Sloe gin is, for many, something that’s synonymous with winter. This ruby-red liqueur conjures memories of Christmas, log fires and a hip flask of it accompanies many frosty walks in the country.
I was taught to make it by my Dad, going along with him on many foraging walks in the countryside for the blue/black little fruits often overlooked in hedgerows. His favourite trick was to try to tempt me & my siblings to eat one straight from the tree. If anyone has ever tried it you’ll know it’s unwise as sloes pack a bitter punch when fresh. I’m ashamed to say I fell for it more than once and recently had a similar experience with an olive in the South of France…..Some things never change!
Just like olives; although they’re no good straight from the tree, if you have a little patience, sloes can make for a delicious end product.
As with my other fruit liqueur recipes; I tend to work on instinct, rather than set quantities, so the amounts below are rough guides. I like mine a little sharper than most so it’s a good idea to experiment with the amount of sugar, or even add more to taste at the end.
500g sloes, rinsed & de-stalked
200g caster sugar
700ml gin (I’ve used this awesome gin from The Suffolk Distillery but any brand will be fine.)
To prepare the sloes you can either prick them with a knife or pin, or freeze them for a few hours to pop the skins. Most folk will tell you that it’s best to go sloe-picking after the first frost. If you go in early it’s best to use the freezer method to mimic a frost.
Drop the sloes into a jar or wide-necked bottle, add in the sugar and fill up with gin. Shake to dissolve the sugar and leave in a dark place. For the first week or two you’ll want to shake it once a day to continue to dissolve the sugar.
Leave the sloes to infuse the gin for at least 10 weeks. If you time it well you can make sure it’s ready for Christmas. Once it’s ready simply filter using muslin or coffee filters and store in bottles.
Our tradition at home is to drink the first glass on Christmas Eve. Sloe gin and other home-made fruit liqueurs also make great Christmas presents. As well as being delightful on its own, sloe gin makes a great addition to gravy or game dishes. My favourite way to drink it is with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime.