A favourite of home brewers, a sloe gin recipe can provoke a huge amount of discussion regarding variations. Sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn shrub, found in hedgerows countrywide. The limpid, black globes look sweet and attractive but offer little in the taste department in their natural state. Warm, wet summers produce the best sloes, and you should pick your fruit when it is fully ripe and carefully, as the Prunus spinosa (blackthorn) can be a vicious beast.
While there are historical mentions of sloe used for alcoholic drinks as early as 1717, it wasn’t until the 20th century that it became a staple component of country produce. It’s easy to make sloe gin – the basic recipe involves only three ingredients, little labour and plenty of patience. A quick internet search will show a daunting variety of advice on how to make sloe gin but what really counts is how long it is kept for – the older the bottle, the sweeter and more mellow the flavour, almost like a good Madeira. If you can’t wait decades for your brew, a fresh batch only a few months old is delicious nonetheless.
Basic sloe gin recipe
You can increase the quantity of sugar used to quicken the process but of course this results in a sweeter flavour, which is not to everyone’s taste. Gin is the traditional liqueur but vodka is used by some in the quest for a purer flavour. Traditionally each individual sloe is pricked to allow flavour to develop, but some people reduce the labour involved by simply freezing and defrosting the fruit.
- 500g sloes, ripe
- 250g sugar
- 1 litre gin
Fill a large, sterilised jar to the top with sloes. Add the sugar and gin then seal the jar and shake well. Store the jar in a cool, dark spot and shake it every day until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave for another three months then open the jar and strain the contents through a muslin cloth. Pour the strained liquid through a funnel into a clean, sterilised bottle then return it to its cool, dark spot and leave for as long as you can bear before drinking – at least two months.
Damson vodka – the alternative sloe gin recipe
If you can’t find sloes or have a glut of damsons, the same quantities and method can be used to make damson vodka – obviously substituting damsons for sloes and vodka for gin. As an added bonus, after straining the damsons taste great with yoghurt or ice-cream.