Recipe: Thanksgiving Jello Shots

updated May 1, 2019
Thanksgiving Jello Shots
These classy, low-alcohol jello shots bring cranberry and orange to the holiday table in a fun, new way.


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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Orange-cranberry sauce is my go-to side dish for all the potlucks that fall between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. This year I’ve decided to serve those same flavors with a heavy dose of retro kitsch in the form of cranberry-orange jello shots.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Perfect Make-Ahead Treat

Jello shots might be a throwback to younger, wilder days, but these bite-sized cocktails are actually the perfect make-ahead treat for a busy holiday season (you can whip them up a week ahead of time).

What really sets these shots apart from the ones from your college days is the quality and quantity of vodka. Skip the bottom-shelf vodka and instead spring for a high-quality one. You want to experience the cranberry and orange fruit flavors, not the harsh burn of cheap alcohol. The other key is to cut back on the proportion of alcohol to water. Instead of using equal parts water and vodka to mix the gelatin, use three-quarters water to one-quarter vodka.

3 Simple Tricks for Better Jello Shots

  • Transfer the gelatin mixture from a mixing bowl to a measuring cup with a spout. Or, better yet, use the half jigger from your cocktail utensil set to measure the perfect amount of gelatin for each cup.
  • Chill the cranberry layer until it is completely set before adding the orange layer.
  • Cool the orange gelatin to room temperature before topping off the jello shot. This way you get a nice, crisp definition between the colors. Jello shots are an interactive and unexpected treat to bring to a dinner party.

Thanksgiving Jello Shots

These classy, low-alcohol jello shots bring cranberry and orange to the holiday table in a fun, new way.

Makes 24

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    (3-ounce) box cranberry-flavored powdered gelatin

  • 3 cups

    water, divided

  • 1 cup

    very cold vodka, divided

  • 1

    (3-ounce) box orange-flavored powdered gelatin

  • Whipped cream or sugared cranberries, for serving


  • 24

    (2-ounce) plastic condiment cups, preferably with lids


  1. Clear a space in your refrigerator so that a rimmed baking sheet can lay flat. Arrange the plastic cups in a single layer in the baking sheet.

  2. Sprinkle the cranberry-flavored gelatin into a large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the gelatin and whisk until dissolved. Add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of vodka and whisk to combine.

  3. Pour about 3/4 ounce of the cranberry mixture into each cup; the cups should be half-filled. Carefully transfer the tray with the condiment cups to the refrigerator and chill until set, 2 to 3 hours.

  4. While the cranberry layer chills, make the orange gelatin mixture using the same method and amounts as the cranberry layer. Do not transfer the mixture to the cups yet — set aside the bowl at room temperature to cool for at least 1 hour. Once the cranberry layer has set, divide the orange gelatin evenly among the cups. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. If you're not ready to serve yet, cover the cups — especially if you will be transporting them.

  5. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and top each shot with a small dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The covered shots (without whipped cream) can be refrigerated for 7 to 10 days.

Unmolding jello shots: To serve the jello shots out of their cups, hold the cup upside down under warm running water for a few seconds until the shot slips out of the cup. Transfer to a serving platter and top with whipped cream.