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Home » Members Blog

Sloe woes… and a sloe gin recipe

Submitted by on October 30, 2012 – 1:42 pm2 Comments

The sometimes elusive sloe berries growing on a blackthorn bush

For the past five years or so around October time, I’ve got into the habit of making a batch of sloe gin to see me through the winter. It’s simple to make, warming and delicious, and also makes a great Christmas gift. This year, however, my efforts have been thwarted by a complete inability to find any sloe berries. All my regular haunts (in the Leeds area) are completely bare of fruit. Not even a few wrinkled berries that have been half nibbled by birds. This is a very sad state of affairs, only eased by the fact that Juniper Green sell their own sloe gin, so I won’t have to forego it’s deliciousness completely.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has managed to track down these precious hedgerow fruits this year? As far as I know you can’t buy them in shops; but that wouldn’t be quite the same anyway.

Just in case you’ve had better luck with your foraging, here’s my tried and tested sloe gin method. It’s not an exact science so you can add more sugar if you’d like it really sweet, or less sloes if you prefer a milder sloe flavour.

How to make sloe gin


500g sloes
A 70cl bottle of gin
250 ml sugar



Step 1- go and pick a load of sloes
In fairness you don’t have to pick loads, but if you only make a small amount it’ll be all gone before you know it and you’ll have to wait ages for the sloes to come out again! It all depends how many you can find really.

Step 2- prep your sloes
You want to make sure as much of the juiciness of the sloes infuses into your gin as possible. There are two ways to do this:

Pin method- poke each sloe with a pin to break the skin
Freezer method- pop all the sloes in the freezer overnight, then defrost them again

The freezer method is my preference since it’s the less labour intensive of the two.

Step 3- Mix it up
Put your three ingredients into wide-necked bottles or a demijohn. Add a split vanilla pod if you are feeling fancy, to give a smoother flavour. You could use a screw top wine bottle as long as you accept the fact that getting the sloes out again will be pretty fiddly!

Step 4- Leave to mature
Leave the gin to infuse for at least a month, but the longer the better really. It depends how long you can resist drinking it for! Give the mixture a shake every few days to help the process along.

Step 5- Bottle
Strain the gin through a sieve or muslin into sealable bottles. The gin will keep for ages and gets better with age as well. Sloe gin is great sipped by itself as a liqueur, but also works a treat in a champagne cocktail or with a splash of tonic.

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  • Dee Weaver says:

    I blame the weather, which was unseasonably warm when the blackthorns were in blossom, followed by unremitting rain.
    Suma used to be able to get dried sloe berries at one time (SO-IXSLO, or something like that), from a supplier who is no longer in business. The Old Guard will remember them!

  • Tina says:

    There were virtually no sloes this year, but an absolute glut last year so I had some in the freezer. Always a good place to put sloes as they like to be frosted (although granted not for a year!). So, moral of story, freeze in gluts to ensure Sloe gin when sloes are hard to come by.

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