Halloween Jell-O Shots

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What Is The Best Tasting Jell-O Shot?

Updated 10/29/09

The Experiment

Previously, we investigated  the strongest possible Jell-O shot and showed that a Jell-O shot can, in fact, be lit on fire. The reader response to these investigations was overwhelming, we received hundreds of methods and recipes for producing the "best" Jell-O shot. Equipped with this reader input, a minibar’s worth of booze, a grocery cart full of Jell-O, and the spirit of scientific investigation, we embarked on a grueling series of further Jell-O shot trials, and here we present our findings.

The Flavor Challenge

Previously we focused our efforts on maximizing the alcoholic potency of the shots. But, as we discovered, the flavor suffered severely as a result. This compromises the basic utility and purpose of the Jell-O shot. Jell-O shots are supposed to get you buzzed, but they are also supposed to taste good.

In our selection of liquors and recipe combinations, we tried to stick to the basics: liquors and ingredients that were economical and easy to find or likely to be on hand. Likewise, we kept most of the formulas simple and pared a few classic cocktails down to their basic elements. In other words, the best taste with the least effort. Nevertheless, we did take on some creative challenges.


Start With the Basics

Here’s a rundown of some of the best basic Jell-O/liquor combinations that we tried. Of course, it goes without saying that you can put vodka in anything, or use a flavored vodka that matches the Jell-O (Orange and Stoli Oranj, for example). The following combos and recipes got approval from our panel of tasters. Standout favorites were cherry and amaretto, watermelon and sour apple schnapps, orange and Captain Morgan’s, and anything containing peach schnapps.

These shots were prepared by dissolving 3 oz. Jell-O in 1 cup boiling water, then adding 8oz. (1 cup) of cold liquid – straight alcohol, a mixture of liqueur and vodka, or alcohol and cold water. For flavored liquors (Absolut Citron, Malibu, Captain Morgan’s) 1 cup of liquor was used. For strong tasting, high proof liquors (tequila and rum) a mixture of 4 oz. liquor and 4 oz. cold water was used. The liquors varied in potency from 30 proof (15% ABV) to 80 proof (40% ABV), which put the shots in the range of 10% ABV to 20% ABV. In other words, it would take a few of them to equal the alcohol content of one cocktail.

Lime Jell-O:
Absolut Citron – Crisp and lively citrus flavor.
Tequila – Plain tequila and lime is the quick and dirty way to make a “margarita” shot.

Cherry Jell-O:
Amaretto – An excellent combination, tastes like the syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries. Can be overly sweet if you add too much.
Peach schnapps – Mild but flavorful, tastes like candy.
Crčme de cacao – This creates a chocolate/cherry flavor with more complexity than average. Too much of the liqueur tastes bitter.

Orange Jell-O:
Peach Schnapps – Use for a Fuzzy Navel effect. Sweet and mellow flavor.
Tequila – Tangy and spicy, the orange really smooths out the tequila.
Captain Morgan’s - Sweet and spicy, would be good for the holidays.
Amaretto – Tastes like a creamsicle or Orange Julius.
Malibu – Very smooth, pleasant coconut aftertaste.
Southern Comfort – Sweet with a bit more alcoholic bite and edge than schnapps.

Lemon Jell-O:
Absolut Citron – Tart and clean, like a lemondrop but not as sweet.

Watermelon Jell-O:
Sour Apple Schnapps – Fantastic flavor, tastes exactly like a Jolly Rancher candy.
Tequila – Complex, tangy flavor, has a bite to it.
Midori – Sweet, more of a generic melon flavor.

Strawberry Jell-O:
Peach Schnapps – Sweet and candylike.
White rum – The quick and dirty strawberry daiquiri.
Tequila – Peppery, tangy, not overly sweet.
Sour Apple Schnapps – The schnapps enhances the berry flavor for a sweet/tart effect.
Midori – Fruity, tastes a bit like bubblegum.

Peach Jell-O:
Malibu – Very smooth, alcohol flavor almost unnoticeable.
Captain Morgan’s – Tastes like peach pie, a little spicy.
Southern Comfort – Sweet, with a mild bourbon flavor.
Peach Schnapps – Very, very sweet and very peachy.
Sour Apple Schnapps – Tastes like Sweetarts.

Raspberry Jell-O:
Peach Schnapps – Fruity, sweet, tastes like red Twizzlers.
Midori – Very sweet, fruity, tastes like bubble gum.

