Glow in the Dark Jello

This isn’t a cheat, and it’s not an optical illusion—these are simply gin and tonic jellos made by adding gelatin to a gin and tonic and leaving it to set. So why are they glowing that fantastic ghostly color? The answer is that quinine–the bitter flavoring in tonic water–glows under a UV fluorescent light, which can easily be found at hardware stores or on the web. (The bigger the bulb, the better the glow.)

The great thing about this jello, other than its glowiness, is that you can serve it either before the meal as a solid gin and tonic–complete with its bubbles captured in the gelatin so it even retains a little fizz–or you can have them after your meal as a wonderfully crazy dessert. Either way, it’s best to set them on the table with the lights on without drawing undue attention to them. Then place your fluorescent bulb as close to the jello as you can before you you switch off the lights.–Stefan Gates

LC Teetotalling Toddlers Note

Want to serve this specter of a spectacle to kids or teetotallers? The rather crazily creative author swears it works just as well when made without the gin. It also works just as well in shot form as opposed to a single large mold, a fact that we can personally vouch for. Lacking either of those containers, you could opt for a teacup, a teensy brioche mold, or, well, heck, just about anything will suffice.

Special Equipment: gelatin molds or Bundt pans of any size or shot glasses or anything you can think to use as a mold or just use a baking dish and some spooky-shaped cookie cutters

Glow in the Dark Jello Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 11 H, 35 M
  • Servings vary

Ingredients

  • 2 packages sheet gelatin (enough to set 2 quarts firmly—usually about 50 percent more than listed on the package)
  • 2 cups decent gin (if you don’t want to serve alcohol, you can substitute chilled tonic water)
  • Juice of 3 large limes or lemons
  • 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) tonic water, chilled
  • Vegetable oil if using molds

Directions

  • 1. Cut the gelatin sheets into small pieces using scissors and place them in a large heatproof bowl. Pour 1 cup of gin over the gelatin and leave for 10 minutes, until the gelatin starts to soften.
  • 2. Place the bowl of boozy gelatin in the microwave and heat on high power for 1 1/2 minutes or place the bowl over but not touching a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Do not let the gelatin come to a boil.
  • 3. Stir the remaining gin into the gelatin along with the lime or lemon juice. Then add the chilled tonic water, pouring it in as slowly and carefully as you can to keep it from fizzing. You want to lock in all those bubbles so they have a stunning effect in the jello.
  • 4. If using gelatin molds, slick them using a paper towel soaked with vegetable oil. Pour the gin and tonic mixture—again, pour it slowly and carefully to minimizing bubbling—into your gelatin molds or glasses or even into a simple baking dish (you’ll later need to cut the jello into cubes or shapes using a knife or spooky-shaped cookie cutters). Place in the fridge to set for about 6 hours.
  • 5. Now’s the fun part. Serve it under a fluorescent UV light. The darker it is, the better the effect, so it’s best at night, with the lights turned out and the UV bulb as close to the jellos as possible!
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Helen Doberstein

Oct 28, 2011

My kids (ages 25 and 27) were totally jazzed about this one. Having their experience at making Jell-O shots behind me, I forged ahead. I split the recipe into two batches, since I don’t like gin, and they don’t like vodka. I followed the directions as written, and used lime juice for the vodka and lemon for the gin.

I poured the Jell-O into waxed Dixie cups, like the dentist uses, and allowed them to set. That way there’s no oily taste from the molds, and you just peel them back to eat.

After bringing them out on the deck, where everyone was standing by with black lights, I can say the kids and adults alike LOVED this one. The Jell-O shots not only glowed, they literally lit up the night. My husband has an industrial-size black light for his work, so we got to really see what these can do. Who needs outdoor lighting when you could almost read by the light these gave off? We all agreed the texture is good, but the alcohol with the tonic water makes for a little bitter aftertaste.

We all found that two cups of alcohol is overwhelming. I don’t drink often, so I thought that might be just me, but they all agreed. I only used one cup of gin in that batch, and they found it much more palatable. I will certainly do this one again, but will decrease the alcohol content and maybe add something to sweeten it to offset the bitterness. All in all, totally fun.

Comments
Comments
  1. Garrett Dent says:

    Glow in the dark Jello. COOL.

  2. Hands down COOLEST libation EVER!!! Love this! Thanks for posting!

  3. Sandie says:

    Coolest thing. Ever.

  4. John DePaula says:

    For American readers: One envelope of gelatin will firmly set 2 cups of liquid. Therefore for about 8 cups of liquid in the recipe, you’ll need 4 envelopes of gelatin; though you may wish to err on the side of caution and add a bit more.

