What is the Ultimate Jell-O® Shot?
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I happen to know for a fact that we use one packet of Jell-O with 2.5 cups of vodka (20 oz.) (80 proof) and still have high quality Jell-O shots with perfect structural integrity. We have added more than that as well up to 3 cups. How is it that you have such watery shots with such little vodka? Also, using 100 proof vodka or 190 proof Everclear will definitely up the potency. - Anonymous, California

You’ll have to invite us to your next party.

The first time I ever made Jell-O shots, I had no idea how. I used rum, 100%, no water, and it worked fine, although the taste was strong. The second batch I made, I heated up half Bacardi 151 and half regular rum. You only needed 2 shots to get going. I think the amount of alcohol in the 151 allowed it to be boiled to dissolve the gelatin. I don't know. But it held its shape, and I got wasted. Knowing is half the battle. - Ryan, Houston

You’re lucky you still have your eyebrows. Caution: Alcohol is highly flammable. We didn’t heat the liquor in our experiment because getting it hot enough to dissolve the Jell-O would have burned off a good part of the alcohol.

When I was at University in Edmonton we used to bring "Everclear" back from our Montana ski trips. We used cherry Jell-O the first time...and heaps of ethanol. The cups of Jell-O took days to set...and they were a bit sludge like, so we must have been near to the alcohol limit. The effect was not unlike drinking a glass of the swab-things that dentists use to numb your mouth before the needle goes in. Lovely. I ended up in the back seat of a 30-year-old mum's car snogging like crazy. I think I was 20 at the time. - Allan, Germany

Vodka isn't pure alcohol. "Our initial attempt to prepare gelatin using pure alcohol was an out-and-out failure." - Anonymous, BC

You’re correct. We misspoke. We should have said “pure vodka”, and we have corrected the text. As we pointed out elsewhere, the vodka was 80 proof, or 40% ABV.

If the important thing in maintaining the gel structure of Jell-O is the 4 oz. of water it is dissolved in, could one not create a Jell-O shot from a higher proof alcohol (say, Bacardi 180 rum), making a more "ultimate" ultimate Jell-O shot? This Jell-O shot would be over twice as strong as one made with 80 proof vodka. - Anonymous

It’s certainly a possibility. Once we sleep off the after-effects of this experiment, that will be our next attempt.

My Jell-O shot recipe has always used Everclear grain alcohol. I would use five packages of powder to one pint of chilled Everclear, the rest being the hot and cold water. ( five cups boiling water / three cups cold / two cups grain ). I found that the grain alcohol not only works much better than the vodka, but also tastes better with most of the other flavors. I've never gone back to vodka for this recipe. - Fx, Providence

Can I please get the final recipe of your Jell-O shots? - Jester, Ontario

Sure. Take one 3 oz. package Jell-O mix, dissolve completely in 4 oz. (1/2 c.) boiling water. Add 20 oz. (2 ½ c.) 80 proof vodka. Chill until set.

Great experiment, I've been wondering this one for a while. I've followed up your research by experimenting with yellow brand (no name) jelly mixes -- no good. I've only approached the 10 - 12 oz. mark at freezing temperatures before the shots become unstable. I plan on trying the basics with pure gelatin powder and methyl hydrate, then adding different dyes and flavor mixes and testing the results with the Brinell technique. With enough testing I hope to eventually break the "20 oz. barrier". - Rory, Edmonton

Don’t try this at home, kids. Methyl hydrate is the stuff they use for camp stove fuel and paint remover.

The experiment is great and all, but it only takes vodka into consideration. If you really want to see how much alcohol you can cram into a Jell-O shot you should try grain alcohol, around 95%. I don't know where you guys are, but I know in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts it's prohibited. In Italy on the other hand, 12-year-old girls can buy 10 bottles of 95% alcohol at the small grocery store around the corner with no problem. Italy definitely has its perks... - Jason, Italy

Have you tried to light them on fire? We found at a certain amount of vodka the shot will light on fire like sterno the jellied fuel for camping and heating food. Nice, flaming Jell-O shots are fun. Do not try this at home. Perform only under the supervision of a safety professional. - Steve

Good experiments, and important for the good of humanity! Interesting results, especially the higher capacity of sugar-free Jell-O shots. I just have one comment regarding temperature from the "Variables" section. While it's true that you were staying in a range below the boiling point of ethanol, it's still likely that evaporation will happen faster at any elevated temperature. I would suggest, in the spirit of maximizing the alcohol content, that any methods to keep the temperature down along the way would result in reducing the alcohol lost. I admit, the evaporation could be very small out of the solution, but this should still be the case. Thanks! - Tom, Boston

Haha! I once tried to make Jell-O shots with pure alcohol...Everclear, no less, so this experiment was very helpful in educating the silly. Thank you! - Anonymous, Kansas City

Having been a student at Tulane for several years, I recommend you try the following:

a) Jell-O shots are easily made from 100% Vodka, as long as 8 oz. of Vodka are heated to about 180 degrees F, with an additional 8 oz. (preferably iced) added once the majority of gelatin is dissolved. Curing in the freezer is preferable, and will not result in a frozen Jell-O shot, as a 40% ABV mixture will not freeze at 32F.

b) Use 6-8 oz. water to dissolve gelatin, bring total volume to 16 oz. using iced Everclear (95% ABV) or other grain alcohol of your choice. Cure in freezer.

Either way, don't taste, just swallow. It's just an alcohol delivery system, not a snack.

- Andy, Jersey

I noticed in your last paragraph on real sugar Jell-O, you said that "The batch containing 19 oz. of liquor was 76% vodka by volume, and 30% pure alcohol by volume [...]." Assuming this batch used the 4 oz of boiling water like the previous batches, you get [(19oz liquor) / (23 oz net liquid)] x 100% = 83% liquor. 83% x 40% pure alcohol = 33% pure alcohol. Did this batch use more than 4 oz of water? A batch of 4 oz. water and 12 oz. vodka would have yielded the 75% liquor and 30% pure alcohol. - Alex

The 3oz. of Jell-O powder added 2 oz. to the total volume once dissolved, so the net liquid in this batch was actually 25 oz. [(19 oz. liquor) / (25 oz. net liquid)] x 100% = 76% liquor. 76% x 40% pure alcohol = 30.7% pure alcohol.

If you put the Jell-O/water mixture in the microwave and bring it just to a boil, you'll get completely dissolved Jell-O with less water. I never use the cold water, I simply use "just enough" water to completely dissolve the Jell-O and the rest consists of alcohol. 4 oz. or so of Everclear added to your total alcohol volume works well too. Also, my favorite is Lime Jell-O, 1/2 water, 1/2 Margarita mix (boiled for the solvent) and tequila.......... YUMMY - Debi, Missouri

Being a big fan of Jell-O shots, my friends and I have used a number of spirits, and different flavors of Jell-O. Gin and lime, vodka and orange, Bacardi and strawberry...

Did you note now long the shots stayed firm for? The problem I have is that usually I make the Jell-O shots for the party and then have to try to transport them to the party! - Carrie, Dubai

The shots seemed to stay firm indefinitely as long as they were kept chilled. We haven’t clocked how long they remain solid at room temperature. It would depend on how hot it is, and if you’re in Dubai, it might be pretty hot. Maybe you should try putting them in the freezer first, as some other people have suggested.

You can probably reduce the amount of water if you boil the water in a small sauce pan and add the Jell-O powder while still on the stove. Just be careful not to overcook. - Anonymous

While a great result, 80-proof vodka still has a significant portion of water as well. In addition, it would be interesting to see the same study done with another contrasting but appropriate 80 proof liquor (tequila maybe) to see if the type or style of beverage makes a difference. A run as well with a different vodka would also be a good idea. Lastly, a run with Everclear or some other extremely high proof liquor could establish more the true effect of alcohol on the Jell-O process. - Dann, Oregon

What about using Everclear instead of vodka? In my college days we did a similar experiment and concluded we could get 132 proof Jell-O shots. I can't remember the exact recipe, though. - Rich, Illinois

"After a few minutes of stirring, the hot water-Jell-O mixture had cooled to around 100F, or 37.7C. Since this is well below the boiling point of ethanol (78.6C), we feel confident that no alcohol was being lost due to the heat of the solution.”

Yes, but alcohol is still a volatile substance, and Raoult's law would indicate that there's still a chemical potential to it. Although, it is a mixture, which is decreasing solvent entropy, so you could even argue it's a negative deviation from Raoult's law. All the same, I would expect that more alcohol is escaping at that elevated temperature than at room temperature. - Anonymous

Yes, more alcohol would be evaporating from a 100F solution than one at room temperature, but we think the amount is not significant for the purposes of this experiment.

Great findings! I must say that your results are very interesting and you reward of a fridge full of Jell-O shots is not reward enough! My question is this. Can Jell-O shots be made with flavored Bacardi (Limon, O, Big Apple, Razz, etc.) with little to no rancidness of flavor, and if so, would your findings of highest alcohol content allowed hold true with this as well. I thank you for this study and I will continue to support the arts. – Anonymous, Maryland

Since the proofs (70 to 80 proof) of flavored Barcardi are similar to the vodka we used, we suspect the results would be similar. But yes, it might improve the flavor.

What about doing this experiment with schnapps in place of the vodka? How will the results differ? I would love to see a comparison. - Terry

The results might be different because of the lower alcohol content and higher sugar content of the schnapps. The flavor might be better.

Hey, how about trying to dissolve the gelatin into alcohol in a pressure cooker? I'd be REALLY interested in finding out how that turned out. If that works, they'd probably be so strong you'd want to sandwich it between two layers of weaker gelatin... making the shots take much longer to make, requiring 3 sets of settings: bottom, middle, top - Ryan

Heating alcohol in a pressure cooker? Sure, we’ll come over to your house to try that.

Jell-O shots are a staple at any kind of gathering my group of friends has. I recently made over 600 Jell-O shots for a Halloween party. My recipe is 1/2 cup of boiling water, 1 1/4 cup of Vodka, & 1/4 cup of fruit juice or fruit-flavored soda (like Sprite). The juice or soda will cut the taste of the vodka and you can have a higher alcohol content without getting the 'cough syrup' effect. My last experiment was making Margarita Jell-O shots. We used lime Jell-O, replaced the vodka with tequila & replaced the fruit juice with margarita mix. I don't drink tequila, but my friends seemed to enjoy them. – Jessica, Missouri

This will work with pudding too, yes? - Durvinq, Kopertsk

While we’re sure that alcohol can be added to pudding, the recipe would be different, since pudding uses milk instead of water.

Simply replace the cold water in the original recipe with vodka, and you get a great balance between firmness, clarity and alcohol content. - Anonymous

In regards to the Jell-O shots, I tried some similar experiments, not to that extent, mind you. But we have found that for much better tasting shots it’s best to use (De Kuyper) Pucker (apple, grape, what ever your favorite is). They are way more enjoyable and don't have that strong taste. Just something to try…and taste. - Angie, Michigan

Can you test how much vodka will fit in a standard sized watermelon? - Anonymous

Maybe we’ll try that when watermelon comes back in season.

I was thinking, since the only need for the water is to melt the gel. It might be possible to add more alcohol by increasing the proof of the liquor. Also I've found the quicker you cool Jell-O the better it forms. If I was still a power drinker I'd try and increase it even more, but I'm no longer a drinker. Maybe you would be interested in trying this instead: Using the ever potent Everclear, put it in the freezer. Then heat 5-6 oz of water to a boil and add the Jell-O mix. Then add the very cold liquor to the mix to 'shock' it into a gel. Since you were able to reduce the hot water down to almost none, I'm wondering if the 19-20oz figure was simply caused by too much liquid and not the volume of actual alcohol. By reducing the water in the liquor even more you may be able to increase the content of alcohol even more. Just an idea. Let me know if ya ever try it. – Rich, U.S.

Next time use Everclear. Based on a recent party we used 1/2 to 3/4 cup boiling water and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups Everclear and it still stuck together. Plus it gets everyone trashed. Oh, and Jell-O has 2 new flavors that work great for Jell-O shots. Strawberry daiquiri and margarita. Two thumbs up to whoever at Jell-O invented that. – Hillary, Texas

What would happen if you substituted the boiling water for boiling alcohol? Is it possible to boil alcohol? - Heather, California

It is possible to boil alcohol, but if you try it on a stove, the alcohol will evaporate and may catch fire.

I've found, after several annual Halloween parties, that you can fully substitute the cold water for alcohol with the aid of adding a little extra gelatin. However, this may be cheating, but it works very well. – Brad, Colorado

Some Jell-O shot recipes also call for adding additional unflavored (Knox brand) gelatin.

Y’all must be northerners, ‘cause us southern boys know anytime you want to maximize alcohol content, you gotta start with good old grain alcohol distilled to 99.9% ethanol. I believe you northerners can buy a product called "Everclear" in your liquor stores if you are unskilled in the art of shine. Also trying heating alcohol to dissolve the Jell-O (under pressure to avoid evaporation). Lightweights. – Dan, Virginia

It appears that if you used pure sheets of gelatin and some concentrated candy flavoring you could possibly get even higher concentrations of alcohol. Is there a round 2 test being considered? - Degauss, Oregon

Suggestions for Jell-O Shots flavors: My favorite combo of flavors that seems unusual to my party friends is this: Black Cherry Jell-O w/ Amaretto--usually about 10 oz of Amaretto. GREAT FLAVOR! - Kristen, Arizona

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