Berry Blue Jell-O:
Honestly, we couldn’t find anything that tasted good with the blue Jell-O. Maybe because it’s a terrible flavor to begin with. Absolut Kurant might work. One reader suggested “99 Berries” liqueur.
Update! Check out our new article on The Best Blue Jell-O Shot

A couple of readers suggested pineapple Jell-O and Malibu, for a pina colada effect, but we were unable to find pineapple Jell-O.

Lessons Learned: Universal Jell-O Shot Mixer

Our most important finding? Besides vodka, peach schnapps appears to be an almost universal mixer for any flavor of Jell-O. Peach schnapps tastes like candy. It’s not overly tart or bitter, and the taste is mild enough to complement most fruit flavors, with the possible exception of lime and grape.

In general, go easy on syrupy liqueurs like amaretto and schnapps and use just enough for flavor; unless you’re using plain unsweetened gelatin, their sugariness can become cloying and their flavors overwhelming. Cutting them with a clear liquor like vodka or rum will supplement their low alcohol content and balance the taste. A liquor mix of half peach schnapps and half vodka is ideal: the vodka punches up the potency, while the schnapps mellows things out, adding sweetness and flavor.

Another common sense tip: adjust the amount and proportions of alcohol according to the flavor intensity and proof of the liquor you’re using. Adding a half cup of 40 proof Malibu to a batch of Jell-O will have a different effect than adding a half cup of 80 proof tequila.

Another important discovery: do not put Bailey’s in fruit-flavored Jell-O. The citric acid in the Jell-O powder will cause it to curdle. The resulting liquid resembles spew. It doesn’t taste very good either. You can make gelatin shots with Bailey’s, but because of the dairy content, you must use unflavored gelatin as the base. Bailey’s is also good in pudding, but we’ll get to that later.


Chocolate Covered Cherry Jell-O Shot

A few readers suggested Jell-O shot recipes involving various combinations of whipped cream, chocolate topping, chocolate liqueur, and alcohol soaked cherries. We combined them all into a chocolate/cherry concoction that was insanely delicious and really takes Jell-O shots to the next level and beyond. We started with maraschino cherries soaked in rum, and embedded them in a cherry Jell-O shot made with crčme de cacao and vodka.

That in itself was pretty tasty, but then we covered it with a layer of “Magic Shell” chocolate topping and added a dollop of Reddi-Whip. The refrigerated Jell-O was not cold enough to make the chocolate shell harden, so we popped it in the freezer for a few minutes before serving to achieve the ideal consistency. This step may result in your Jell-O freezing if you forget about it (as we did on one occasion), but even semi-frozen this recipe tastes great. These shots take more work and preparation, but you can use them to astound your friends or impress that special someone. We prefer to add a little vodka to take the edge off the crčme de cacao's bitterness, but if you want a stronger chocolate taste, you can omit the vodka and use a full 1/2 cup of liqueur.


3 oz. package cherry Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
3 oz. crčme de cacao
1 oz. vodka
Maraschino cherries, with or without stems
4 oz. white rum
Chocolate “Magic Shell” ice cream topping
Spray can of whipped cream

Soak cherries in rum for at least 24 hours. Add some maraschino cherry juice if you need extra liquid to cover the fruit. Place one cherry in each empty Jell-O shot cup. Mix cherry Jell-O and hot water, let cool to room temperature, then add crčme de cacao, vodka and ˝ cup reserved rum mixture from cherries. Pour into cups so that cherries are submerged. Chill until firm. Cover with a thin layer of chocolate topping and place in freezer for 2 minutes. Top with whipped cream and serve immediately.


Pickled Fruit

Besides maraschino cherries, readers mentioned adding other liquor-soaked fruits to Jell-O, including canned pears and mandarin orange segments. We tried both of these soaked in vodka for at least 24 hours, as well as fresh strawberries soaked in rum. We didn’t make a before and after liquid volume comparison, but it tasted like the canned pears soaked up the most alcohol. Although potent, they were bland and gritty. The cherries didn’t absorb as much alcohol, probably because they are essentially already pickled; however, they can trap a small amount of liquor in their interior cavity. The fresh strawberries had a noticeable alcohol flavor and in our opinion were the best tasting of the lot. The mandarin oranges absorbed little alcohol but their texture came the closest to approximating the “worm in the tequila bottle” effect that some readers requested.


Classic Cocktail Combinations

We concocted some of our own Jell-O shot cocktails, for which the recipes follow. For many, such as the margarita and the strawberry daiquiri, this meant simply adding a dash of sweet-and-sour mix or bottled margarita mix. Other recipes involved substituting fruit juice for part of the water. A simple change to the basic shot formula can make the difference between a pretty good Jell-O shot and a great one.

Margarita Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package lime Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
4 oz. tequila
4 oz. sweet and sour or Margarita mix
Substitute watermelon Jell-O for lime for a melon margarita.

Strawberry Daiquiri Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package wild strawberry Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) Boiling water
6 oz. white rum
1 oz. sweet and sour or Margarita mix

Fuzzy Navel Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package orange Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
2 oz. vodka
6 oz. peach schnapps

Cherry Amaretto Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package cherry Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
2 oz. cold water
6 oz. amaretto

Sex on the Beach Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package orange Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling cranberry juice
3 oz. peach schnapps
5 oz. vodka


Pudding Shots (added 10/29/09)

We pretty much bombed out on our first attempt to make pudding shots. Replacing part of the milk with liquor turned the pudding soupy, and it didn’t set up. Thankfully, our readers told us what we were doing wrong. The almost universal solution: reduce the liquid, and fold in some Cool Whip. Armed with that knowledge, we headed back to the kitchen.

We tried three kinds of pudding and four different recipes, testing slightly different liquid-to-whipped topping ratios. The consistency of different pudding flavors seems to vary slightly anyway, but we found the best combination to be about 1 ˝ cups liquid (total milk + alcohol) plus 1 cup of Cool Whip. Many people suggested freezing the pudding shots, but we didn’t find it necessary.

We were intrigued by a reader’s suggestion of adding raspberry schnapps to cheesecake flavor pudding (who knew they made such a thing?) and garnishing with graham crackers. We created a layered pudding shot by dividing the batch. The raspberry and cheesecake combo was pretty good. The cheesecake flavor by itself has kind of an odd taste, so the berry helped cover it up. The graham cracker crumbs were a nice textural addition, and if you wanted to be ambitious, you could even press a mini graham cracker crust into each cup.

Raspberry Cheesecake Pudding Shots

4 oz. pkg Cheesecake flavor instant pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
3 oz. Raspberry Pucker or another berry schnapps
3 oz. Vanilla schnapps or vanilla flavored vodka
1 cup thawed Cool Whip, divided
Graham crackers, crushed (optional)

Add cold milk to pudding and mix with an electric mixer or whisk until smooth. Divide mixture in half, into two separate bowls. Add raspberry schnapps to one half of the pudding and vanilla schnapps to the other. Fold ˝ cup Cool Whip into each mixture until thoroughly blended. Fill cups half full of the vanilla cheesecake mixture, and top with the raspberry cheesecake mixture. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Chill.

Mudslide Pudding Shots

4 oz. pkg Chocolate flavor instant pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
3 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
3 oz. Kahlua
1 cup thawed Cool Whip

Combine cold milk to pudding and mix with an electric mixer or whisk until smooth. Blend in the liquors. Fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly blended. Fill cups and chill.

The last time we made pudding shots, they were all a little soupy, but the butterscotch flavor seemed to suffer more. We got similar results this time – the butterscotch pudding set up OK, but it was still softer than the other flavors, even though we used the same amount of liquid. We think it’s just something about that flavor, so try using a little less liquid for better consistency.

Slippery Nipple Pudding Shots

4 oz. pkg Butterscotch flavor instant pudding mix
3/4 cup cold milk
3 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
3 oz. Butterscotch schnapps
1 cup thawed Cool Whip

Combine cold milk to pudding and mix with an electric mixer or whisk until smooth. Blend in the liquors. Fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly blended. Fill cups and chill.

Our fourth recipe was our own concoction – an attempt to make a “Mexican hot chocolate” shot with cinnamon and almond liqueurs. Try it if you want something different. We found the cinnamon a little overpowering.


If You Like Piña Coladas

The most common cry we heard from readers: get some pineapple Jell-O. As you’ll recall, we previously tried to make a piña colada shot using plain gelatin, pineapple juice, sweetened coconut cream, and rum. We weren’t crazy about the outcome – the flavor was bland and the texture was grainy. Since then many readers have assured us that pineapple Jell-O and coconut flavored rum would give much better results.

Unfortunately, pineapple Jell-O is a little exotic, at least in our neck of the woods. The only way we could get it was ordering it online – by the case. Guess we’ll be having lots of luau-themed parties in the future.

