Sloe Gin is a wonderful drink...Sloe Gin is simply lovely. I was first introduced to it in the back of a gun bus while shooting one season with my father, and I've been hooked ever since. There is no other 'warmer' that comes close - I often have a nip or two at six o'clock - and it's even more marvellous (and warming) when it's hot.
It is simple stuff - mix some good gin with some Sloes and leave it in the cupboard for as long as you can bear. Sure, you can buy a bottle of commercial Sloe Gin from the supermarket, but making your own is great fun - and it makes a super present.
Firstly, a health warning - I am no expert, having only made three or four batches. I have found good and comprehensive instructions courtesy of The SipSmith here...
Here follows instructions for how I make Sloe Gin...
1. Collect some Sloes.Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn (or Sloe) bush, Prunus Spinosa. Read all about them c/o Wikipedia here... To save your tired fingers an extra click, here's a stock picture of the fruit that you are after;
Sloes really can’t be mistaken for anything else, which is good for a foraging amateur (into which camp I firmly fall…) You'll find these bushes in most countryside hedges - be sure to check both sides in case one side has been picked bare. You can't walk a mile round here without seeing sloes.
This may sound like a cop-out, but pick as many as you need. I’m filling a demijohn (1 gallon or so) so picked enough sloes to half fill the demijohn. If you are starting with a 75cl bottle, you’ll need fewer sloes.
Interesting demijohn trivia - the Romanian for Demijohn is…..wait for it…..Demijohn! What else would it be?
2. Rinse your Sloes
Here is our haul...
...wack them in the sink and agitate them a bit - spiders and bits of husk will float away...
...then pop them in a colander and rinse under the tap, before you let them drip dry for a bit.
3. Get their juices flowing!Three schools of thought exist here; 1) wait for the first frost 2) forget the first frost and cheat by freezing them 3) prick each sloe with a needle to burst them. Let's discount No.3 as we're all busy people with lives to lead. Maybe when we retire I'll enjoy the industry of a tedious and repetitive job, but not now. We'd had a bit of frost recently but froze them just in case.
The purpose of the exercise is to burst the cell walls so then the sloe juice can mix with the gin, maximising the taste.
Pop them into a freezer bag...
...and then next morning, retrieve.
4. Bottling your SloesThis bit can be tricky if you've chosen a vessel with a small neck. A large Kilner-type jar would be easiest. Here is my glamorous assistant (who conveniently is my fiancee) pouring the sloes from a jug, down the side of the demijohn and onto the kitchen floor. Latterly (when I took over) some found their way inside.
5. Pour in your Gin
The temptation is to buy cheap gin, hoping the taste of the sloes will mask any hint of kerosene you may detect in Asda Soak's Gin. Quite a false economy - the good stuff is often reduced, and your taste buds (and friends) will thank you. This Gordons was three pence per litre cheaper than the screenwash-grade stuff in Tesco.
6. Ongoing Actions Pertaining to the Development of Sloe Gin
That is the back of the job broken. All that remains is to slosh the bottle about whenever you remember it - once a day is plenty. After six months (or a year - it doesn't really matter...) you need to drain the now-maroon gin into another container, and add a strong sugar syrup mixture (just sugar dissolved in warm water) to taste. Some prefer it sweeter than others, which is why a prescribed amount of sugar is somewhat meaningless. Then re-bottle, label with something pretty-looking (and the date!!!) and stick the bottles in the drinks cabinet / larder / cupboard under the sink as appropriate. The longer you leave it from here, the better it'll taste!