Since the Charleston changed hands a few years ago and morphed into a sexy little black dress of a bar, it became the last place anybody could expect to run into a Jell-O shot. And as far as those neon-pink shots required at spring breaks and bachelorette parties go, it still is. The Charleston’s Jell-O shots are of another class: classic cocktails with a textural twist. “People might not know what crème de violette or Luxardo are, but they see an Aviation Jell-O shot and they’re up for trying it,” says Charleston bartender and Jell-O shot chef Annemarie Katz. “They’re learning about this beautiful cocktail through a more accessible format.”
Katz debuted her Wednesday night Jell-O shots at the start of the year with a gelled take on the Pimm’s Cup simply cut into squares. Over the weeks that followed she “became obsessed,” researching recipes online, developing strategies for getting fresh citrus juice and various liquors to gel, and setting the cocktails in vintage candy molds or edible “shot glasses.” A textbook margarita was set in giant hollowed-out strawberries and rimmed in fine sea salt; classic mojitos were delivered via artfully carved cucumbers. As a play on the classic beer and a shot, Katz turned PBR into a gelled shot glass and filled each with a pour of Jameson to order. For a highbrow twist, she did the same with ginger beer, filling the molds with Fernet Branca. And lately she’s begun flexing her mixology muscles by creating her own concoctions, including a mescal and blood-orange-juice combo spiked with chili powder and lime, and a plum brandy sour sweetened with maple syrup and cinnamon.
“It sounds so silly to use the words ‘elegant’ and ‘Jell-O shot’ in the same sentence,” Katz says. “But there are enough people in the world talking about elegance in the cocktail.… I’m just trying to make it more fun.”
Shots are $3–$4, Wednesdays, 2076 N Hoyne Ave (773-489-4757).