Jello Shots with Unflavored Gelatin

Did you know you can make just about any flavor of jello shots with unflavored gelatin? This simple formula is a handy trick that helps you dream up any creative flavor combination or color.

jigglers of champagne jello shots on a white background
Champagne Jello Shots

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Jello Shots with Unflavored Gelatin

Classic jello shots made from a box of Jell-O are perfectly fine, but there is one major downside: They only make so many flavors and different colors!

They’re also pretty sugary and brightly colored. If you ever wished you could have more control over the flavor, sugar content or food coloring for any reason, then you are not out of options!

Unflavored gelatin can be used to make jello shots in just about any flavor you dream of. You can adjust the sugar content and skip the food color if you like.

In fact, this is my preferred way to make jello shots! I think having all that control is a good idea when it comes to this fun dessert.

My champagne jello shots are my most popular, especially for the new year — they’re made with lemonade and champagne.

Another favorite around here are these Irish coffee jello shots, which are super fun for St. Patrick’s Day. They’re made with two layers, one of coffee jello with coffee liqueur and a cream layer with Irish cream liqueur.

You can really have so much fun coming up with fun flavor combinations, and all you need is one simple formula. I put together the ultimate guide for using plain gelatin to make fun jello shots.

a box of gelatin and 2 envelopes on a marble background

What is gelatin?

Gelatin, or gelatine, is a translucent, colorless and flavorless powder made from collagen, a protein substance found in the bones, skin and connective tissue of animals.

If you’ve ever simmered meat bones for soup and then discovered a jelly-like substance when you grab the leftovers from the fridge, then you’ve witnessed gelatin in its natural form.

According to Knox, the most widely available brand of gelatin, “Unflavoured gelatine is extracted from the collagen by hot water, then concentrated and filtered for purity and clarity. It is cooled, extruded and dried into glassy brittle strips. In 1889, Charles B. Knox of Johnston, New York discovered a method of granulating gelatine by breaking down the strips using high speed mills.”

Today, unflavored gelatin can be purchased in sheets or in the powder form. Knox sells large containers of gelatin, but I much prefer the small, single-use envelopes. However, you can use the sheets of gelatin to make jello shots.

What to know about unflavored gelatin

Most unflavored gelatin comes in pre-measured, individual envelopes for convenient use. Typically, each envelope is equal to 1 tablespoon of plain gelatin and will gel 2 cups of liquid.

Gelatin needs to “bloom” in order to make jello shots. To bloom gelatin, you sprinkle it over liquid, which helps to soften and dissolve it into the liquid. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s a vital step in making jello shots.

Treat gelatin sheets the same way — lower them into the liquid and let them bloom for the same amount of time.

Once poured into molds and refrigerated, the gelatin in the liquid will make it set into the firm, jiggly substance we know and love.

margarita jello shots on a white tray
Margarita Jello Shots

The ultimate jello shot formula

This basic formula is a super easy recipe that will yield about 16 1-ounce jello shots:

  • 1 cup alcohol
  • 1 cup non-alcoholic liquid
  • 2 envelopes (5½ teaspoons) gelatin powder

I will also add ¼ to ½ cup of sugar if the liquids aren’t sweet. For example, cranberry juice is super tart and if I were using it to make jello shots, I would definitely add some sugar into the mix. You can also use simple syrup, but it will count toward your liquids.

Jello shot combinations

If you’re using my formula above, here are some basic flavor combinations you can use with your 2 envelopes gelatin powder:

  • Rum & Coke jello shots: 1 cup rum + 1 cup cola
  • Margarita jello shots: ¾ cup tequila + ¼ cup triple sec + 1 cup lime juice + ½ cup sugar
  • Vodka cranberry jello shots: 1 cup vodka + 1 cup cranberry juice + ½ cup sugar
  • Fireball jello shots: 1 cup cinnamon whiskey + 1 cup apple cider + cinnamon sugar rim
  • Apple pie jello shots: 1 cup bourbon + 1 cup apple cider
  • Caramel apple jello shots: 1 cup caramel vodka + 1 cup apple juice
  • Piña Colada jello shots: 1 cup coconut rum + 1 cup pineapple juice
  • Screwdriver jello shots: 1 cup vodka + 1 cup orange juice
  • Blue Hawaiian jello shots: ½ cup blue curaçao + ½ cup coconut rum + ½ cup pineapple juice + ½ cup sour mix

How to make jello shots with unflavored gelatin

Here’s how to make jello shots with unflavored gelatin powder:

First, lightly spray the mold(s) you are using with cooking spray.

a hand sprinkling jello into grapefruit juice

Next, combine the non-alcoholic liquids you are using in a small saucepan. Then sprinkle the gelatin over top.

a wrinkled surface on liquid from bloomed gelatin

Allow to rest for 5 minutes until the gelatin is softened and the liquid’s surface appears slightly wrinkled.

stirring bloomed gelatin into grapefruit juice

Warm the gelatin mixture over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Do not let boil. Remove from heat. (If you are adding sugar too, add it in this step so it can dissolve in the liquid with the gelatin.)

Whisk in any alcoholic components you are using.

Pour mixture evenly among the molds. (I like to use a measuring cup with a pour spout, but you could also use a clean turkey baster or a funnel.) Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.

If using a mold or baking dish (in lieu of cups), dip bottom of pan into hot water for 5 seconds. Run a paring knife around the edge of the jello to loosen. Flip out the molds onto a wax paper-lined surface. Keep chilled until serving.

If you are adding any garnishes such as candy, fresh fruit, a salt rim or sprinkles, be sure to add those just before serving and not during setting so the garnishes look and taste the freshest.

a stack of baby guinness jello shots
Baby Guinness Irish Coffee Jello Shots

How to make layered jello shots with gelatin

If you want to make a layered jello shot, the process is very similar, but you will need to chill each layer in between.

  1. Prepare your molds. Grease them lightly with cooking spray.
    Note: If you are making 2 equal layers, you will need twice as many molds. If you are making 3 layers, you will need three times as many molds, and so forth. (If you are making them look like miniature beers, such as these Baby Guinness jello shots, you will need to make a half-recipe for the top “foamy” layer.)
  2. Bloom the gelatin, then warm up the non-alcoholic liquids to dissolve the gelatin. Don’t let it boil. Add any sugar, if using, and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add the first layer to your molds, remembering to fill it halfway for two layers, a third of the way for three layers, and so forth. Let the first layer set up in the fridge for 3-4 hours before you make and add the next layer.
  4. Once the bottom layer has set, start making your next layer. Let it cool slightly before pouring it onto already chilled jello shots.
  5. Pour the second layer on top of the first. Then let that set up in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
  6. Repeat until all your layers are ready and set in the fridge!
stacks of jello shots with lids

Best cups for jell-o shots

Jello shots, AKA jelly shots, can take many forms!

You can pour the liquid into a lightly-greased baking dish, then cut them into squares or shapes with cookie cutters to make them more like jello jigglers (remember those?). You can make a greater number this way, so I love it for my champagne jello shots especially.

However, jello shots are most often served in little cups for individual enjoyment.

Jello shot cups with lids are great for storing a lot in the fridge (they stack!) and for transporting (their smooth tops are protected!)

These plastic shot glasses, which I use in these paloma jello shots, are great for shots that look like mini cocktails.

If you don’t have enough of the small shot glasses, you can also use ice cube trays or even a muffin tin. Make sure to grease them lightly with cooking spray so they will release from their molds easier.

At Halloween, these plastic syringes make for a super creepy presentation! (Especially if you pair them with vodka gummy worms.)

a tray of bourbon jello shots
Fireball Jello Shots

How to eat jello shots

If you’re using cups, the best way to eat jello shots is to rub your finger around the inside edge of the container to loosen the gelatin. (If you grease the cups lightly beforehand, this will be easier.) Then toss the shot back and suck it out. It’s not glamorous!

You can also use a butter knife instead or use a spoon to scoop out the jello if you prefer. There are no rules!

If you are eating them jigglers-style, just pop one of these fun treats into your mouth!

These plastic jello shot cups have an “easy squeeze” design to make them easy to get out.

Can you freeze jello shots?

No, jello shots do not freeze well. You can make them a couple of days ahead of your event, however. They will keep in the fridge. If you like them a bit softer, you can let them sit out at room temperature.

Can you get drunk from jello shots?

Technically, yes, but it might take a while. There’s not that much alcohol per shot (roughly 4 jello shots would equal 1 ounce of booze) so you’d need to enjoy a lot of them.

a tray of paloma jello shots

Jello shot recipes with unflavored gelatin

If you are looking for some more creative spins on basic jello shots, check out these recipes made with plain gelatin.

closeup of edible gold and silver stars on jello shots

Champagne Jello Shots

Yield: 12 Jello shots
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Enjoy these sparkly gelatin alcoholic treats for celebrations all year long.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sparkling cider or sparkling lemonade
  • 2 packets gelatin (.5 ounces total)
  • 3/4 cup sparkling wine (such as spumante, champagne or prosecco)
  • 1/4 cup vodka (or flavored vodka)
  • 2 tablespoons sanding sugar (see note)

Instructions

  1. Prepare molds. (I used plastic shot glass cups, but you can also use cupcake wrappers or mini-muffin tins.) Spray them lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle the sanding sugars in the bottoms of the molds.
  2. Soften gelatin. Whisk together sparkling cider or lemonade with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over top and allow to rest for 5 minutes until gelatin is softened and the liquid’s surface appears slightly wrinkled.
  3. Dissolve the gelatin. Warm the liquid over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Do not let boil. Remove from heat.
  4. Add liquor. Whisk in the vodka and champagne.
  5. Fill the molds. Distribute the liquid evenly among the molds. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.
  6. Serve. If using a mold (in lieu of cups), dip bottom of pan into hot water for 5 seconds. Run a paring knife around the edge of the Jello to loosen. Flip out the molds onto a wax paper-lined surface. Keep chilled until serving. Sprinkle with more sanding sugars before serving.

Notes

I tried both lemon vodka and plain vodka in this recipe, and both were excellent.

The sanding sugars are optional, but create a bubbly look for each jell-o shot. Add a pinch to the bottom of each shot glass before adding the gelatin mixture, then add another sprinkle to the top once the shots have hardened, just before serving.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 53Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 1g

Did you make this recipe?

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