When was the last time you had a Jell-O shot?
If your answer was “Last weekend,” then hello, New Best Friend! But if your answer was “Never,” then we should figure out why. Why have you never eaten a jiggly, gelatinized cocktail? If it’s because your idea of Jell-O involves salad like this or velociraptors like this, well then fine, I understand.
But Jell-O shots are having a real moment right now, and you don’t have to be at a frat party or wearing a Cosby sweater to enjoy them. Although, Cosby sweaters are wonderful and it really couldn’t hurt to be wearing one, you know.
I can’t help but feel a little self-satisfied: I’ve been making Jell-O shots for years. But now that I’m a little older, the universe is telling me that my Jell-O shots need to grow up a little, too. How else to explain the surge of fancy “shot bites” on blogs and even a book about jelly cocktails?
When Lea sent me a link to Joy the Baker’s blog post, I knew what I had to do. Inspired by her recipes, I sought out to create a classy Jell-O shot of my own, and decided to try my hand at one of my all-time favorite cocktails, the Dark ‘n Stormy.
Following Joy’s recipe for shot bite success, I used a combination of 1 1/4 cups non-alcoholic liquid (Reed’s Extra Ginger Beer and fresh lime juice), 3/4 cup alcohol (Gosling’s Black Seal Black Rum), and 2 packets unflavored gelatin. I added a bit of fresh grated ginger because I like my Dark ‘n Stormys extra ginger-y, and I also followed her instructions for using the “perfect cube” ice cube trays, sprayed with cooking oil, to get neat square bites.
The result? Not exactly what I’d hoped. First, they were a pain in the butt to get out of the trays. To be fair, I had to transport them to another location in 70 degree sun before removing them, so that may have contributed to their falling apart (it probably definitely did).
Once I got them out, though, there was the flavor: they had a strange bitterness to them, which I guessed was the cooking spray’s fault, and I attempted to remedy that taste with a generous sprinkling of sugar. But I was still left unsatisfied with the result, and so I decided to test them again.
Even though Reed’s is my pick for ginger beer, after going back to the recipe, I decided the soda was causing the shot’s bitterness and so for the second round, I added 2 tablespoons sugar to the ginger beer and lime mixture. I also added 2 tablespoons of Licor 43 – a vanilla-scented spiced liqueur, that I happen to have lying around because it goes great with my (aka. Jose Andres’) white sangria recipe.
And this time, I decided to make the shots in hollowed out limes. It was a bit of extra work, but I figured some people wouldn’t want to pick up a cube of gelatin with their bare hands after it was sitting out for a bit – they get pretty slippery, and need a vessel to be manageable enough for a party. I had a little extra mix, so I lined a small cake pan with plastic wrap and poured in the remainder to cut shapes out of after they’d set.
The taste was greatly improved – you could taste much more of the lime juice, and the bitterness of the ginger beer was much less noticeable. Let’s not argue about the Licor 43 thing, okay? I mean, we turned the classic cocktail into a Jell-O shot. It also probably helped that I sampled them straight from the refrigerator; perhaps obviously, heat is not usually a cocktail’s friend. Also, the Jell-O “jiggler” method worked much better than trying to pry the shots out of ice cube trays – I simply used a small biscuit cutter to cut shapes out of the pan, and ate the scraps for breakfast. I mean… cocktail hour. Right.
Dark ‘n Stormy Cocktail Jellies (adapted from Joy the Baker):
Makes about 15 servings
- 6 limes (2 for juicing, plus 4 more if you’re using as cups)
- 1 cup ginger beer (from one bottle)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 packets unflavored gelatin
- 3/4 cup dark rum
- 2 tablespoons Liquor 43
Cut the limes in half. (It doesn’t matter which way you cut across, but I tried both and found from tip-to-tip the easiest to clean, rather than around the middle, if you plan on filling them up with gelatin mix later.)* Juice the limes and set aside.
*To clean the limes: using the tines of a fork, dig at the pith to get underneath, taking care not to poke a hole through the rind of the lime. Once you’ve loosened a bit of the pithy skin, grab a hold of it with your fingers and pull; you should be able to rip off the excess white pith this way. Go around the entire interior of the lime in this way. You can carefully invert the lime shell, too, to make the job easier. Once cleaned, set upright in a plastic wrap-lined pan.
*If using ice cube trays, spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside. Personally, if you don’t feel like cleaning out limes, I recommend making these the old-fashioned, Jell-O jiggler way: pouring the mixture into a high-sided pan and cutting out shapes to your liking!
Combine the rum and Liquor 43 together in a measuring cup.
In a small saucepan, combine the ginger beer, 1/4 cup lime juice (save the remainder for another cocktail!), and sugar, whisking to dissolve the sugar completely. Sprinkle the gelatin over the mix, and let stand 5 minutes.
Set the saucepan on a stovetop burner and set the heat to low – do not let the mixture boil. Whisking, dissolve the gelatin completely, for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and combine in the measuring cup with the rum mixture.
Pour the mixture into whichever vessel you chose to use. Allow to refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight if you’ve got the time. If you used the limes, when set, cut them in half or into 3rds, and serve with sugar if desired (this will make them get a bit drippy in the heat, however). If you used a pan, cut the set mixture into whichever shapes you choose, using either a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or sharp straight-edged knife, rinsing with hot water after each use. If using ice cube trays, flip upside down and run underneath warm water, then run a sharp knife around the edges and, trying very hard not to squeeze and break them, push the shots out of the molds. I used a very small teaspoon to aid this process.