How to make Sloe Gin

This time of year is great to go out picking sloes. I only really know of one use for them, but it’s a damn fine one – Sloe Gin.

Simply put Sloe Gin is just gin with some sloes bunged in. However to make sure it tastes better than anything you can buy in the shop, it’s best to follow a rough recipe. Here’s mine, quantities adapted a little due to how many sloes I ended up picking.

First off you need to find a sloe bush. Prunus spinosa is the latin name but you’ll know it more commonly as Blackthorn. Everyone has their own secret spots so it’s up to you to find some!

You want to aim to pick around a kilo. Obviously you won’t bring scales out with you but if your bagful feels about the same weight as a bag of sugar you’re doing well.

Okay this is what you’ll need:

  • 800g sloes
  • 1 litre gin
  • 400g sugar
  • A 5-litre demijohn
  • A pin for pricking

I picked 1.2kg of sloes, so used 560g sugar and 1.4 litres of gin. I also used brewing sugar which is a little finer so should dissolve well.

Firstly, you need to wash the sloes. I swill mine around in a bowl of water, then dry them as best as I can on a teatowel with some kitchen roll.

Once that’s done you’ll ideally want to sterilise your demijohn. I’m not sure if this is strictly necessary due to all the gin you’re about to add, but it’s a habit I have from brewing cider. I just put a couple of teaspoons of VWP sterlising powder in, filled it with warm water, left for 10 mins then thoroughly rinsed it.

Now the hard work begins, you have to prick every single sloe a few times then pop it in the demijohn. Best rope someone in to help you with this as it gets a bit tiresome. Oh and your fingers get pretty well stained with sloe juice too.

Once that’s all done, pour the gin in the bottle on top of the sloes then add in the sugar.

Getting the sugar in the bottle is a bit of a challenge, so my wife made a funnel which made it a lot easier. Once it’s all in, give it a gentle swirl and shake to mix it all together, and you should end up with something like this:

From here you have to leave it 3 months. Yep, 3 months. Give it a shake and a swirl every so often to make sure it’s all mixed properly, and you’ll see the colour gradually darken over time.

After 3 months comes the bottling. You’ll need to strain it through muslin so it’s nice and clear before you do so. Ideally you need to leave it a year so it gets nice and smooth, but if you fancy a wee dram before then I certainly don’t blame you!

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