I’ll be honest – it took me a while to get into gin. My spirits education began with dark, not white spirits, and it was only a few years ago that I learned to appreciate a refreshing G&T. But now I’m also a huge fan of sloe gin. If you’ve never tried it, it’s rich, warming and fruity – a delicious winter drink that keeps out the cold but is not heavy or cloying. It works in summer, too, with a splash of ice or tonic, but the mercury is falling in thermometers all over the UK right now, and it’s the season for fireside drinks.
How to make sloe gin
- start with a bottle of standard gin – a cheaper bottle is fine, given that you’re going to add a load of fruit and sugar to it
- put your sloes into a freezer overnight. The ice-cold temperature will burst the skins, which is essential to macerate their flavour into the gin
- decant the gin into a jug, and half-fill the bottle with sloes
- top up your bottle with gin, give it a good shake, and leave in a dark place to mature slowly (giving it a shake every few days) for at least three months, but a year or more is ideal.
The only contentious issue is when to add your sugar. Some believe that adding it at the start helps the sloe berries infuse with the gin, bringing out the flavour; others say that you should let your sloe gin mature au naturel then you add sugar at the end. The other advantage of waiting is that you can sweeten to taste, and avoid the risk of adding to much – an oversweet sloe gin is best avoided.
If you do make your own sloe gin, sadly it won’t be ready in time for Christmas, as it needs a good few months for the sloes to work their magic. So, buy one of our sloe gins for the festive season, and store your own bottles away for next year – they’ll be worth the wait, and your friends will be very impressed; small bottles make excellent Christmas presents, too.
how to drink sloe gin
Sloe gin is very versatile, and will add a delicious fruitiness to your festive drinks:
- add 25ml sloe gin to a Champagne flute and top up with sparkling wine to make a Sloe Royale
- stir equal parts of sloe gin, vermouth and Campari in an ice-filled rocks glass for a fruity take on a Negroni
- serve it neat, lightly chilled, to sip and savour.