Autumn is on the horizon and quickly approaching, and with it will come a bounty of sloes that can be used in a number of different recipes.
But, we like to use the wild sloes that we gather to make mouth-watering sloe gin in our kitchens, as the sloes will have matured just in time for the Christmas period.
An Introduction to Sloe Gin
Sloe gin is a rather unique British favourite, made using some of our own native berries and yet a classic that is often forgotten and left out of the gin cupboard. It’s quite easy to see why sloe gin is regularly left out because it is made with sloe berries. These wild-growing berries are aesthetically pleasing, but they taste horrible.
Luckily, us British folk have come up with a way to make even the most astringent of sloe berries taste delightful. We soak them in a high-proof alcohol. What doesn’t taste good soaked in alcohol? All we have to do is infuse the berries in our favourite high-quality gin with a touch of sugar, leave them to mature for a couple of months and we are left with something that would fit in perfectly in any liqueur cabinet.
Given the length of time in which it takes sloe berries to mature, it is easy to see why this drink was traditionally drunk during the winter period. If you have some hedgerows growing near your home, then you might need to start looking amongst their leaves to see whether or not any sloe berries are growing on them.
Sloe Gin Recipe
Before you can even start thinking about crafting a sloe gin of your own, you need to gather some sloe berries. You can tell when sloe berries are ripe because they can easily be popped in-between your fingers, and you should try to avoid picking sloe berries that cannot easily be popped.
We would highly recommend gathering as many sloe berries as possible. You should only really need to half-fill the bottle that your sloe gin will be stored in, but gathering more sloe berries than you need means that you can leave some for the next year, and then the year after that. The longer you leave your sloe berries to mature, the better your sloe gin will be.
Once you have gathered your sloe berries, you should place them into your freezer overnight. The cold in the freezer will be like the first frost that the berries would otherwise have naturally been exposed to in the winter, splitting their skin. This releases some of the natural sweetness in the sloe berries, starting the process of removing their natural astringent flavour. Afterwards, you will need to follow the following instructions:
1. Make sure that all of the bottles that you are going to be maturing your gin in are airtight. Once you are certain that they are, sterilise them before going any further.
2. Take your sterilised bottles and half fill them with frozen sloe berries. Fill the rest of the bottle with gin. Ideally, you should make sure that you are using a high-quality gin so that you are left with a high-quality sloe gin.
3. Before you close your bottle, stir in several spoonfuls of caster sugar. Add the lid and shake the mixture for a good few minutes.
4. Store your bottle away from natural sunlight and try to keep it on its side. To ensure that your sloe gin tastes as wonderful as it can, twist it 180 degrees every other day.
5. You should store your sloe gin for a minimum of two months before opening it.
When you open your sloe gin, you will need to swiftly decide whether or not you think it is sweet enough. If you don’t, then you can add a simple sugar syrup to your gin.
Sloe Gin Cocktail – The Charlie Chaplin
The Charlie Chaplin is one of our all-time favourite sloe gin cocktails. This delightful cocktail was first crafted in the Waldorf-Astoria, and it truly embodies the seasonal period.
– 35ml Sloe Gin
– 25ml Lime Juice
– 15ml The Bitter Truth Apricot Brandy
– 5ml Monin Pure Cane Sugar
1. Half-fill your favourite cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Add all of your ingredients to the cocktail shaker and shake them until they have all combined.
3. Strain into a chilled glass of your choice.
4. If you would like, perhaps garnish your Charlie Chaplin cocktail with an orange twist or an orange wheel.
Homemade Sloe Gin Alternatives
If you don’t want to make your own sloe gin at home, then there are a couple of alternatives that you could make the most out of. Some of our favourite sloe gins that are available to purchase include:
1. Monkey 47 Sloe Gin
You might have heard of Monkey 47 because of their fantastic gin which combines 47 different botanicals, but their sloe gin is also a complex spirit that we would happily recommend. Just as you would mature sloe gin at home, this sloe gin is matured in the depths of the Black Forest for three months.
2. Sipsmith Sloe Gin
Sipsmith Sloe Gin is a welcome addition to any gin cabinet, having been effortlessly crafted using Sipsmith’s London Dry Gin. Just as we have suggested, the berries are first frozen and then left to rest, leaving us with a mixture of fruity flavours and strawberry undertones.
3. Elephant Sloe Gin
If you have never tried Elephant Gin before, then we would highly recommend starting out with their Elephant Sloe Gin or Elephant Dry Gin. One of our favourite things about this gin is the fact that 15% of their profits go to two different African elephant foundations.
Patience is Key
When you are crafting your own spirit at home, you need to try to be as patient as possible. We understand that this might be difficult, but sloe berries need time if they are going to leave you with a sweet and yet complex palette. Trust us, this drink is worth the wait.