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. There are all sorts of gin festivals going on in the UK around the year, and an increasing number of monthly gin memberships being offered. Like this one here by One Time Gin.
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 click on the images below for the individual recipes:
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. According to Sipsmith London,
there is very little point in adding sugar at the outset. Saturating the spirit with sugar prevents it from extracting the natural fruit sugars – and other flavours – from the sloes. Sugar should really only be added at the start to produce sweet sloes for baking or chocolates rather than good sloe gin.
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.
Sloe Gin Ingredients
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. I keep meaning to actually plant a sloe bush myself, I might actually remember to do so one of these days!
Do a google search and you’re bound to come up with a few online suppliers, certainly if you are in the UK. I get mine from these guys, but I do remember that there are many Ebay stores selling them too.
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. I grew up in tropical Singapore, so can neither confirm nor deny that!
Seriously though, 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.
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.
The bottom line: if you are buying your sloes to make sloe gin, buying the frozen ones are perfectly fine.
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.
Speaking of Christmas, it makes the perfect foodie gift, in little bottles, all dressed up for the holiday season.
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?
More infusions and cocktails on the Drinks page:
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Sloe Gin recipe; fruity, slightly sweet, with a touch of sour and a definite hint of bitter at the back of it all. Total time does not include the 2-3 months of infusion time. I suggest a minimum of 2 months.
How to Make Sloe Gin
Sloe Gin recipe; fruity, slightly sweet, with a touch of sour and a definite hint of bitter at the back of it all.
Total time does not include the 2-3 months of infusion time. I suggest a minimum of 2 months.