Growing up, my favorite snack at summer camp was aquarium cups: the creative combination of deep-blue Jell-O, Swedish Fish, and Nerds, which perfectly re-created the look of a tiny fish tank. When I recently brought a boozy version of this camp classic to a summer party, I was surprised to learn that a lot of friends were also nostalgic for the festive food. Aquarium cups are essentially Jell-O shots meet summer camp, so really, what’s not to love? The cups are surprisingly simple to make, so it’s no wonder they were a staple of my summer-camp days. And now that an adult version has reentered my life, it’s going to feel like camp all summer long.
To make this recipe, you only need four ingredients: blue Jell-O (I used Berry Blue), Nerds (two large boxes), Swedish Fish (mini are best, if you can find them), and vodka (whatever brand you like!). If you want to take the boozy barometer up a notch, you can infuse the Swedish Fish in vodka overnight. Be warned that the vodka infusion distorts the fish and could make your tiny aquarium less cute. Regardless, even if you skip the infusion, there’s plenty of booze without it!
An important note is that this recipe is best served on the day you make it, so plan accordingly. Additionally, know that you can accomplish the look in any clear glass or cup — I used wine glasses because of their fishbowl-reminiscent shape. But if you’re transporting these treats, a plastic cup is definitely the way to go. As long as the vessel is clear, everyone will be able to fully see your amazing creation.
This recipe makes about four one-cup servings, but you can mess with the recipe and the size of the cups you use to change the number of servings. To start, you’ll want to fill the bottom of your cups with Nerds, which will look like the tiny pebbles on the bottom of fish tanks. Next, it’s time for the Jell-O! Prep two cups of boiling water, one cup of vodka, and one cup of cold water — I used a few ice cubes to make sure it was truly cold.
Add the boiling water to the Jell-O mix (I recommend using a mixing bowl with a pour spout if you have one, like the one pictured, so the Jell-O will be easy to pour into your smaller cups), and whisk to combine.
Then, add the vodka and cold water, and whisk once more.
Once it’s ready, you can distribute evenly among the cups. Don’t worry if some of the Nerds float to the top at this point; they’ll sink back down soon.
After you’ve poured the Jell-O, place the cups in the refrigerator for a minimum of six hours. The vodka makes these slightly more resistant to setting, so make sure you allow enough time for the Jell-O to fully set. The cup size you choose will impact setting time significantly. Smaller cups can be done in around six hours, while larger cups like standard wine glasses will need a full 10 hours. Once the gelatin sets, it’s time for the fun part: adding the Swedish Fish.
Using a sharp knife, cut slots in the Jell-O, then add the fish to the inside and the sides of the glass. You’ll want to focus on the sides for maximum effect, as they’ll be easiest to see when they’re right up against the glass.
Once you add the Swedish Fish, you’re all set to enjoy this delicious, nostalgic treat!
If you plan to use more cups, you will need more Nerds. Additionally, if you want these to really pack a punch, you can infuse the Swedish Fish in vodka overnight before adding them to the cups.
- 1 6-oz. package Berry Blue Jell-O
2 5-oz. boxes Nerds
1 bag Swedish Fish, mini if possible
1 cup vodka
2 cups boiling water
1 cup cold water
- Distribute the Nerds evenly at the bottom of the cups.
- Boil 2 cups water, and prepare 1 cup ice-cold water and 1 cup vodka.
- Combine the boiling water with the Jello-O mix in a large bowl, ideally one with a pour spout. Stir to combine.
- Add the cold water and vodka, and stir to combine.
- Pour the Jell-O mix over the Nerds. Don’t worry if a few float to the top at first; they’ll sink back down.
- Refrigerate for 6-10 hours, depending on the size of your cups. Larger cups will take longer.
- Remove the cups from the refrigerator, and use a knife to cut slots for the Swedish Fish. Insert the fish into the aquarium cup, focusing on placing the fish on the sides, closest to the glass, as opposed to the middle of the Jell-O.
- Serve immediately, and enjoy!
- Four one-cup servings
- Total Time
- 9 minutes, 59 seconds
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kaley Rohlinger