All photos by Colleen Newvine Tebeau.
I love infusing silliness into entertaining.
While I think it’s beautiful to set a proper table with vintage china, crystal and silverware, I’ve also used my mother in law’s silver tea service tray to present shots I named “Who you callin’ a ho-ho-ho?” to Christmas party guests.
So many people stress themselves out trying to achieve a manufactured notion of perfection at the holidays, but my ideal tends more toward making people laugh.
Pudding shots are one of my secret weapons. They’re not only tasty but they almost guarantee a smile or giggle.
When my husband and I enjoyed our first Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, I learned Jell-O shots are almost as much of the party as bead necklaces and parades. I wanted to join in the fun so I started Googling improved Jell-O shots when I ran across a blog that made the bold claim “Pudding shots are the new Jello shot. “
Pudding and liquor? Why hadn’t I seen this before? It’s not a new concept, since the New York Times published an apparently wildly popular boozy mousse pie recipe in 1970, but I’d never seen single-serving cups like Jell-O shots. I guess I was behind the times, since an Instagram account presents recipes for pudding shots, there are Pinterest boards pudding shots … I had some catching up to do.
Pudding shots became my go-to dish to pass for Mardi Gras parties. Celebrity bartender Chris Hannah skeptically sampled my vanilla pudding with king cake vodka, theoretically flavored like the Mardi Gras baked good and in the same category as cotton candy vodka or Swedish fish vodka. As he scrapped his pudding shot cup clean, Hannah declared it the only legitimate use of king cake vodka.
Then I brought my knowledge back to Brooklyn, often making two different flavors for dessert at our monthly spaghetti dinners. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cup left with even a smidgeon of pudding left. Several friends have shyly asked if they could have a second, or third.
While Jell-O shots seem to me to be about the novelty and kitsch, pudding shots actually taste delicious.
Pudding’s flavor and texture lends itself to so many combinations. I’ve gone simple with chocolate pudding with bourbon and more elaborate with banana pudding with coconut cream, crushed pineapple and rum. I’ve made chocolate pudding with coffee liqueur, butterscotch pudding with butterscotch schnapps and cinnamon whiskey … If you think you’d order flavors together in a bar, or at an ice cream parlor, you’ll probably like them in a pudding shot.
A friend in New Orleans recently shared a link for salted caramel pumpkin pudding shots to my Facebook profile. That sounds like the perfect thing to take to our friends’ classy Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll bet you a second serving of stuffing they make everyone smile.
Pudding Shots (basic technique):
- Blend one small box of instant pudding (3.3 – 3.9 ounces) with ¾ cup milk until pudding firms up –some people do it in a bowl with an electric mixer but I sprayed milk and pudding powder everywhere when I tried that, so I do it in the blender to minimize mess and thoroughly scrape the sides and bottom with a spatula.
- Add one 8 ounce tub of room temperature Cool Whip (extra creamy or regular, not fat free)
- Add ¾ cup alcohol – I often mix ½ cup something strong like vodka with ¼ cup Irish cream, but I’ve also done a full cup of rum or whiskey, which works especially if you really want to taste the booze
- Mix thoroughly
- Pour into 2 ounce plastic cups with lids and put them in the freezer to set, at least a few hours, better overnight.
- Serve with spoons – unlike Jell-O shots, it’s unlikely you can just run your tongue around the edge of a pudding shot to get the whole thing to drop in your mouth, so you’ll need either actual silverware or disposables
Depending on how far I fill each cup, I generally get 18-21 shots per recipe.
This approach is decidedly prefab and lowbrow, employing instant pudding and commercial whipped topping – I think my next step is trying homemade mousse and real whipped cream. If it’s good enough for Craig Claiborne, that’s good enough for me.