The secrets of Sloe Gin

So I like a drink as much as the next person, however I’m more of a G&T and Cocktail girl if I have to be picky, and I do love my Sloe Gin.

This year has been a fantastic year for Sloes and I ended up after a heavy picking session with 7kg of the little beasts so of course what to make but Sloe Gin (I also made Apple and Sloe Jelly but that’s another post all together)sloe-gin-21

Here are the fundamental Do’s and Don’ts of Sloe Gin from the experts at

Mistake 1: Initial Measurements  Contrary to popular belief, 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.   One of the common complaints about the standard sloe recipes is that some years they produce a too-sweet liqueur, while other years are not sweet enough. Sweetening to taste at the end of the maceration yields a perfect batch every time. If you use simple syrup instead of granulated sugar, you don’t have to wait for the crystals to dissolve.

Syrup recipe:  Combine equal measures of sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat. Warm the mixture until the sugar dissolves, then allow it to cool. If you prefer a higher strength sloe gin, it is possible to make syrup with three parts sugar and two parts water to reduce dilution. Add a little syrup at first, as it sometimes requires only a fraction of the quantity of sugar called for in standard recipes.

Mistake 2: Cheap Gin  The second common error in most sloe gin recipes is using a cheap gin. Far from masking bad spirit, sloes highlight a gin’s quality or lack thereof. It’s worth splashing out the price of a high street cappuccino to upgrade to a better gin. Also, look in the liquor cabinet. If there’s a dusty bottle of grappa, brandy, or Irish whiskey (well, let’s face it, who really has a dusty bottle of Irish whiskey just lying around?), these are also great for making sloe liqueurs.

sloe_ginSloe Gin Myths

There are some absurd myths about harvesting and processing sloes floating around, and we think it’s time to dispel a few of these:

1. Wait until the first frost to pick sloes. Great advice if the frost happens to coincide with the ripening of the sloes. Like all fruit, it is best to pick sloes …drum roll, please… when they are ripe. How do you tell when a sloe’s ripe? Well, simply squeeze one. If it feels like a rock, it’s not ripe. Ripe sloes yield to the touch like small ripe plums. There’s no need to test each one. If a few are ripe, the entire crop is ready.

2. Mysterious pricking techniques. Some recipes say sloes should be pricked with a thorn from the same bush, which dulls after the first berry. Others require a silver pin. These are plums not werewolves. Romantic as they are, neither technique produces the best results. What you really need to do is place the sloes in a freezer bag and freeze them for a day or two. The point of pricking them is to rupture the fruit, allowing the flavour to leak out while they are sitting in the gin. Freezing ruptures the sloes completely and evenly.

3. Magical sloe locations. For some, it is a point of the utmost secrecy – they will never reveal where to find their secret stash of purple berries. However, there’s a source plentiful enough to share, and closer to home than you might imagine.

So, the secret to making the best sloe gin?

Find good sloes (on the land or online), freeze them overnight, add enough fruit to almost half-fill a bottle, then top it up with good quality gin.   Wait at least three months. Then add sugar or syrup to taste. It couldn’t be easier, better or simpler.


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