Make a Giant, Glam, Champagne-and-Gin-Spiked Gelatin Mold the Centerpiece of Your Holiday Table

Put some giggle in that jiggle this holiday season.

Cranberry-Orange Sparkling Wine Gelatin
Photo: Photo by Noah Fecks / Food Styling by Drew Aichele / Prop Styling by Ethan Lunkenheimer

For the 2021 holiday season, Food & Wine went over the top with our series "Give Thanks, But Make It Extra" — a celebration of all things opulent, glittering, rich, delicious, and joyful.

Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle — and we're not just talking about you trying to stand up from the table after a generous serving of your new favorite triple-booze-spiked centerpiece dish. It's hard to be depressed in the presence of a gelatin mold. I'm sure I've tried, and my superpower is that I can be depressed and/or anxious just about anywhere, but this bouncing boisterous foodstuff is invariably at least a temporary antidote to my bummer moods. Watching the undulating IG adventures of vintage jelly mold collector @adventuresinjelly is unspeakably soothing to me — a primordial om in gelatinous form.

To be clear, we're not talking about the perfunctory slabs and cups of elementary school cafeterias and hospital rooms. That stuff has its place, but not atop a pedestal on your holiday table. What I'm invoking here is a grand and ridiculous and bliss-bringing dish that trembles from its inverted metal mold — hold your breath that it doesn't stick! — and ahhhhh, it shimmers in shape on its platter. Extra thrilling if the mold is possessed of architectural or biological details. Better yet if there's booze in there.

I voiced the wish for a ridiculous jelly ("Hear me out, what if it LIT UP?"), as well as some Champagne dreams, to Food & Wine's former senior food editor Mary-Frances Heck, a colleague who's historically been extremely tolerant of listening to my ridiculous whims, while then gently guiding me back to the practicalities of developing a dish that our readers can actually execute at home. And in a small, intermittently lagging video box in the corner of the Webex grid, I saw her eyes spark. On it.

Might as well give in to the giggle.

A couple months later (these things take time, and the F&W Test Kitchen does not mess around), I beheld the fruits of her labor, and slumped down in my chair practically boneless with relief and rapture. In her words: "This festive layered gelatin is a conversation-starting centerpiece and sure to delight potluck guests. The rosy cranberry layer is tart, bursting with cranberries and a splash of gin, and the sparkling wine layer, with a hint of elderflower liqueur, still playfully maintains its bubbles. Spiked with three types of alcohol, this is an adults-only side or dessert."

In my words: [inchoate noises of joy]

I could stare at this thing for hours (if it weren't for gelatin's inherent instability), tapping at it gently with the back of a spoon in one hand, capturing the moment on my phone in the other, but that would deprive me of the giddiness of slurping down what is essentially a weapons-grade, grown-up Jell-O shot. I say "grown-up" with all the attendant caveats; the ingredients are a far cry from the Everclear or handles of whatever vodka was the cheapest at the store around the corner when I was in art school, but the absolute glee remains intact. I don't care if you're sucking this down from a Lalique bowl with a Laguiole spoon with a vintage Versace napkin on your lap, you're gonna feel like a dippy, happy kid. Might as well give in to the giggle.

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