I don’t know what I was thinking. In my defense I haven’t been invited to a themed party in years, and I like science, so non-branded-Jello-brand gelled shots seem logical. I mean, maybe not in retrospect. Also: Irish Car Bomb gel-shots. Let’s skip to the part where we agree that not all Irish people put bombs under cars in the same way we can agree that not all nipples are buttery.
I’ve harbored a pretty solid fascination with making decent-quality Jello shots for years now. It happens occasionally that I eat them, and each time they are made from cheap booze and terrible Big Lots generic gelatin mix (raisin paste and salted chili flavor, of course), and I think about the potential of these things to be great.
First, though, there’s the culture of Jello shots. There’s this implication that Jello shots will get you fucked up, and to that I’ve always been a little skeptical. There’s really only one response: isn’t it just faster to drink the alcohol straight? But I’m not thinking like a teenager, I’m thinking like a 30-something that has a lot of workday memories she needs to kill in a short amount of time.
Then there’s the actual eating of the shot itself; is it chewed or swallowed whole? I always assumed chewed, because again, if you’re just swallowing it then why aren’t you just drinking the goddamn vodka straight like a normal person? Then someone pointed out: because the Jello makes it so you can’t taste it. So terrible cheap booze is solidified into what amounts to alcohol in pill form. There’s a kind of sense to it. When you chew these cheap shots, you’re stuck with Monarch vodka in your mouth for longer than you’d ever need to have it there barring post-apocalyptic dental surgery antiseptic.
So what if you used good ingredients?
I encountered the suggestion for the layered Car Bomb shots at Endless Summer, but I was immediately turned off by the quantity of gelatine used in the recipe – five envelopes of Knox gelatine to not-even three cups of liquid, when Knox’s own “Knox Blox” recipe (think Jello Jigglers, aka, Jello set up hard enough to cut into shapes and eat with your hands) calls for four envelopes to every four cups of liquid. Or an even simpler ratio: one envelope of gelatine hardens one cup of liquid to a pleasantly firmer than normal texture. So while I liked Endless Summer’s layering, it was clear that the math needed to change.
I did some creative fudging, and in retrospect maybe the middle layer should have been thicker and had less Jamesons in it and more Irish Cream, but people seemed to like them. I used 2oz plastic cups because the 1oz looked too small, but the 2oz size ended up being hair unwieldy – lots of overfull mouths and people trying to dig smaller bits out with their fingers. Not ideal. But shit, dawg, it’s a Jello shot. If the Queen shows up give her a spoon, everyone else can wing it.
The biggest weirdness is that when you put one in your mouth, the first reaction is slight revulsion, because it’s not sweet. Rather, it’s a tiny bit sweet from the Irish Cream layer, but for the most part you see this deep cherry-brown color and think you’re eating dessert. But it’s Guinness and whiskey, and that moment of mental adjustment takes a few seconds. Once the layers begin to mix in the mouth, it starts to coalesce: boozy, and the strange alchemy between the Irish Cream and the Guinness where the flavors take on a chocolatey, root-beery note.
The party was a blast, a big thanks to the ladies that arranged it. My friend Cara made what was easily the best corned beef I’ve ever had, along with colcannon with kale and bacon and a side of fried cabbage. And homemade bread. We ate well that night, my friends. Truly well.
And then Predator barfed in the trash can.
Irish Car Bomb Gel Shots
the greatest piece of advice I can offer regarding the making of gel shots is to lightly oil your shooter cups before use. pour a teaspoon of flavorless cooking oil into a small dish, gently wad up a small piece of paper towel and then soak it in the little bit of oil. using your now-oily little paper wad, quickly but thoroughly wipe down the insides of the cups, taking care to get down into the corners and all the way up the sides. no one will know that you’ve gone to this effort, but the joy of seeing people successfully disengage their shots from the cups should be reward enough for you. also, if you don’t feel like making three layers, you can combine the two Guinness layers into a single layer and put the Irish Cream layer on either the top or bottom.
2 cups Guinness, divided
2 packets gelatin (packets are .25oz each)
1/2 cup Jamesons whiskey
1/2 cup Irish Cream, Baileys or otherwise
1 packet gelatin
(see layer 1)
- First, prepare your cups by oiling them as instructed above. You will need about 30 2oz cups or 60 1oz cups. For ease of getting them into the fridge as you work, have the cups lined up and ready to pour into on a cookie sheet or two, and have room in your fridge for those cookie sheets ready to go.
- In a small saucepan, put one cup of beer and sprinkle over 2 packets of gelatine. Allow to sit, cold, for one minute before moving to the stove top and stirring while warming over medium-low heat until the gelatine has dissolved, about 5 – 7 minutes. Do not let it come to a boil. You can tell if the gelatine has dissolved by dipping a metal spoon down to the bottom and bringing a spoonful of liquid up to look at in the light – if there are nothing that looks like clear sand in the spoon, then the gelatine has dissolved.
- Off heat, pour the second cup of beer into the hot beer. For ease of pouring, transfer the mixture into a Pyrex-type measuring cup with handle and pour spout off the side. Fill each of the plastic cups the same amount – this will take some trial and error to get the liquid evenly distributed among the cups, but don’t stress about it. Place the tray of cups into the fridge to set Layer 1 while you start Layer 2.
- In the same saucepan, pour in the whiskey and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin over it to sit, cold, for one minute before moving to the stove top and stirring while warming over medium-low heat until the gelatin has dissolved. Remove from heat and pour in the Irish Cream. Transfer the mixture to the pouring cup and let the whole thing sit and cool for 5 minutes before pouring into the cups just like you did with Layer 1. Move back to fridge.
- Repeat Layer 1 for the final layer.
- Allow the shots to sit for at least four or five hours or overnight to set them fully.
March 19th, 2012 | Make It So