My earliest memories of sloe gin are of my late Grandfather’s under-stairs cupboard, in a modest terraced house in Gillingham, Kent. An Aladdin’s cave filled with home-made pickles, drinks, brews and bakes. He always made large quantities of Sloe Gin, and had bottles ageing many years.
A Christmas after-dinner staple, the sweet, fruity, and slightly almond-flavoured liquor is a perfect drink to match with a mince pie. Quintessentially British, many households up and down the country make their own, although the current gin craze has seen more sloe gin available in supermarkets. There is even a Sloe Gin World Championship held annually in December at The George Inn, at Frant in East Sussex.
Sloes are the stone fruit (drupes) of the blackthorn, which can be found in many hedgerows up and down the UK. Tradition dictates that for Sloe Gin, they should be picked after the first frost of autumn, and pricked with a silver pin prior to being steeped in alcohol. When aged for a long time, an almond-like flavour begins extracted from the stones of the sloes, adding complexity to the liquor.
Makes: Approximately 1 litre
Skill level: Easy
Equipment required: 2-litre wide-necked clip top jar (Kilner or similar), clean bottles, sieve, pin, coffee filter paper.
Prep time: 30 minutes to prepare. Steeping and ageing at least 3 months.
1 Litre Gin
250g caster sugar
10-15 blanched almonds
Step 1: Freeze your sloes overnight (particularly if you have picked them in early autumn, before the first frost). This helps to break down the structure of the sloe, aiding the steeping process.
Step 2: Prick the sloes with a pin (I don’t think its important that the pin is silver!) approximately 5-8 times each, and place them into a sterilised large clip top jar.
Step 3: Add the gin, sugar and almonds, close the lid and shake well. Place in a dark cupboard (light can turn the sloe gin brown) to age.
Step 4: Shake the jar every 2 days for the first week, and then weekly until the ageing process is complete (preferably 3 months).
Step 5: Prior to bottling, allow the sloe gin to rest, ensuring any sediment settles to the bottom. Carefully pour the gin out of the jar, passing it through a paper coffee filter to produce a clean and clear liquor. Decant into sterilised bottles, and continue to store in the dark, until ready to serve.
Drink neat, or perhaps with an ice cubed, or even turn into a longer drink by mixing with lemonade or tonic.
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