Sloe gin is one of many fruity gins that have started becoming popular again thanks to the gin revival we’ve seen in the last few years.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Table of contents
- What is Sloe Gin?
- The Perfect Gift
- What does Sloe Gin taste Like?
- Sloe Gin Recipe
- When to add Sugar in Sloe Gin
- Where to find Sloe Berries?
- Why Freeze Sloe Berries?
- How long will Sloe Gin Keep?
- How to Drink Sloe Gin
- Sloe Gin Cocktails
- Sloe Collins (Sloe Gin Tom Collins)
- More Infusions
What is Sloe Gin?
Sloe gin is a liqueur made by infusing gin with sloe berries. Its creation can be traced back to the 17th century when the UK Parliament introduced partition of lands, creating private landowners.
Blackthorn bushes (sloe bushes), with their dense and spiny foliage, were planted as hedgerows to create a natural border between lands.
The upside of this was that the farmers soon learned that all those sloe berries, with their tart nature, were perfect in pies, jams and alcohol!
And so a new drink was born!
The Perfect Gift
Given the recent gin revival movement in the U.K., sloe gin has become one of the most sought after drinks served during the holiday season. As such, more and more people are making their own bottles of sloe gin to enjoy with friends and family, especially at Christmas.
Because you know what? Sloe gin makes a fabulous present! Best of all, it makes a great addition to a typical gift basket.
Now you know gift baskets are popular for just about any occasion, right? The holiday season is especially perfect for gift baskets with all their benefits. For starters, they’re budget friendly, since they’re available at low prices. Because let’s face it, you can choose whatever item you want to include in the gift basket.
Also, gift baskets allow you to add multiple gift items in one basket. For example, you can include your homemade sloe gin bottle in your special gift baskets. And finally, gift baskets are so convenient because you can deliver them anywhere you fancy. Just be sure to use durable baskets that are easy to carry, to keep your gifts safe while in transit.
With all this in mind, don’t you think homemade sloe gin makes the perfect gift, whether on its own or in a gift basket?
So, what do you think? Fancy making your own sloe gin? Alright then, keep on reading!
What does Sloe Gin taste Like?
A good sloe gin should have a balanced flavour. It should be bursting with a fruity aroma to begin with. It should be slightly sweet, with a touch of sour and a definite hint of bitter at the back of it all.
The flavour of the gin base will also affect the final flavour of your sloe gin, you might get herby, spicy and even a nutty flavour alongside what the sloes give you.
If you’ve been following my drink recipes, we’ve had so many this year alone, in fact, I can probably open a fruity gin shop now! If only they didn’t get drunk so quickly! This past summer, we’ve made quite a few infusions, just head on over to the Drinks Page for them.
Sloe Gin Recipe
Once you’ve made one infused liqueur, you can make anything you set your mind to. They all basically follow the same principle, all you need to make a fruity gin is:
- the fruit
- the gin
- flavourings, if you like
- Wait (2 months minimum here), then strain and enjoy!
That’s all there is to it! Everyone has his or her own ratio, but this is not rocket science, you don’t have to have an exact amount of fruit, or sugar or alcohol. More fruit, less fruit, more sugar, less sugar, it’s a matter of taste.
When to add Sugar in Sloe Gin
The common consensus seems to be right at the end, and this advice is valid for any other infusions you are making.
I’ve tried both methods, and if truth be told, I can’t tell the difference between the before and after. So I add sugar to the sloes right at the start, as I do with all my other infusions.
But that’s because I like my drinks sweet! If you don’t, and you would like to control the level of sweetness, then by all means, add it right at the end, after the steeping time. Taste and add sugar as much or as little as you like.
Good Quality Gin
Get the best gin you can afford to make your sloe gin. That goes for all your homemade infused liqueurs. Cheap gin will give you cheap tasting rhubarb gin.
That doesn’t mean that you have to pay top dollar, do a little research to see what’s good in your price range. Like wine you plan to cook with, get something that you will enjoy drinking on its own and doesn’t taste like rubbish. I’m happy to use a good quality London Dry Gin.
Where to find Sloe Berries?
Sloe berries, blackthorn, or prunus spinosa, is a shrub belonging to the rose family. The fruit resemble extra large blueberries, as you can see, and are very tart, although when they are ripe, they do take on a sweet and sour flavour.
Sloe berries are in season starting from around October or November, depending on how good a summer it’s been. If it’s an especially wet summer, they ripen by around mid-late September. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), it’s been a dry, hot summer this year, for a change!
If you are lucky enough to know where to go foraging to find sloe berries, then that’s definitely the way to go. I’ve tried, but all I ever find around me are blackberries, and damsons if the tourists don’t get them first!
I keep meaning to actually plant a sloe bush myself, I might actually remember to do so one of these days! Well I did, 2 autumns ago! And got lots of sloes this year, 2022!
Do a google search and you’re bound to come up with a few online suppliers, certainly if you are in the UK. There are a few farms selling them on Ebay.
You can buy fresh, dried and frozen sloe berries. I’m not sure I’d recommend the dried ones, as drying a vegetable and fruit, while concentrating the flavour, does change it a little. Think about dried chillies, raisins and all those other dried fruit that are sold everywhere. If you’ve eaten one, you’ll know what I mean.
I’ve only bought fresh sloes, but frozen sloes are in fact perfect for the job, as you do want to freeze your sloes overnight before using them in your gin. Unless you want to prick every single one of those guys.
One by one.
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Why Freeze Sloe Berries?
Traditionally, legend has it, sloes were picked for sloe gin after the first frost (like brussels sprouts?). My father in law remembers his family picking sloes in cold weather, and as I mentioned, after the first frost.
The reason for this is because freezing sloe berries will split the skin of the sloes, which allows the gin to seep into the fruit and for the flavour to leach out of the fruit.
I do the same with cranberries for this Christmas Gin.
These days, we don’t really see the first frost until November, especially down here, on the south coast of England. So, I always freeze the sloes meant for the sloe gin. I also make some chutney or jam, and also bake with the sloes, so they don’t all go into the freezer.
How long will Sloe Gin Keep?
The strained gin will keep for up to a year, during which, the taste will improve. I’m not sure it noticeably improves after 2-3 months, but many claim it does. There is only one way to find out – make lots and lots of it! And get back to me!
How to Drink Sloe Gin
Sloe gin is absolutely delicious on its own, whether neat or on ice. To me, this is the best way to enjoy the complexities of this very traditional British Christmas/winter drink.
Sloe Gin Cocktails
Essentially, practically any gin cocktail can be adapted by using sloe gin instead of regular gin. Think Tom Collins and Gimlet. Just to get you going, here’s one:
Sloe Collins (Sloe Gin Tom Collins)
- 50ml (2 fluid oz) sloe gin
- 25ml (1 fluid oz) lemon juice
- 25ml (1 fluid oz) simple syrup
- 125ml (1/2 cup) chilled soda water
Shall we take a look at how to make sloe gin?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating! Thank you!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.
There are many mor infusions and cocktails on the Drinks page, like the following.
How to Make Sloe Gin
- 400 g sloe berries
- 1 litre good quality gin
- 300 g white sugar (you may need less or more)
- Place the sloes, gin and 200g (7oz/1 cup) of the sugar into a large, sterilised jar, and give it a good stir.
- Cover and place in a dark place for a minimum of 1 month. I place mine in a kitchen cupboard. Stir it every other day, or as often as you remember to!
- At the end of 1 month, taste it, and add more sugar if you think it needs it. I have a sweet tooth, so tend to use the whole lot of sugar, sometimes even 400g!) It is drinkable now, but will taste better at 2 months. And more mellow at 3.
- To drink, strain through a sieve or, if you like a crystal clear gin, strain though a double layer of muslin or cheese cloth into a sterilised bottle.