When you hear the phrase “Jello shooter”, do you immediately think of an Animal House-inspired toga party? Think again.

We’re not talking about the nasty, day-glo, red dye #40 Jello shots of your misbegotten youth. According to Michelle Palm, author of the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, “a jelly shot is certainly alcoholic gelatin, but it’s also that step beyond the Dixie cup, taking it out of that traditional ‘Jello Shot’ genre and making it from actual ingredients, rather than a packet and a mix and a big gallon jug of vodka.” These days, jelly shots are all grown up and are making a comeback by taking their cue from classic cocktails.

Freya Estreller knows a thing or two about re-inventing the jelly shot. For her company Ludlows Cocktail Co., she created a line of all natural pre-packaged jelly shots based on classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned or the Moscow Mule. She recalls, “We wondered what would happen if we just brought Manhattan jelly shots to a dinner party instead of a bottle of wine. We would bring them to dinner parties and people would freak out over them… and it automatically changed the mood of the party. So that’s when we realized there was something there.”

As Estreller’s experience hints, bringing jelly shots to your next shindig is like a party trick.

“There’s an element of molecular gastronomy, which I think is impressive to people,” says Estreller.

Jelly shots can take the form of aperitif, amuse bouche, or daring desert. Or better yet, make it the signature cocktail at your party – pre-made for easy entertaining.

Jelly shots are surprisingly simple to make, but there are a few considerations when making your own at home. For those who are interested in the nuts and bolts (everyone else can skip ahead to the recipes),

Estreller offers up an essential rule: “With a ratio of 2 cups of liquid to 1 1/4 cups of sugar, of that liquid only 1 cup is 40 proof alcohol, max. Otherwise your shot won’t set. And with that ratio, you would use 1 1/4 tablespoons of Knox unflavored gelatin or 1 teaspoon agar agar – which will also make it vegan.”

In other words, there are two ways to set your jelly shots, with gelatin or with agar agar, which is algae, not collagen-based (thus animal-product based). Working with gelatin means you won’t have to boil any of your liquid and risk losing precious alcohol, but the agar agar makes a sturdier jelly shot which in addition to being friendly to your plant-based pals (aka your vegan friends), it will not melt at room temperature, handy if you’re unable to keep your jelly cocktails cold. Just remember, when working with agar agar, to boil the non-alcoholic liquids with the agar agar and add the alcohol after the liquid has cooled, otherwise you will be left with virgin jelly shots, which will likely be less fun.

So, are you ready for this jelly? Check out these inspiring recipes for five nouveau jelly shots and you’re guaranteed to make your guests totes jelly.

Start with a classic

A “fix” is a pre-prohibition era style of cocktail made with booze, lemon juice, and often pineapple or raspberry syrups. This jelly shot by Michelle Palm is modeled after the Brandy Fix in Harry Johnson’s Bartenders Manual, 1888.

Pineapple Brandy

Pineapple Brandy Fix Jelly Shot

Photo Courtesy of Jelly Shot Test Kitchen

Pineapple Brandy Fix Jelly Shot

Courtesy of Michelle Palm, Jelly Shot Test Kitchen


  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. Limeade Concentrate, Strained to Remove Solids
  • 1/4 cup Pineapple Juice, Strained to Remove Solids
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 4 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Brandy
  • 1 tbsp. Green Chartreuse
  • 2 envelopes Knox Gelatin (3 Envelopes if You Are Using Molds)
  • Chopped Pineapple and Lime Zest for Garnish, if Desired

Preparation: Pour the limeade concentrate, pineapple juice, water and sugar into saucepan, and sprinkle with gelatin. Allow gelatin to soak for a minute or two. Heat on low temperature, stirring constantly until gelatin and sugar are dissolved (approximately 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in brandy and the green chartreuse. Pour into pan or molds, and refrigerate until set several hours or overnight. Recommended Pan: Standard loaf pan, approximately 8” x 4” or molds.

To serve, cut into desired shapes (or unmold). Top each jelly shot with chopped pineapple and lime zest, if desired. Makes 24 to 30 shots.

Have some fun with it

Embrace the nostalgia of jelly shots by adding a childhood staple to it.

“Everyone freaks out over pop rocks. It’s like people have not seen pop rocks since they were nine, and to have it on a jelly shot just makes it even more festive. Because you’re already regressing – you’re already having a jello shot – you might as well take it all the way,” quips Freya Estreller.

