelatin and vodka, which is poured over the first layer. The layers of these two flavors aren't terribly distinct in the photos; the lemonade is quite transparent so the opaque raspberry's color shows through. But in person they're rather more dramatic, and you can taste both flavors, tart and sweet.

But don't be put off by all the steps. If you would prefer to make plain lemonade (or plain raspberry) jello shots, no problem!

Building a Better Jello Shot

One last note: I show you how to create jello shots inside lemon shells! This is a neat trick that makes it look like you have magical powers in the kitchen, but it's quite simple. Just let the gelatin set inside a hollowed out lemon peel (or lime, or orange, or grapefruit...).

How To Make Raspberry Lemonade Jello Shots

Makes 32 1-ounce jello shots

What You Need

Ingredients

For the Lemonade Jelly:

2 to 3 large lemons
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 5 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup vodka

For the Raspberry Jelly:
12 ounces fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 5 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup vodka

Equipment
Saucepan
Whisk
Food processor
Fine sieve
Muffin pan (to hold the lemon shells)
Mini muffin pan or silicone molds (if not using lemon shells)

Instructions

  1. Juice the lemons and clean out the shells: Cut the lemons in half and juice them. You should have 1/2 cup. If you want to make jello shots in the lemon peel, reserve the shells. Scrape them out gently with a spoon or melon baller to remove the membranes, seeds, and a little of the white pith.

  2. Prepare the molds: If you're not using the lemon shells, prepare a mini muffin tin or silicone molds by spraying lightly with baking spray, then wiping each well gently with a paper towel so only a faint residue of grease remains. This is a very important step for getting the jello shots out in one piece.

  3. Soften the gelatin: Whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, and orange juice 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.

  4. Warm and dissolve the gelatin: Warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved. This will take at most 2 to 3 minutes; gelatin dissolves quickly in warm liquid. 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. If you still feel some grains of sugar or gelatin, return to the heat for another 30 seconds. Once again, dissolving the gelatin will not take very long at all.

  5. Add the liquor: Remove from the heat and whisk in the vodka or gin.

  6. Fill the lemon shells: If making jello shots in the lemon shells, place each lemon shell half in the well of a muffin pan. Fill each lemon shell halfway with the lemonade-vodka mixture and refrigerate. (If you want to get even fancier, put the lemon shells in the muffin tins on a slant, so the lemonade layer sets at an angle.)

  7. OR fill the molds: If making jello shots in a mini muffin pan or in other molds, fill 32 mini muffin wells halfway with the lemonade-vodka mixture. Refrigerate.

  8. Make the raspberry puree: Blend the raspberries in a food processor with the sugar until liquified, then strain through a fine sieve, catching the juice. You should have about 1 cup of juice.

  9. Soften the gelatin: Put the raspberry juice in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water. 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.

  10. Warm and dissolve the gelatin: Warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved. This will take at most 2 to 3 minutes; gelatin dissolves quickly in warm liquid. Do not let the mixture boil.

  11. Check the gelatin: Double-check whether the gelatin is dissolved, as described above.

  12. Add the alcohol: Whisk in the liquor.

  13. Make the raspberry layer: Check the lemonade jellies in the fridge. If they are still liquid, put them back in and let the raspberry layer cool on the stove. The jello shots are ready for their second layer when quite firm, but still slightly tacky on top. They should stick very lightly to your finger. When ready, gently pour the raspberry mixture over the lemonade-vodka layer. Return to the fridge and chill for an additional 2 to 4 hours, or overnight.

  14. Slice or unmold the jello shots: If you made the jello shots in the lemon shells, slice them into wedges, just as if you were slicing an apple. (If you want, you can trim any rough edges off the top of the lemon peel first.) If you made the jello shots in a mold, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then submerge the bottom of the pan or mold in warm water in increments of 10 seconds, until the jello shots come out easily when flipped over or pressed lightly with your thumb.

Recipe Notes

  • SImple One-Flavor Jello Shots: If you just want lemonade-vodka jello shots and don't want to bother with another layer, then completely fill the lemon shells or 16 mini muffin wells with the mixture and chill for 4 hours or overnight. Or use the basic jello shot formula above, using your favorite juice and liquor, and follow steps 1 through 6.
  • Alcohol Content: If you make 32 shots as instructed above, each jello shot will have 1/2 ounce of alcohol in it, which is a third of a standard 1 1/2 ounce shot.
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More Jello Shot Inspiration

Two smart cooks (and their books) who have inspired me in the use of gelatin:


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(Images: Faith Durand)

Per serving, based on 2 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
609
Fat
1.4 g (2.2%)
Saturated
0.1 g (0.3%)
Carbs
89.9 g (30%)
Fiber
13.7 g (55%)
Sugars
70.1 g
Protein
3.2 g (6.5%)
Sodium
5.5 mg (0.2%)

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