    More detail: To be technical about it, the way the recipe is written you can’t be exactly sure about how much gelatin to use without trying it. Gelatin sheets typically come in three strengths: gold, silver and bronze. To complicate the matter, sheets can vary in size, too. What you really need to know is the strength and weight of the gelatin, which isn’t specified.

    One envelope of gelatin can be anywhere from 3 – 5 sheets. For gelatin convertion, try 1 env. to 3-1/2 sheets as a starting point.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Many thanks for clarifying something that’s a little tricky and comes with experience, John. Appreciate it.

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks for the explanation! I was wondering if any Americans have tried this yet and have it down to an exact science? I am planning to bring jello shots to a party on Saturday and I dont want to mess it up at the last minute :( Super excited about this though… Does it matter which flavor? Thanks!!!!

      • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

        Amanda, I don’t believe it matters what flavor. What’s paramount, though, is that you have a UV fluorescent light. And now we’re sorta vicariously excited for your party, so do let us know how it goes!

  5. Okay, that’s crazy. But COOL!

  6. beveanne mckinley says:

    Just signed up for your emails after this first one. I’m wondering why it took me so long, I’ve been coming to your pages since ’04 and had no idea how many awe-inspiring articles you have. Mind you, I’m a begining cook, and after my personal economic downturn I’m learning there’s life after business lunches and dinners to go. Very happy to discover how much fun this can be.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      And we’re very happy to have you, Beveanne. Many thanks for your kind words. We’re honored to be a part of your learning curve. And yes, it’s a continual process, this discovery thing…so we try to have as many laughs along the way as we can muster!

  7. Mel cooks says:

    This looks so cool! Can’t wait to try the non-alcoholic recipe for my nephew! He loves Jello and things that glow in the dark.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Excellent! Let us know how it goes, Mel!

      • Hannah says:

        hey, I noticed you said we need a UV light for the Jello to glow. Or is it fine if its dark?

        • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

          Hannah, in order for the quinine in the jello to really glow, you do need a UV light. You can find them relatively inexpensively at your local hardware store…

  8. K Fayyad says:

    My kids and I really want this to work. I tried this with plain gelatin envelopes and only a well known brand of tonic water. It set well and has the bubbles and nice fizz. However it doesn’t glow. We tried a 18wattt energy saver bulb and a 23watt one. Those are fluorescent but maybe not right for this. Can you please help? Thanks.

  9. Heather says:

    This is great! I actually got orange jello to glow. I did discover there is a difference between Schweppes Tonic and Shasta Tonic. Schweppes has a green glow with a black light and Shasta has a blue glow just in the bottles. I’ll be using the Shasta tonic water today with blue, green, yellow, and purple jello to see what works and what doesn’t.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Heather, that is too cool. You could light the whole house that way. Thanks for sharing your discoveries–we’d love to see photos if you can wrangle some!

  10. marcusthemad says:

    If you have the means and skills, try making some ‘coasters’ with UV LEDs and rechargable batteries. It would make your UV source more subtle and portable…

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      marcusthemad, love the sounds of that, although i definitely do not have the means. mind offering up just a few more details…?

  11. Cheree Cleghorn says:

    This is just a great idea for Halloween and versatile for other times of the year. My pediatric eaters will think this is the best thing since…Halloween. Very, very cool.
    Thanks for something different but also the general advice about gelatin sheets. I have been trying to solve this problem about how to calculate proportions for other reasons. Definitely a winner and so much fun.

  12. I’m more of a Tequila and diet tonic person. I imagine that would work just as well, right?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      The most essential element, Vicki, is that you still use tonic water with quinine, which is what has the glow-in-the-dark effect under the right light. As for the tequila and diet tonic combo, we can’t speak to that, but clearly you can! Have fun making and imbibing this…

  13. KitchenBeard says:

    We did this for a fundraiser at a bar in the Castro a few years ago and was lots of fun. Swapped out the gin for vodka. As people got drunk the pics of people’s glowing mouths grew in frequency.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Looooooooove that, KitchenBeard! You don’t, perchance, still have any pics of glowing mouths…?

  14. Lorraine Clayton says:

    This weekend’s jello shots will never be the same! Thanks for the heads up on the difference between brands. Can’t wait to try it.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Can’t wait to hear what you think, Lorraine! Also, a reader told us that the pictures of people’s glow-in-the-dark mouths after they’d gulped the shots were a riot. Just wanted to make certain you had a camera at the ready…

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail