Wiggly, jiggly, boozey fun, no bones involved.
December 6, 2010 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I want to make vegan jello/jelly shots for an upcoming party. I am not vegan, have never made regular jello shots, and have never used agar. Please advise.

I'm looking for first-hand experience to find the best formulas, the best alcohol to use, and the best flavoring. I want to make the vegan shots as similar to regular jello shots as possible, as most people at the party aren't vegan, and I don't want them to think the shots are gross or (too) weird. From what I can tell, the flavoring in the shots comes from the fruit juice you add as well as the liquor, so I've considered trying to make the jelly equivalent of my favorite drink: cranberry juice, limoncello, gin or vodka. Does that sound good? Should I make a variety of flavors? How boozey can I make them before they get gross?

Basically, I want to know everything about vegan jello shots that you can tell me. Go nuts.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
No advice for vegan jello shots, but I do recommend buying flavored vodka and matching it to your jello flavor (or mixing it if you find a good combo). Blanton's makes a variety of cheap and tasty flavored vodkas. Lemon vodka and lemon jello is always a hit.

The only thing that makes jello shots super gross (to me) is when they're too strong. I may as well do a shot of liquor if it's gonna taste that strong. Half water, half booze is a safe mix.
posted by ACN09 at 11:03 AM on December 6, 2010

Previously on mefi, You can use gelatin but it is tricky compared to using jello. You can mix alcohol up to 50% of the liquid but I think 25% holds up much better.

The best ones I have ever made were oranges cut in half and hallowed out. Fill the oranges with jello, let set and cut into slices.
posted by Felex at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't have a recipe, just some advice.

Practice before you make them for a party.
I have found a huge variability between agars.
What one recipe calls for may not work at all with your agar.

I made one dessert that set up so hard that when you ate it, nothing dissolved in your mouth. As you chewed, you just created ever smaller bits of this rubbery substance. It was . . . an exerience. You want people to consume your shots, not play with them to see if they bounce. You should have seen my cul-de-sac after that.
posted by Seamus at 11:15 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: just be aware that Agar feels differently in the mouth then does gelatin because it doesn't melt. There is nothing you can do about that and they will seem a bit weird to everyone. But not so weird that people will be bothered by it. I mean its not like the jello shot is straight from Escoffier.
posted by JPD at 11:15 AM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: You can use gelatin but...

Gelatin is made from animal bones and is definitely not vegan, or even vegetarian. I love agar and find it dissolves fine. I make a low-carb vegan jello by brewing red berry herbal tea, adding sweetener, and then adding agar and boiling for 3-5 minutes to get it to dissolve. Then chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. As you're not low-carbing just use some tasty fruit juice and boil with the agar. It will come out great.

Unfortunately, I've never had a jello shot so I can't speak to the alcohol part of the question.
posted by hazyjane at 11:21 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: I've heard that a lot of refined sugar isn't actually vegan because of something they do with cow bones. Is this true? Would I be secretly tainting my friends if I used Domino? What else should I use instead?

Felex:I've seen My Jello Americans before, and St. Alia's recent jello thread is actually a big part of why I'm asking. The blog doesn't give any measurements, though.

Seamus and hazyjane, do you have the recipes you used? I don't know what type of agar I'll be using—whatever I can find at the local vegan grocery, I guess.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: The few times I've made vegan jello shots, I've just bought vegan jel dessert from veganstore.com. It comes in cherry, raspberry, strawberry, orange, and unflavored. I usually use half vodka (usually the cheap stuff in the plastic jug) and half water or fruit juice; too much more vodka than that and the jel doesn't really set.
posted by shamash at 11:31 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, duh. Seamus started out by saying he didn't have a recipe. Oops.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:31 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Shamash, have you had traditional jello shots that you could compare yours to? How about agar shots?
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:40 AM on December 6, 2010

Some vegans won't eat refined sugar because the refining process does involve animal bones, yes. Other vegans won't care, just like some vegans won't eat honey and some will. You might want to go with something less...fraught.
posted by rtha at 11:44 AM on December 6, 2010

My recipe is just to brew about 250 ml of extra strong red berry herbal tea (I use 5 teabags), add in a couple of spoonfuls of splenda, then a soup spoon of agar. I take out the teabags and boil for around 5 minutes and then put it in the fridge. It's done when it cools (about 3 hours).

I like Clearspring brand agar if it's available where you live.

It looks like sugar isn't vegan,, which I didn't realize until I just googled it, but none of my vegan friends avoid sugar.
posted by hazyjane at 11:44 AM on December 6, 2010

I forgot my sugar/bones link.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2010

You can find sugar that will specifically say it isn't refined through bone char. Most of the vegans I know personally don't care too much about that, though.
posted by something something at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2010

Agar shots are awesome! Agar is a sugar unlike Jello, which is a protein that denatures in ~37% alcohol, thus it is possible, though difficult, to make very high abv agar shots.

If this sounds interesting to you here is a really stupid procedure:

If you pour Everclear into a pot which sealed well with except for a hole in it, then seal the edge of the pot more with duct tape and made a somewhat dangerous makeshift condenser">condenser out of aluminum foil, a wet hand towel, a dowel rod and more duct tape, you can get it started. With the apparatus set up if you get the ethanol to boil, quickly remove the "condenser", poured dry agar powder through the hole, replace the aluminum foil and started swirling it. To your great disappointment the agar will never melt.

The problem, if you go through an old chemistry textbook, is that the boiling point of Ethanol is 78.4 °C and agar's melting point is 85°C. Thus, if you carefully melt a ~50% agar w/v solution, it won't necessarily all get into solution, and dilute that ~96°C agar into ~50 volumes of ~76°C ethanol, It should work. It will make an agar gel that mostly looks and feels like a normal 1% agar gel but with beads of what must be ethanol that squirt out when poked. I'm not sure what percentage it will end up but depending on the quality of your condenser it may end up 50-80%

To be clear, THIS IS A REALLY DUMB IDEA. The flash point of ethanol is 13°C and the autoignition temperature is 422°C, which means that any kind of flame anywhere may SET THIS BOMB OFF. If any of the condensing ethanol leaks and touches the heating element you use, it will produce flame, which may SET THIS BOMB OFF. If the the concentration in the air around the pot builds up to the wrong level, it may SET THIS BOMB OFF.

The smart way to do something like this is to find a chemistry lab with an appropriate fire safety hood and actual glassware including a real condenser, wear appropriate PPEs, and for God's sake don't eat it. It will taste both painful and terrible anyway.

One part water and two parts 151 Rum with premixed coconut agar powder however is reasonably safe but very delicious. Make it according to the instructions on the box but with a good lid. Just keep in mind that anything more than the tiniest nibble needs to be chased a lot more than you would expect.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:49 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've only had traditional jello shots once or twice, but mine seemed to hold up pretty well to them. I think the vegan jel is less slimy than gelatin-based jello, but that's not a negative. Anyway, my omnivore party guests had no complaints!
posted by shamash at 12:04 PM on December 6, 2010

(Sorry, I missed the second part of your question... I've never had an agar shot; my vegan friends use the jel dessert, because it's fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive.)
posted by shamash at 12:05 PM on December 6, 2010

Re vegans and sugar, Whole Foods (and other health food store things) sells vegan sugar. It is exactly like normal, non-vegan sugar. In my experience, vegans do care about that; I'm a vegetarian and still buy the vegan sugar. It's on the same aisle at WFM with the fake boxed flavored jello, if you decide you want to try that!
posted by lysimache at 12:11 PM on December 6, 2010

Places like Whole Foods have sugar that's specifically labeled as vegan. I personally only buy that kind, but man, if a friend went through the trouble to make agar Jello shots just to accomodate me I wouldn't be checking out the sugar bag, I'd be giving them a high-five.
posted by lhall at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: There is no Whole Foods near me. The best place for vegan ingredients is either Healthy Life Market or this local place. Fancier grocery chains don't exist in my area; the best we have is a comparatively-upscale Kroger in a neighboring town.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 12:29 PM on December 6, 2010

I would also recommend two parts water to one part whiskey as the fluid to mix with this coffee agar
posted by Blasdelb at 12:48 PM on December 6, 2010

From what I can tell, the flavoring in the shots comes from the fruit juice you add as well as the liquor, so I've considered trying to make the jelly equivalent of my favorite drink: cranberry juice, limoncello, gin or vodka. Does that sound good? Should I make a variety of flavors? How boozey can I make them before they get gross?

Obviously you can make your gel-based alcoholic treats however you want, but in my opinion you seem to be kind of missing the point of a jello shot. A shot of any kind is really just an alcohol delivery system, and the emphasis is usually on either dulling the alcohol taste (such as by serving the shots very cold) or by masking it with other flavors (such using salt and a lime with a tequila shot). A jello shot does both, by making it easier to swallow the whole shot more or less intact and by adding a strong fruit flavor. You should not really be thinking in terms of what would taste good in a sip-able mixed drink.

I don't have any experience using vegan replacements for jello, but as long as it's a cool color, has the right consistency, you have a decent amount of alcohol in there, and you overpower the alcohol taste with fruit flavor of some kind you should be okay. The cups you serve it in are also important, you want to be able to easily squeeze it out without it getting stuck on the sides. If you want to get super-fancy there are tiny plastic cups you can buy that have a rotating plastic arm that can be used to scrape the shot from the cup before you eat it.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:59 PM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: We had the non-vegan version of these: http://www.savoryreviews.com/2010/06/02/lemon-drop-jello-shots/ and these: http://www.savoryreviews.com/2009/09/16/orange-slice-jello-shots/ at Thanksgiving and they were very, very good -- the lemon drop was a tad better.

It took care of the trying to get the last of the shot out of the Dixie cup, also was a lot more lovely.
posted by Gucky at 1:23 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Regarding taste of shots: I have had delicious jello shots, and I've had nasty jello shots. I prefer delicious. The shots here seem more desirable than shots made with everclear.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 1:25 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Gucky, those lemon drops look awesome. I think that's the flavor I'll go for.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 1:28 PM on December 6, 2010

Florida Crystals sugar is vegan and I've seen it in lots of regular markets as well as Whole Foods. Kroger may indeed have it. It's good stuff, and it's very cool of you to be so thoughtful.

Have fun!
posted by mintcake! at 1:29 PM on December 6, 2010

Luxirare has some advice on the agar jello shots, but not necessarily a recipe (scroll down a bit).
posted by romakimmy at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2010

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