Whose fans will win Jell-O shot challenge?

The person in charge of marketing for Rocco’s Pizza & Cantina in Omaha, Nebraska is a genius. They found a way to supercharge their tourism dollars from the annual NCAA Men’s College World Series.

While downtown is dotted with excellent bars catering to the masses of college baseball fans who descend upon eastern Nebraska each summer, Rocco’s has found a way to cater to their insatiable demand for booze, innate homerism, and unquenchable thirst for competition. And, more importantly, they found a way to sell that fandom at $4.50 per shot.

Behold, the glory that is Rocco’s College World Series Jell-O Shot Challenge, an annual competition that honors the glorious invention of one of America’s greatest heroes, Army mathematician, Harvard professor, and expert pianist and satirist Tom Lehrer. The good folks at Rocco’s give bosses the chance to back their teams one wiggly, sugary slurp at a time:

Rocco’s knows it’s due for a boom when the CWS comes by, thanks to its location being roughly 500 feet from the right-field line of Charles Schwab Field. It also knows that SEC fans — whose teams make up half the field in 2022 and 2019 and multiple teams every year since 2016 — are lunatics obsessed with displaying their superiority in any way possible. This is how you get more than $11,000 in revenue from Mississippi State fans alone:

That’s a truly bewildering number AND IT WASN’T EVEN THE FINAL TALLY. Bulldog faithfully wound up celebrating their first NCAA team championship by taking down 2,968 Jell-O shots at Rocco’s alone, besting the previous record — set in 2019 by Arkansas fans — by more than 2,100 shots.

This is obviously a windfall for the bar. It also feels like a windfall for the staff, as this year’s price bump to $4.50 suggests the bartenders passing out these shots will be getting tipped $1.50 per instead of a single dollar (though some more miserly patrons will opt for a 50 cent tip as though they’re the mayors of 1939). They also won’t have to deal with the effort of mixing drinks or pouring from the tap, either, since Rocco’s appears to serve pre-packaged shots:

This is kinda disappointing! Per Slrrrp Shots’ official website, those flavors come in Strawberry Slammer, Watermelon Wiggler, Peach Bottom, Blue Raspberry Smash and, (deep sigh) Mango Unchained. At 13 percent ABV and 50 milliliters per drink, they’re roughly one-third as potent as a regular shot of whiskey or rum and a little less than half as strong as a shot of Fireball. They’re also ostensibly served right from those jugs, which is an unappealing temperature for gelatin products.

From a managerial standpoint, this feels like a missed opportunity as well. Jell-O shots aren’t expensive to make; gelatin is cheap and no one expects them to be strong. You can make something like 180 of these shots — with name-brand Jell-O and Smirnoff — for about $36 if you’re paying retail prices. If you wanted to skimp on the booze a little, it’d be even cheaper. That’s a product cost of let’s say 15 cents for a $4.50 drink, which is the kind of profit margin that keeps Jon Taffer from bursting through your doors and yelling at your bar manager.

And yeah, that’s a little bit labor-intensive and would require a ton of fridge space, but it’s not like Rocco’s doesn’t run out of the pre-made stuff and ask its bartenders to free-pour anyway:

This is, of course, a stupid quibble from a grown man who prefers homemade to store-bought when it comes to his terrible drinks (I also prefer the ease of the syringe as the Jell-O shot delivery system). The point remains that:

a) this is a tremendous idea that brings in lots of money for Rocco’s with minimal effort beyond removing shots from buckets and basic counting, and

b) no one should try to out-drink the SEC, which was leading the rest of the field 206-58 before games even started at the College World Series (and, if you count Texas and Oklahoma as future members, that lead grows to 254-10).

We’ll keep you learned of the situation should someone challenge Mississippi State’s record of nearly 3,000 Jell-O shots in 11 days (no one will).


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