Jello Shots are the epitome of fun, carefree drinking—it’s pretty much impossible to scowl while eating one. But if you’re presented with a Jello Shot for the first time, or if you’re taking one in polite company, it can be hard to know exactly how to down the jiggly shooter with composure (and without making a fool of yourself). So we talked to Chris Williams, bar manager of The Meatball Shop, which is home of all sorts of Jello Shot varieties (Margarita Jello Shots, Gin n Juice Jello Shots, Long Island Iced Tea Jello Shots, you name it). Heed his expert advice so you look like a pro the next you down one of these wiggly, wobbly shots.
DO Use a Tool to Get Jello Shots Out of a Glass Shot Glass
The Meatball Shop serves their Jello Shots in glass shot glasses, which would be hard to shoot without a little help. “Generally, if you’re going to catch one out of glass, there will be a toothpick or some other implement given along with it to loosen it from the glass,” Williams explains. “You’re going to take your toothpick and run it around the edge. What you want to make sure is that it comes off the bottom of the glass. Make sure it disconnects.” Once the shot is free from the glass, you can simply tip it back into your mouth or give it a little nudge using the toothpick.
DON’T Use the Toothpick to Break Up the Shot
Williams loves to present the uber-American Jello Shot to visitors from around the world, but he’s noticed tourists from the U.K. in particular tend to take Jello Shots the wrong way. “For some reason, people from the U.K. take it and swish it around so it becomes an impossibly gloopy thing, and then they throw it back with every appearance of enjoyment,” he says. “I tried it and it’s disgusting. It’s a textural nightmare. It’s like cold, boozy tapioca.”
DO Feel Free to Use Your Finger for a Jello Shot Served in Plastic
If the shot is presented in a plastic cup instead of a real shot glass, it may not come with a toothpick. In that case (because the occasion is probably less formal given the plasticware), you should use the tools Mother Nature gave you and run your finger around the edge of the cup to loosen the shot. “Loosen it up old school like you’re in college,” Williams adds. He also points out that if you feel the shot has enough gelatin, you can simply pluck it out of the cup with your fingers and pop it into your mouth.
DO Squeeze Plastic Cups
If there’s not a cocktail napkin in sight, you might not want to use your fingers to free the Jello Shot. Squeezing a plastic cup as you tilt the shot back works just fine. Assuming your host used food grade plastic, then there’s little chance the cup will break as you squeeze it.
DON’T Use Your Tongue on a Glass Shot Glass
Your tongue is not dextrous enough to free a Jello Shot from a glass shot glass. “You’re going to look very, very silly,” Williams says. “You’re going to look like a cow trying to lick the inside of a bowl because these [shot glasses] are very clear and we can see your tongue lapping around. It doesn’t quite give you the torque.”
DO Use Your Tongue on a Plastic Shot Glass
On the other hand, he says, “If you have the short, wide, round plastic ones, then absolutely. Go nuts.” Plus, he’s ready with a backup plan if you still have trouble. “If you start that and it’s not working out, you can go back to the squeeze method, and you’re golden.”
DO Swish the Shot Like Mouthwash
Williams suggests breaking up the shot a bit in your mouth instead of trying to gulp it down whole. “Clench your teeth and treat it like mouthwash,” he says. “If they’re made to the right consistency, once it warms up in your mouth a little bit, you can swish it around and it becomes the consistency of cough syrup but with a better flavor.” He does warn that a Jello Shot made with too much gelatin won’t break down quite the same way and will split into chunks. At that point, you have no choice but to swallow.
DO Expect Shots from Syringes to Be Looser
Ambitious drinkers will always invent new ways to get alcohol from bottle to stomach. A newer iteration of the Jello Shot is served from an oversized syringe. If you’re presented with this contraption, just press down on the plunger while pointing the syringe into your mouth—but do know what you’re getting into. To squeeze easily from the syringe, the shot will be looser in consistency and sort of gloopy by the time it hits your mouth.
DO Eat Shots from Fruit Rinds Like Any Other Fruit Slice
On occasion, we prefer to serve our fruit flavored Jello Shots from fruit rinds in a boozy jello salad of sorts. The best way to eat this type of shot, Williams says, is to bite it whole from the rind, just like you would with the fruit itself.
DO Expect to Taste the Booze
Jello Shots tend to taste pretty boozy, thanks to the physics of the shot. “The alcohol will leap out of the gelatin before anything else, so it’ll hit your tongue first,” Williams explains. “The gel will interfere with your tasting of sugar, with sour a bit, but none at all with alcohol. You’ll taste the alcohol without necessarily getting the same kind of balance from the sugar or the juice.”
DON’T Expect Jello Shots to Get You Drunk
The alcohol in a Jello Shot may jump out and make you believe it’s super high-ABV, but that’s unlikely. “Jello Shots should be less boozy than a standard cocktail as far as the amount of booze,” Williams says. While people can go heavier on the booze, the standard Jello Shot holds significantly less alcohol than a regular shot. That’s the great thing about Jello Shots, Williams says. “You can have fun, throw back a couple Jello Shots and still be fine.”
DON’T Take Yourself Too Seriously
“Jello Shots are not meant to be formal,” Williams says. “No one has ever taken a Jello Shot in a tuxedo.” After pausing, he adds, “Actually, there are weddings in Florida—but aside from that, no one is going to judge you as long as you’ve got confidence.”