She also reminds us that it’s great for entertaining because “You can’t put the pop rocks on right away. You have to put the Pop Rocks on as you serve it, so it’s another fun way to interact with your guests, because you either have to top it for them, or it becomes interactive for your guests, because they have to top it with Pop Rocks themselves.”

St. Germain Greyhound Jello Shot Squares with Pop Rocks

St. Germain Greyhound Jello Shot Squares with Pop Rocks

Photo Courtesy of Ludlows Cocktail Co.

St. Germain Greyhound Jello Shot Squares with Pop Rocks

Courtesy of Freya Estreller, Ludlow’s Cocktail Co.

Makes: 24-40 Jello Squares depending on cut

Active time 15 minutes; Refrigeration 45 min with agar and 2 hours with gelatin


  • 2/3 cup Water
  • 2/3 cup Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 1/2 Knox Unflavored Gelatin Packets (1 1/4 tbsp.) OR 1 tsp. Powdered Agar-Agar
  • 1/4 cup St. Germain
  • 1/4 cup Gin
  • 1/4 cup White Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Luxardo Cherry Liqueur

Preparation: Pour water and juice into small saucepan, sprinkle with gelatin or agar-agar and sugar mixture evenly, and let soak for a couple minutes.

IF using gelatin: Heat over medium stirring until the sugar and gelatin are both dissolved. Do not boil! Set aside to cool for 1 minute.

IF using agar-agar: Heat over medium-high stirring until the sugar and agar-agar are both dissolved and come to a boil. Set aside to cool for 1 minute.

Pour St. Germain, gin, and Luxardo into mixture. Transfer to a container with a spout, and pour into a low profile dish. Chill dish in refrigerator for 45 minutes if agar and 3 hours if gelatin. Cut into squares with pizza cutter using a thin metal spatula to gently remove. When ready to serve, top with Pop Rocks.

Pinkies Up

For the Anglophiles, Wimbelton wannabes, and lovers of finger sandwiches, we have a Pimms Cup Jelly shot worthy of the Queen.

According to Michelle Palm, “The Pimm’s Cup is one of my very favorites. The presentation on that shot is so cute, a very simple rectangle, with a bouquet of julienned fruit, tied with a cucumber ribbon. It’s just adorable.”

Pimms Cup (No. 1)

Pimms Cup (No. 1) Jelly Shots

Photo Courtesy of Jelly Shot Test Kitchen

Pimm’s Cup (No. 1) Jelly Shots

Courtesy of Michelle Palm, Jelly Shot Test Kitchen


  • 4 Strawberries
  • 1 Orange Slice (About 1″, Rind Removed), Coarsely Chopped
  • 2 Large Sprigs Fresh Mint
  • 1 (1″) Piece Cucumber, Coarsely Chopped
  • 3/4 cup Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
  • 6 Ice Cubes
  • 2/3 cup Ginger Ale
  • 2/3 cup Lemon Syrup (Recipe Follows)
  • 2 envelopes Knox Gelatin
  • Slivers of Cucumber, Strawberry, Orange, and Mint for Garnish if Desired

Preparation: Muddle together the strawberries, orange, mint, and chopped cucumber in a large cocktail shaker. Add Pimm’s and the ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain liquid through fine mesh strainer and set aside (you should have approximately 2/3 cup of liquid).

Combine ginger ale and lemon syrup (see below) in a medium saucepan and sprinkle with gelatin. Allow gelatin to soak for a minute or two. Heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is fully dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the reserved Pimm’s liquid, stirring well to blend. Pour into 1 pound loaf pan and chill until fully set, several hours or overnight.

Lemon Syrup: Combine 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 4 medium lemons, each cut into 8 wedges in a medium saucepan. Muddle the lemon wedges. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain immediately. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. (Short cut: A 50-50 mix of frozen lemonade concentrate and water may be substituted for Lemon Syrup. Make sure to strain to remove any lemon pulp!)

To serve, cut into rectangles. Add spectacular garnish. First, peel “ribbons” from cucumber using a vegetable peeler. The ribbons should be about 6″ long for easy handling. Group the slivered fruit and mint as desired, and tie each bundle with a cucumber ribbon. Trim the ribbon ends to desired length. Place a fruit bundle on each jelly shot.

For the Perfectionist with Something to Prove

Ready for some advanced techniques? Try these layered Mini Irish Car Bomb Jelly Shots from Freya Estreller, who promises, “It’s not that hard to do, but it does take time because you have to wait for each layer to set before you add the next layer. But you can taste the different layers and it looks so impressive, plus it adds a bit of complexity to it, which guests really appreciate.”

Mini Car

Mini Irish Car Bomb Jelly Shots

Photo Courtesy of Ludlows Cocktail Co.

Mini Irish Car Bomb Jelly Shots

Courtesy of Freya Estreller, Ludlow’s Cocktail Co

Makes: 24 Jello Shots

Active time 15 minutes; Refrigeration 30 minutes with agar to 2 1/2 hours with gelatin

  • 1 1/2 cups Guinness Beer, Divided into 3/4 Cups
  • 1 1/2 Knox Unflavored Gelatin Packets Divided into 1 Packet and 1/2 packet
  • OR 3/4 tsp. and 3/4 tsp. Powdered Agar-Agar
  • 1/4 cup White Granulated Sugar + 2 Tbsp. White Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Cocoa Powder
  • 1/8 cup Water
  • 1/4 cup Jameson
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • Dash of Chocolate Bitters
  • A Few Sprigs of Mint, Chopped
  • 24 1 oz. Plastic Cups

Preparation: Pour 3/4 cup Guinness, sugar, and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and sprinkle with 1 packet gelatin or 3/4 tsp. agar and allow to soak in for a minute.

IF using gelatin: Heat over medium stirring until the sugar and gelatin are both dissolved. Do not boil! Set aside to cool for 1 minute.

IF using agar-agar: Heat over medium-high stirring until the sugar and agar-agar are both dissolved and comes to a boil. Set aside to cool for 1 minute.

Add the remaining 3/4 cup of cold Guinness and dash of chocolate bitters. Pour into 1 oz. plastic cups 3/4 of the way and allow to set for about 15 minutes in the fridge if agar-agar and 2 hours if gelatin. Pour water in saucepan and sprinkle with remaining agar-agar or gelatin. Heat over medium until the agar-agar is dissolved and comes to a boil. IF using gelatin, do not boil! Just heat until dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 min.

Pour Jameson and Bailey’s into mixture, whisk, and transfer to a container with a spout. Lightly pour on top of Guinness layer and allow to set for 15 minutes if agar-agar and 30 minutes if gelatin. Serve in cups or use a thin utensil to loosen the shot from the cups to dislodge and serve. Garnish on top with mint.

Feeling adventurous?

Oaxaca is known for many things, among them mezcal and chapulines, toasted and seasoned grasshoppers that are often a street food snack.

According to Cecila Rios Murietta, founder of La Niña Mezcal, “The Grasshoppers on Grass is a special mezcal jelly shot that our team at Art Beyond the Glass designed for the Los Angeles event. It is a take on the traditional Mexican horchata agua fresca, with a coconut twist. I loved these jelly shots because there was a very good balance between the sweetness of the horchata and the acidity of the chapulines that made the mezcal’s smokiness really shine on the palate. I think it was a very special way to showcase the diversity of flavors used in Mexican cuisine that pair very well with our mezcals, but it was also amazing to see so many people brave enough to try eating bugs for the first time!”

Grasshopper on Grass

Grasshopper on Grass

Photo Courtesy of La Niña Mezca

Grasshoppers on Grass, aka La Niña Mezcal Horchata Jelly Shots

Courtesy of La Niña’s #PlayaPlayas – Jen Len, Aaron Melendrez, Aaron Alvarez, Jeremy Lake


  • 2 tsp. Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 oz. Room Temperature Water
  • 2 1/2 oz. Boiling Water
  • 2 1/2 oz. La Niña del Mezcal Primario
  • 2 oz. Coconut Milk
  • 1 oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 tbsp. Doña Rita Horchata Mix
  • Sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • Roasted Chapuline, for Garnish (available at specialty Mexican markets or online)
  • Fresh Lime Zest, for Garnish

Preparation: Combine the first two ingredients, then add the boiling water to dissolve the gelatin. Add all other ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Pour mix into desired disposable shooting vessel and let sit overnight. Garnish with roasted chapulines and fresh lime zest.