Making sloe gin has become an annual tradition, and I can’t imagine winter without its comforting warmth and sharp, plummy flavour. Although many people recommend making it now in time for Christmas, we prefer to leave the sloes steeping for a good six months before removing and bottling; and so we have settled in to a good rhythm of making it one year and drinking it the next. But if, when starting out, the prospect of not tasting any til next Christmas seems too far away, make enough for both years – bottle some this year and leave the remainder steeping for longer to enjoy next.
Although sloe gin is essentially a liqueur, keeping the sugar levels down will allow the flavours of the fruit and botanicals to come through, and reward you with a more interesting drink. We make it using roughly 250g of sugar for every bottle of gin, and 2.5 sloes: 1 sugar. This year we picked 1250g sloes to which we added 500g sugar and two bottles of gin.
Wash the sloes and prick all over (or break the skins by freezing the sloes first), then place in sterilized jars or containers with reliable seals (you don’t want to lose any of the precious liquor through evaporation!). Add the sugar, then pour over the gin; we use a decent supermarket own brand. Some instructions recommend using cheap gin, and while it’s certainly not worth using the finest, using the cheapest you can lay your hands on will only spoil the final result. Store in a cool, dark place for at least three months, then remove the sloes, strain the liquor through muslin, and bottle.