how to make sloe gin

Autumn is here so it’s time to pick (or buy) your sloes and make your sloe gin. Two months is the minimum amount of time it needs to mature, and as it’s now two months until Christmas…

First up, you need to find your sloes. Around this time in the UK the wild blackthorn trees are aching with fruit. There’s lots of debate about when to pick them, but the simplest rule is that if you can pop the berries easily between your finger and thumb, they’re ripe.

Pick enough to half-fill the bottle of your choice, but if you have loads it’s a really good idea to make a batch of them. 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.

Start by sticking them in the freezer overnight. This will simulate the first frost and split the skin on your berries, allowing them to release their natural sweetness.

After sterilising your airtight bottle(s), half fill it with the frozen fruit and top up with gin – a good gin please, as cheap ones make cheap sloe gin and will often ruin all of your hard work. Add two big spoonfuls of caster sugar and shake for a minute. Lay on its side out of direct sunlight and twist it 180 degrees every other day for two months.

how to make sloe gin

A few days before your first glass, give it a taste. If you think you need it sweeter then make a simple sugar syrup. Do this by dissolving equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Let it cool then add to taste.

Serve on a crisp winter’s day lunchtime as an aperitif.


christmas, drink, gin, recipe, sloe gin


  • Iain Monks

    In this case you’re not fermenting you are flavouring the alcohol base, so you don’t need the natural yeast

  • Iain Monks

    The price of the gin isn’t a factor, the taste of it is. If you use a spirit that is made from paint stripper, obviously you aren’t going to get good results, but a reasonable gin will accept the flavour of the berries and give good results. Not sure that there’s much advantage to using something like Bombay Sapphire as the more subtle flavours would likely be overwhelmed by the fruit.

  • Albion

    Try just adding the sloes to the sugar and leaving for a week before adding the gin. This extracts more flavour and colour from the sloes. If you make 2 bottles at a time, keep them for at least 12 months, then open one and keep the other as long as possible.

  • Claire Grieveson

    Thank goodness I read this. Just tried it and so far after an hour two have come out in just a few berries!

  • jessielou87

    We use cheap gin. Definitely leave as long as you can, or make extra to save…I have a few that are over 5 years old…the best thing you could ever drink and they only get better with age. From a family of publicans who have been making it for decades 🙂

  • India Semper-Hughes

    Hi, I was just wondering, how much (weight) sloe berries should I add per 1 Litre of gin? I’d ideally like to make 4 Litres if that’s not too ambitious. Thanks for any help in advance.

  • Paul Catanach

    I make a few batches each year using different sugars. Caster sugar for plain sloe gin then light and dark muscavado for rummy flavours. For a ‘mulled’ effect add cinnamon, nutmeg, bit of orange rind…… just experiment.

  • Rupert Guy Petch

    Also changing the alcohol content of the Gin you use can alter what flavour compounds you draw out if the fruit and how long it takes, I personally when making fruit liquors use a more expensive alcohol with higher % v/v, then leave for a few weeks then start adding the sugar towards the end which then drops the %, and tasting every few weeks, and adding more if required. I’ve had some cracking raspberry brandy and limoncello that way.

  • Rupert Guy Petch

    Not tried lemon gin, but have done lemon vodka/ limoncello.
    If you start with a high % alcohol like minimum 43% or what you can afford, then the lemon flavour oils strip out of the zest quite quickly. If not used zest but thin peel strips, but I might try what you’ve said. I leave it around 3 months before adding sugar then leave it as long as you can. It’s drinkable if really sweet or diluted with a bit of spring water, after 4/5 months. Best served super chilled.

  • Michael Woods

    I have a bottle my dad made 20 years ago, it is now a fantastic liqueur. I have to fight my two sons off whenever they visit!

  • Kaiden

    I’ve had some sloe gin for a year but it was given to me with the sloes still in. It’s been like that for over a year, is it safe to drink? Or have the sloes gone off and ruined if?

  • Ash Lizzard

    The Maggots are harmless…and also one of the best sources of protein available…I’d leave them in…the alcohol will have killed and sterilised them already…

  • Potterglen

    I soak the Sloes in salt water for half an hour, any passengers find their way to the top then a good rinse in clean water before freezing.

  • Linda Hallwood

    Really helpful I had not realised Blackthorn and sloe bush were the same.

  • Angela Greenwood

    I found a bottle this year, made by dear friends in 2008! It is delicious and almost 9 years old now!!!

  • Tracey Saxcoburg

    Are you meant to strain the berries out so you’re left with liquid? or keep berries in the gin?

  • Tracy Whittall-Tong

    Hi, does anyone have a recipe for sloe vodka please?