Time: 1hr — Patience: 2 – 3 months — Difficulty: Low — Knackyness: Low
Sloe gin is a traditional country Christmastime treat, and is a liqueur made by flavouring gin with sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn bush) and sugar. The traditional time to pick sloes is just after the first frost (so right now, for most of the UK!) as this both damages the cell walls of the sloes and changes their flavour, sweetening them. You can make sloe gin very successfully with sloes picked before the first frost, but it’s wise to freeze them at least overnight before proceeding.
BE AWARE – Blackthorn isn’t called blackthorn for nothing! The bushes are armed with vicious spikes, so proceed carefully and consider wearing gloves to pick with. Personally I don’t, but as a result I give a blood sacrifice for my sloes every year.
This gin is very simple, and is sweetened to my taste. You might find your palate runs to more or less sugar. I’ve also seen gin recipes with spice additions such as a cinnamon stick, vanilla pods, and so on – so go ahead and experiment!
You will require –
- A 1.5l bottle of cheap gin
- 750g of sugar. I like to use golden caster sugar, but you could experiment with other sugars
- About a pint to a pint and a half of sloes, washed, dried (and frozen overnight if required)
- An empty 1l glass screw-top bottle.
- Kitchen scales, a measuring jug and, if available, a funnel.
Transfer 600ml of the gin from the 1.5l bottle to the clean 1l bottle, leaving 900ml behind.
Using the dry funnel, add 300g of sugar to the small bottle and 450g to the large one.
Fill up the remaining space in the bottles with the sloes. Put any extras back in the freezer.
That’s it, really!
Give the bottles a good shake several times a day until all the sugar dissolves. By this time it should have a similar appearance to the photo above, with colour starting to come into the gin. Then put it in a cool dark place and forget about it for at least two months.
After that, strain the gin from the sloes and store in clean bottles. In the past I’ve bought some pretty-looking 250ml bottles and used these for Christmas presents, which seem to be popular! Add a couple of the excess sloes you put in the deep freeze to each bottle for that extra decorative touch.