If you’ve got an empty bottle, a blackthorn bush, probably best to get some gloves too and it’s looking like autumn, you’ve got all the ingredients to make sloe gin. Once touted as the poor person’s substitute for port, what was once a rural hobby has now become a serious spirit.
We can no longer rely on the first frost to start picking these purple beauties, because they’ll have come and gone, much like the blackberries who promised so much then wilted and bloated in the rain before I had so much as the chance to shout ‘Crumble!’ Bastards. Besides, you can get the same effect by chucking sloes in the freezer for a day or two – all you need is the skin to split.
Here’s what you need to know about sloe gin:
- Get the best gin you can afford, it’ll (no-brainer) taste better.
- Add the sugar to taste once you’ve cracked open your bottle/s (normally after a minimum of two months). Every harvest is different and every year the sloes will be sweeter / more or less acidic so it pays to wait and taste.
- Use a sugar syrup rather than granulated sugar so you can gauge the taste quicker and don’t have to wait for it to dissolve.
- Leave it for as long as you can – it’ll keep for a very long time and a vintage sloe gin can be a thing of exceptional quality. But if, like me, it’s for Christmas, it’ll be young and a little bit feisty so choose your mixer with care.
- Keep it simple: fill a bottle about a third full with the berries and top with gin. Turn or invert every now and then.
- Experiment with mixers and recipes, from Sloe Gin Martini and Hedgerow Royale to mulled sloe gin and a Sloe Gin Collins, there is life beyond tonic.
- Be patient.
Where to find recipes and cocktails: