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The perfect sloe gin recipe

  • A little tricky

Making sloe gin is very much a case of life in the sloe lane. It can require quite a bit of patience but is extremely rewarding: here's the perfect sloe gin recipe

Sloe gin recipe

Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn. A densely growing bush, packed with thorns, it’s often used in hedgerows to keep livestock in check. It’s a member of the prunus family, and like its more glamorous relatives, it’s dressed in white blossom throughout spring. This pretty display, combined with its overall hardiness, means that it features in many a suburban parkland.

It’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and there is no more misty fruit than the sloe. Each dark purple berry is touched with blue smoke, but don’t let their good looks fool you. Popping one in your mouth will draw your gums from your teeth, and your tongue will shrink away in fear – they’re tremendously astringent. But, with a little preparation, and a lot of patience, they’ll transform a plain old bottle of gin into a deeply delicious liqueur.

Close-up of a woman's hand holding a bunch of vibrantly-coloured autumn leaves in shades of yellow, red and orange.

The sloes themselves are spherical and cluster tightly along the branches. If the berries you have found are oval and dropping from stems, they are probably damsons. Pick the sloes that have ripened in the sunshine, as these will be sweeter than those in the shade. Always pick from waist height upwards – this will leave plenty on the bushes for the wildlife and means you will collect the cleanest berries.

Sloe berries ready for making gin (Photo by: Whistle Video via Getty Images)
Sloe berries ready for making gin (Photo by: Whistle Video via Getty Images)

There’s a bit of folklore about only collecting sloes after the first frost, which was used as a signpost in time. If the frosts had started, the sloes had probably been around long enough to be ripe.

However, there’s no need to wait this long. Early autumn is not only a more pleasant time to be out and about, but you can time your sloe harvest to the last of blackberries, meaning that you can have some instant gratification foraging along the way.

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Ingredients

  • sloes 500g / 1lb
  • sugar 250g / 9oz
  • gin 70cl

Method

  • Step 1

    Pick over your sloes to remove any stems and put them in the freezer overnight.

  • Step 2

    Find a clean, airtight jar. You’ll need something that comfortably holds 1.5 litres. Pop the frozen sloes into the jar. Add the sugar. Pour in your gin.

  • Step 3

    Keep your jar in a dark place, but for the first week or so bring it out and turn the jar over a few times before replacing it. Once all the sugar has dissolved, leave it in the dark for as long as you can bear, three months at the very least.

  • Step 4

    Then strain the mixture through some muslin and into a clean bottle, and it will ready to serve.

To make a sloe spritz

  • Step 1

    This gin is lovely on its own, or reduced and drizzled onto cakes, but is also a great cocktail ingredient.

    To make a sloe fizz, simply pour 25ml of sloe gin into a champagne glass and top with prosecco.

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