A valiant legal effort came to nothing this week after an administrative-law judge in Iowa ruled that a "Jell-O shot" containing vodka does indeed qualify as an "alcoholic beverage" and so cannot be legally sold to minors. Owners of the Union Bar in Iowa City made the argument at a hearing last November after being caught selling alcohol to two 20-year-olds who were working with police.
The bar owners seem to have argued that even though their Jell-O shots contained alcohol, because Jell-O is gelatinous it is not "a drinkable liquid" (as Webster's defines "beverage"), and therefore they could not be guilty of selling "alcoholic beverages" to minors. Nice try, ruled Judge Laura Lockard:
There is no evidence in the record to support the licensee's argument that — simply because vodka was mixed with Jell-O mix — it lost its character as an alcoholic beverage. While there might be some debate in another context as to whether Jell-O is a food item or beverage, in this context … the Jell-O shots served by the licensee were alcoholic beverages.
The failure of this creative argument leaves the bar stuck with the $500 civil penalty imposed by the Alcoholic Beverages Division. The owners have 30 days to appeal, and I think it's important that they do appeal so that we can finally get some guidance on this important issue.
According to Wikipedia, the "gelatin shot" was invented during the Civil War, or at least the earliest known recipe for one appears in How to Mix Drinks, a book published in 1862.
Link: Iowa City Press Citizen