With autumn on its way, it’s time to pick (or buy) some sloes and make your own sloe gin. Two months is the minimum amount of time it needs to mature, and with Christmas fast approaching, let’s get going!
When are sloes in season?
First up, you need to find some sloes. In the UK, wild blackthorn trees are weighed down with sloes between the end of September and November. There’s a lot of debate about the best time to pick them, but the simplest rule is that if you can pop the berries easily between your finger and thumb, they’re ripe.
What do you need to make sloe gin?
- 450g sloe berries
- large airtight jar
- 250g caster sugar
- 700ml good quality gin
- Sieve (for straining)
How to make sloe gin
- Start off by rinsing your sloes, then bag them up and pop them in the freezer overnight. This will simulate the first frost and split the skin on your berries, so they release their natural sweetness without the need for pricking.
- After sterilising your airtight jar, place the frozen fruit into the jar, and add the sugar.
- Pour in the gin – try to use a good gin if you can, as cheap ones make cheap sloe gin and can ruin all your hard work. And, don’t forget to save the empty gin bottle as you’ll need this later.
- Seal the jar tightly and tip upside-down to ensure everything is gently mixed.
- Store the jar on its side and keep out of direct sunlight. Twist the jar 180 degrees every other day for two to three months. (After three months, make sure you remove the sloes from the jar before storing, or it will become too strong.)
- When it’s ready, strain the mixture back into the empty gin bottle. If you have time, leave the sloe gin in the bottle for one more week to help it mellow and the flavours round out. The longer you leave your gin the better, so anything you don’t drink this year will be fantastic the next year, and even better the year after that.
Serve your sloe gin as an aperitif on a crisp winter’s day, use it to make festive cocktails, or give as a gorgeous Christmas gift. And if you want to go all-out, give this Sloe gin gravlax a go!
Watch bar manager Lottie Muir make sloe gin here: