This isn’t a cheat, and it’s not an optical illusion — these are simply gin and tonic jellos made by adding gelatin to G&T and leaving them to set. So why are they glowing that fantastic ghostly color? The answer is that quinine (the bitter flavoring in tonic water) glows under UV fluorescent light. If you want to serve this to kids or teetotallers, it works just as well without the gin.
The great thing about G&T jello (other than its glowiness) is that you can serve it either before the meal as a solid G&T, complete with its bubbles captured in the gelatin (yes, the picture below really does show a G&T with trapped bubbles, and the gelatin even retains a little fizz), or you can have them after your meal as a wonderfully crazy dessert. Either way, it’s best to place them all on the table without drawing attention to them, and then switch on your fluorescent bulb and place it as close to the jellos as is safe before you switch off the lights.
Just buy a UV fluorescent light (easily found at hardware stores or on the web) and you’re off. The bigger the bulb, the better the glow. I should add that the inspiration for these jellos comes from my crazy chemist friend Dr. Andrea Sella and the equally crazy Bompass & Parr, self-described jellymongers to the great and the good, who kindly showed me and some fascinated kids how to make a fluorescent St. Paul’s Cathedral for my Gastronuts TV show.
- 2 packages of sheet gelatin (enough to set 2 quarts firmly—usually about 50 percent more than listed on the package)
- 2 cups good-quality gin (you can substitute extra tonic for the gin if you don’t want to serve alcohol)
- juice of 3 large lemons
- 1 1/2 quarts tonic water (chilled before use, if possible)
- 8 lemon slices, to garnish (optional)
Cut the gelatin sheets into small pieces using scissors and put them into a large heatproof bowl. Pour 1 cup of gin over the gelatin and leave for 10 minutes so the gelatin starts to soften. Put the bowl in a microwave and heat on high power for 1½ minutes (or place the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water), then stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Don’t let it boil.
Stir the remaining gin and the lemon juice into the gelatin, then add the chilled tonic water, pouring it in as carefully as you can to keep it from fizzing (you want to lock in all those bubbles).
If you are using gelatin molds, lightly grease them inside using vegetable oil on a piece of paper towels. Pour the G&T mixture, equally carefully, into your gelatin molds or glasses, garnish with lemon slices, if using, and place in the fridge to set for about 6 hours.
Serve under UV light. The darker it is, the better the effect, so serve at night, with the lights turned out and the UV bulb as close to the jellos as possible!