The Jell-O Shot Grows Up (Seriously!)

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A few weekends back, I was celebrating Jazz Fest with some friends. There’s a certain spirit down in New Orleans that I’d never encountered anywhere else. As we left the all-day music festival — dusty, sun-tired, and thirsty, we found ourselves smack-dab in the center of an epic neighborhood block party. Backyard gates were open to reveal full bands playing to the street, folding tables covered with steaming crockpots selling gumbo and grilled racked of meat, and in the midst of the happy chaos, a girl in a neon wig selling Jell-O shots off of a simple plastic tray.

It took a whole two seconds of deliberation before one of my fine friends offered up dollars for the little novelty shots…from a stranger…in the streets.

It was good. It was green. It was Jell-O. The moment felt exactly as it should have: so right with a splash of reckless. My block party Jell-O shot revelation got me thinking about how I could fancy up the old college concoction. I’m calling my rendition of this boozy snack treat shot bites.

While they are small and jiggly and boozy, they are made from unflavored gelatin and not Jell-O brand stuffs. Using unflavored gelatin give us some breathing room to create flavor combinations that move beyond the rectangular-shaped box. We’re talking about fresh cucumber juice, lots of lime juice, fresh ginger, strawberry puree, and sweet strawberries.

For the four recipes featured below, I used a few different shaped ice cube trays (hearts, hexagons, perfect cube), but you might also consider mini disposable cups, or a mini muffin tin.

Everything I learned about fancy shot bites I learned from The Kitchn.

Sweet Tea and Ginger Lemonade Shot Bites
makes 15 cubes

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup iced tea (sweetened to your preference)
2 envelopes (5 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup bourbon
1 prepared recipe of Ginger Lemonade

Instructions

1. Lightly spray an ice cube tray with non-stick cooking spray. Wipe any excess collected spray from the ice cube tray.

2. Place iced tea in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over the iced tea and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The iced tea will wrinkle and wave but still be loose.

3. Heat over low heat for about 3 minutes until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Don’t allow the gelatin to boil.

4. Remove from heat, stir in the bourbon, and pour the iced tea and bourbon mixture into the prepared ice cube tray filling each cube halfway full.

5. Place in the refrigerator, and allow to rest until set (at least an hour).

6. In the meantime, make the Ginger Lemonade — if making from scratch (store-bought is fine). When tea shots have set to mostly solid, remove from the refrigerator and top each tea gel with ginger lemonade. Allow the tray to rest in the fridge overnight until set completely.

To remove the cubes, invert the ice cube tray and run over warm water. I also used a thin knife to slice around the edges and press out of the ice cube tray. Allow to rest in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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real
Ginger Lemonade Shot Bites
makes 15 bites

Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp granulated sugar (or more to your taste)
1 scant cup water
(You can also just use 1 1/4 cup store-bought lemonade)
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 envelopes (5 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup bourbon

Instructions

1. Lightly spray an ice cube tray with non-stick cooking spray. Wipe any excess collected spray from the ice cube tray.

2. Place lemon juice, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over the lemonade and let sit for 5 minutes. The lemonade will wrinkle and wave but still be loose.

3. Heat over low heat for about 3 minutes until the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Don’t allow the gelatin to boil.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in the bourbon.

5. Pour the lemonade and bourbon mixture into the prepared ice cube tray or over the chilled Sweet Tea Shot Bites to fill. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rest until set at least 4 hours or, better yet, overnight.

6. To remove the cubes, invert the ice rube tray and run over warm water. I also used a thin knife to slice around the edges and press out of the ice cube tray. Allow to rest in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

NEW
Strawberry Margarita Shot Bites
makes 15 shot bites

Ingredients

1 heaping cup coarsely chopped fresh strawberries (I used about 8 strawberries)
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 envelopes (5 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup tequila

Limes and sea salt for serving

Instructions

1. Lightly spray an ice cube tray with non-stick cooking spray. Wipe any excess collected spray from the ice cube tray.

2. Place strawberry chunks, water, and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of strawberry puree, and stir in lime juice.

3. Place puree in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over the puree mixture and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The puree will wrinkle and wave but still be loose.

4. Heat over low heat for about 3 minutes until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Whisk to combine. Don’t allow the gelatin to boil.

5. Remove from heat, stir in the tequila. Pour mixture into the prepared ice cube tray. Place in the refrigerator, and allow to rest until set, around 4 hours or overnight.

6. To remove the cubes, invert the ice rube tray and run over warm water. I also used a thin knife to slice around the edges and press out of the ice cube tray. This may not be entirely necessary if using a shallow heart-shaped ice mold — they may come out more easily. Allow to rest in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
green
Cucumber Green Apple Lime and Gin Shot Bites
makes 15 shot bites

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup cucumber green apple and lime juice (I made this from 1/2 cucumber, 1 green apple, and the juice of 2 limes using a juicer)
2 envelopes (5 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup gin
Instructions

1. Lightly spray an ice cube tray with non-stick cooking spray. Wipe any excess collected spray from the ice cube tray.

2. Place green juice in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over the juice and let sit for 5 minutes. The juice will wrinkle and wave but still be loose.

3. Heat over low heat for about 3 minutes until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Whisk well. Don’t allow the gelatin to boil.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in the gin. Pour the green gin mixture into the prepared ice cube tray.

5. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rest until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.

6. To remove the cubes, invert the ice rube tray and run over warm water. I also used a thin knife to slice around the edges and press out of the ice cube tray. Allow to rest in the refrigerator until ready to serve. A word about the ratios used here: This formula represents the maximum amount of alcohol we can use to create these shot bites. Any more alcohol will mess with the gelatin and our Shot Bites won’t set up properly. Heed the math. For each of these recipes, I used about 3/4 cup alcohol because I tend to like a less boozy bite these days. You can just replace any of the missing alcohol with whatever non-alcoholic liquid you’re using. On that note, you could leave out the alcohol completely to make these bites family-friendly. Remember, 2 cups total liquid means 2 envelopes of gelatin. NEXT: Joy Makes Everyone's Favorite Comfort Dessert

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