Monday, 26 September 2011

Sloe Gin

Sloe Gin is something I always associate with Christmas. You make it in the early Autumn and then leave it to mature for a few weeks, so it is ready for the Christmas festivities.

I haven't made any Sloe Gin for a few years, so this year I thought I would put that right. It is incredibly easy to do. Basically, all you do is put a few sloes in a bottle of ordinary Gin and leave it!

On Saturday I did the first bit of the procedure, getting the sloes and the Gin. With the benefit of prior experience, I drove out to a place where I know good sloes are to be had, clutching a big plastic container, wearing old clothes and armed with a big stick. The latter is for beating down stinging-nettles and reaching up for high branches. It's as well I had it with me because I was obviously not the first person to visit that spot: all the low-down fruits had already been picked. However, with the aid of my stick I was able to bend down some of the high-up branches and grab the fruit. They were lovely specimens too - nearly as big as damsons.

A word of warning to anyone who is not familiar with sloes: they are very sour and astringent, not nice to eat raw! Furthermore, they grow on bushes with lots of thorns (the Blackthorn bush!), and are seemingly always surrounded by a defensive ring of luxuriant stinging-nettles (as my tingling hands will confirm).

Anyway, within the space of half an hour I had gathered enough to fill the container I had taken, so back into the car and home via the supermarket to pick up a bottle of cheap Gin.  When I got home I weighed the sloes and was surprised to find that I had picked 1.2kgs, which is about twice as many as I need.

Next stage of the proceedings (apart from photographing them, of course) is to wash the fruit and remove any stalks, leaves and other miscellaneous debris. After that I put the fruit in a couple of plastic bags and stuck it in the freezer. It is alleged that sloes are sweeter if you pick them after the first frosts, but if you wait that long there won't be any left, so I thought that putting them in the freezer ought to achieve the same result.

Once the sloes have been frosted overnight (or longer if desired) you marry them up with the gin. Decant half of the gin into another clean empty bottle; add as many sloes as you can fit into the bottles half-full of gin. If you have sufficient patience, you ought to prick each individual sloe with a small knife or suitable pointed implement (I used a bamboo satay skewer), to help the juice to come out.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of sugar (to taste), re-seal the bottles and put them somewhere cool. From this point onwards you should try to give the bottles a gentle shake every day or so, to distribute the sloe juice (which seeps out very slowly) around the gin.

A vague hint of pinkness already...
The gin will be ready in about 8 weeks or so, and will eventually be the colour of a Rosé wine. When you feel it is ready, strain the concoction through a very fine sieve (or like me, use one of those old coffee-filter papers, if you can find them). Discard the fruit and re-bottle the gin into clean bottles. Drink the gin in small glasses in much the same way as you might have a glass of sherry. Nice served with some walnuts or Brazil nuts.

I can't show you the finished item just yet. You'll have to wait 8 weeks...


  1. Looks simple - a pity I don't like spirits!

  2. My husband is in charge of sloe gin (also this year cherry vodka) - he always adds almond essence to the mix. I don't drink but have had a little taste - cough medicine comes to mind!

  3. I had never tried them, they look yummy. I will look around if they have them here

  4. Bletting ;)
    Good post, Mark. We're making Sloe Vodka and Whiskey as well this year.
    A poignant piece for me is when you say that if you wait to pick them there won't be any left. I do hope that nobody would strip a bush completely :) Mo

  5. My English sister in law loves Sloe
    Gin - I can't say I ever aquired the taste but those berries haved photographed beautifully!

  6. The berries looks so vibrant! You'll soon have a nice treat for the colder months.

  7. I can't say I've ever seen sloes, I'm on the lookout though now, I want some sloe gin.

  8. Oh I really had no idea what a sloe was. How fabulous. I don't really think I like gin, but anything with sugar added to it makes me happy! I'd love to try this Mark, but I've no idea if we have sloes here... Do you think you could add another type of fruit?

  9. Oh I really had no idea what a sloe was. How fabulous. I don't really think I like gin, but anything with sugar added to it makes me happy! I'd love to try this Mark, but I've no idea if we have sloes here... Do you think you could add another type of fruit?

  10. Ali; Yes, I reckon this would work with pretty much any fruit, though I think the so-called "stone-fruits" are best. In Europe Schnapps of various types is very popular - pear, apple, apricot, cherry etc - and this is our equivalent.

  11. Oh, that is so very tempting. And I know there are sloes still on the hedges up at the allotment. And I am going up there later on today... I wonder if I have any suitable bottles to decant in to...


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.