Created in New Orleans in the mid-1800s, the original Sazerac contained just sugar, bitters, and Cognac. It has since morphed into a combo of rye whiskey, bitters, and absinthe and was proclaimed New Orleans’s official cocktail by the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2008. We’ve turned this classic drink into a rye- and lemon-infused jelly shot by softening gelatin granules in a little water, adding lemon zest, sugar, and rye, and pouring the mixture into a pan to set up in the fridge. When it’s ready, flip it out of the pan, brush it with bitters and absinthe, sprinkle it with lemon sugar, and slice. Each jelly shot has about a third of an ounce of alcohol, so five to six jelly shots equal about one Sazerac cocktail.

Special equipment: You will need a pastry brush for this recipe.

What to buy: Sanding sugar, sometimes labeled pearl or sparkling sugar, can be found in gourmet grocery and cooking stores. It will give a bright sparkle to the tops of these jelly shots.

This recipe was featured as part of our Jelly Shots for Mardi Gras project.

  • Yields: 54 (1-1/2-by-1-inch) shots
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Active: 30 mins

Ingredients (11)

For the jelly:

  • 3 cups water
  • 8 (1/4-ounce) packets unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 medium lemons
  • 3 cups rye whiskey
  • 10 drops red food coloring

For the topping:

  • 1 teaspoon Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1/2 teaspoon angostura bitters
  • 1/2 teaspoon absinthe
  • 1/4 cup white sanding sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon


For the jelly:

  1. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Pour the water into a large saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface. Let stand undisturbed until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and zest and whisk to combine.
  3. Place the pan over low heat and whisk constantly, scraping down the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula as needed, until the gelatin and sugar dissolve and the mixture no longer feels grainy when rubbed between your fingers, about 10 minutes. (Do not let the mixture simmer, or the gelatin will not set properly.) Pour the mixture through the strainer and discard the contents of the strainer.
  4. Add the rye and food coloring to the strained mixture and whisk to combine. Pour into a 9-by-9-inch metal baking pan and refrigerate uncovered until set, at least 2 hours.

For the topping, and to serve:

  1. When ready to serve, combine both of the bitters and the absinthe in a small bowl; set aside. Place the sanding sugar and lemon zest in a second small bowl. Using your fingers, toss to combine and coat the zest with the sugar; set aside.
  2. Run a knife between the jelly block and the edges of the pan. Being careful not to get any water inside, dip the pan into a sink full of hot tap water, submerging it about halfway up the sides for about 10 seconds. Remove the pan from the water and tilt it: The jelly block should slide away from the edges. If it doesn’t, return the pan to the hot water for another 5 seconds. Invert the jelly block onto a cutting board.
  3. Using a long slicing or serrated knife, press straight down through the jelly block (do not drag the knife through) and cut it into 54 (1-1/2-by-1-inch) pieces. Brush the tops of the jelly shots with all of the bitters mixture and sprinkle evenly with all of the lemon sugar. Serve immediately.