Our assessment: Yes, the piña colada shots were greatly improved by using pineapple flavored Jell-O. Pineapple Jell-O in itself is nothing really special, and in fact, the artificial pineapple scent is kind of funky, but the coconut rum covers it up. The basic pineapple Jell-O and Malibu shot was fine - mild and a little tart - but we decided to up the ante by adding some canned coconut milk, following the lead of a reader who said he had tried it, but got a curdled mixture.

First we made separate batches of Jell-O with and without coconut milk and layered them in the same cup. But we also filled some cups with the coconut mixture alone, to see what would happen. The coconut cream rose to the top and formed its own layer, with a pineapple Jell-O layer below. Both of these versions were good. The creamy texture of the coconut milk was nice, and there wasn’t much difference in overall flavor. Unless you want a distinct contrast between the coconut and pineapple layers, it’s easier to use Recipe II and do it all in one step.

Piña Colada Jell-O Shots (Recipe I)


1 cup water
1 cup Malibu

Bring the water to a boil. Add to Jell-O and stir till dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the Malibu. Pour into cups and chill. If desired, put a rum-soaked pineapple chunk in each cup before pouring. (Use canned pineapple. Fresh pineapple will prevent the Jell-O from setting.)

Piña Colada Jell-O Shots (Recipe II)[5 cups]

3 oz. pkg Pineapple Jell-O
1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup Malibu

Bring the coconut milk to a boil. Add to Jell-O and stir till dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the Malibu. Pour into cups and chill. The Jell-O will separate into layers, with the coconut milk rising to the top.

Piña Colada Jell-O Shots (Recipe III)[5 cups]

Two 3 oz. pkgs Pineapple Jell-O
1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup boiling water
2 cups Malibu, divided

Bring the coconut milk to a boil. Add to one package of Jell-O and stir till dissolved. In another bowl add boiling water to the other package of Jell-O. Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in one cup of Malibu. Fill cups half full and chill until set. Add boiling water to the other package of Jell-O and stir till dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in one cup of Malibu. Top off the gelled layer, and chill again until firm. Either the pineapple or coconut layer can be on the bottom.


Dark Side of Jell-O Experimentation

Not all of our experiments were successful, and some led us to the conclusion that certain liquors are just not meant for Jell-O shots. Like gin. We had high hopes for a gin and tonic creation using lime jello and tonic water, and a “gin and juice” flavor using lime with grapefruit soda. The gin and juice was acceptable, but the gin and tonic tasted like bathroom disinfectant. Whiskey and Jell-O don’t mix well either; our attempt at “Lynchburg Lemonade” (Jack Daniels and lemon Jell-O) was mediocre.

“Gin and Juice” Jell-O Shot
3 oz. package lime Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling grapefruit soda
4 oz. gin
4 oz. cold water

As an homage to that frat favorite, the Jagerbomb, we whipped up a shot with Jagermeister, Red Bull, and orange Jell-O. It actually wasn’t that bad, considering, and definitely tasted better than the drink on which it was based. We substituted heated Red Bull for the boiling water in the Jell-O recipe. Pretty much any non-dairy beverage – juice, soda, coffee, etc. – can be incorporated into a Jell-O shot recipe in the same manner.

JagerBomb Jell-O Shot
6 oz. package orange Jell-O
1 can Red Bull, heated to boiling
4 oz. Jagermeister
2 oz. vodka
2 oz. cold water
Dissolve Jell-O in heated Red Bull, then add liquors and cold water.

As much as we like pina coladas, the Jell-O shot version didn’t do much for us. We used a plain gelatin base and added pineapple juice, coconut cream, and Malibu. Though passable, it had a weird texture, probably from the combination of pineapple pulp and coconut, and the flavor wasn’t intense enough. It might be more successful using pineapple Jell-O. As a side note about pineapple, we’ve often heard that you shouldn’t put pineapple in Jell-O or it won’t gel. This is true of fresh pineapple, but not canned. Fresh pineapple, as well as papaya, contains enzymes that break down the proteins in the Jell-O.

Pina Colada Jell-O Shot
1 envelope plain gelatin powder
8 oz. (1 cup) Boiling pineapple juice
6 oz. Malibu
1 oz. Amaretto
4 oz. Sweetened coconut cream (Coco Rosie, etc.)

Mojito Jell-O Shot

Mojitos are very popular right now, so we muddled some fresh mint and added it to lime Jell-O with rum. The result looked like that mint jelly that your mom would serve with lamb. It was refreshing and different, but your average partygoer might be put off by leaves floating in the Jell-O.


3 oz. package lime Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) Boiling water
6 oz. white rum
2 oz. cold water
Mint leaves, chopped and crushed

Peanut Butter and Jell-O?

Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. We couldn’t find anything on hand (besides vodka) that tasted good with grape Jell-O. So what does go with grape? Peanut butter. You can add almost anything liquid or semi-liquid to plain gelatin, so why not? We melted peanut butter into a gelatin solution, added some nutty liqueurs, and then layered the mixture in cups with grape/vodka Jell-O on top. The taste was decent, and the contrast in textures was interesting. Some of our tasters claimed to actually like these, but they may just have been intrigued by the novelty. We also used the peanut butter mixture in conjunction with chocolate topping to make a “peanut butter cup”. This, while edible, was also a little weird.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Jell-O Shot
Grape “Jelly”:
3 oz. package grape Jell-O
8 oz. (1 cup) boiling water
8 oz. vodka
Peanut Butter:
1 envelope plain gelatin
8oz. (1 cup) cold water
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 oz. Bailey’s Irish cream
2 oz. Amaretto
2 oz. butterscotch schnapps or hazelnut liqueur
Sprinkle gelatin powder over cold water in top pan of double boiler. Let sit for a few minutes. Heat gelatin in double boiler over hot water until it liquefies. Add peanut butter, heat and stir until peanut butter is completely melted into gelatin. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature, then add combined liquors. Fill cups halfway with peanut butter mixture, chill for 2 hours, then top with grape mixture and chill again.


Cruelty Free Jell-O Shots

We didn’t want to leave our vegan and vegetarian friends out of the party, but our attempt at vegetarian Jell-O shots yielded mixed results. Regular gelatin is made from boiled down cow and pig bones and connective tissue, making it unsuitable for folks who don’t eat animals. There are some alternatives, such as agar agar or vegetarian gelatin made from vegetable gums. We used some vegetarian gelatin powder from a vegan natural foods store; it was in bulk, so we don’t know the exact ingredients, but it’s a safe bet there were no cow tendons involved.

We used a rounded tablespoon of powder per cup of liquid, which produced a solid, somewhat rubbery shot. The gelatin was dissolved in heated fruit juice, and then the liquor and other ingredients were mixed in. We attempted four different recipes: Fuzzy Navel (orange juice and peach schnapps), Margarita (limeade, tequila and margarita mix), Cosmopolitan (cranberry juice, vodka, and Grand Marnier), and Pina Colada (pineapple juice, Malibu, and coconut cream). While our vegan friends were grateful for the inclusive gesture, the shots themselves left something to be desired. They tasted OK, but most were bland and not sweet enough. The Fuzzy Navel and Margarita were the most successful, probably because of the syrupy schnapps and margarita mix. The brown rice syrup we added to the Cosmopolitan didn’t quite cut it. Regular granulated sugar is processed using charred cow bones and many vegans avoid it for that reason, but corn syrup or organic sugar syrup could be used as a sweeter alternative.

Vegan Fuzzy Navel Gelatin Shot
2 Tbsp. vegetarian gelatin or agar agar
1 cup boiling orange juice
4 oz. vodka
4 oz. peach schnapps

Vegan Margarita Gelatin Shot
2 Tbsp. vegetarian gelatin or agar agar
1 cup boiling limeade
4 oz. tequila
4 oz. margarita or sweet and sour mix

Conclusions

Without much additional effort, the humble Jell-O shot can be transformed from an efficient alcohol delivery method to a gelatin cocktail you can savor rather than gulp down whole. The basic Jell-O shot recipe is highly adaptable, versatile, and amenable to a variety of additions and substitutions. Depending on the amount of time, money, and creativity you have, the possibilities are almost limitless. The best flavors are achieved with a moderate alcohol content (25 to 50 percent liquor, and around 10 to 20 percent alcohol by volume), and as with all alcohol consumption, we encourage responsibility.

Other experiments:
What is the Ultimate Jello-Shot?
How to Light a Jell-O Shot on Fire
How Many Condoms Can You Wear at Once?
Does Viagra Keep Flowers from Wilting?
How To Keep Beer Cold
The Cheney Shotgun Experiment

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