The Sipsmith Blog

What Is Sloe Gin?

in Gin Culture December 19, 2023

Discover the rich history and richer taste of sloe gin: how it’s different to gin, how to make your own, gift ideas and more.

Sloe gin is fast becoming a sensation among sippers, and can you blame them? After all, this is a tipple bursting with very berry flavour we’re talking about. Imagine everything you love about gin – that delicious dryness, those sublime junipery undertones – but sweeter and tarter, with a ruby red hue ready to brighten your glass and brighten even the darkest winter day.

But what exactly is sloe gin, you might be wondering? How is it made, how best to drink it and what makes Sipsmith’s spin on the recipe the most mouth-watering on the market? Glad you asked. Allow us to give you the low down (or if you will, the sloe-down) on a gin liquor worth fruit-ing for…

First thing’s first – what is a Sloe?

They’re berries, but not just any berries, friends. Where blueberries, raspberries and co are sweet and sugary, there’s a splendid sour kick to these little purple delights, found on Blackthorne plants growing in the wild right here in the UK.

That acidic personality means they’re often overlooked when it comes to bakers searching for toppings for desserts. But your Aunt’s cheesecake recipe’s loss is gin-lovers’ gain, as sloe berries make for a winter-warmer beverage to be reckoned with when steeped in gin, British farmers discovered back in the 17th century.

So, sloe gin is just gin plus sloe berries?

Maybe to some. Not to us at Sipsmith. Every autumn, we hand-pick only the finest wild sloe berries that Britain’s blackthorn bushes have to offer. Then we take our award-winning London Dry Gin, distilled right here in London on our famous copper stills. Finally, we fuse it with other flavours, as part of a carefully crafted recipe.

What does it taste like as a result?

In a world: sublime! Sloe gin done the Sipsmith way has notes of gorgeous redcurrant, ripe winter fruits and stone-fruit almond. Not to mention a velvety mouthfeel that needs to be tasted to be believed. Mouthwatering indeed.

What’s the best way to enjoy sloe gin?

Take your pick! There are countless resplendent cocktail recipes using sloe gin to choose from. If it’s a fruity respite from frosty weather you’re after, you can’t go wrong with a Winter G&T – a sensational sip, combining 25ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin and 25ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin, topped up with chilled Indian tonic water.

The Pink Sip, meanwhile, is bright with lemon and bustling with year-round flavour – take 50ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin, 150ml of lemon tonic or bitter lemon then garnish with a slice of orange.

Alternatively, if you’re hosting a dinner party and want to impress, nothing says “cocktail sophistication” quite like a Sloe Royal – like a Kir Royale, but with a quintessentially British twist. Pour 150ml of Sipsmith Sloe Gin into a chilled flute then top with champagne for this classy delicacy.

How about a summery on-the-rocks alternative?

A Bramble might be the sunny-season cocktail for you. Take 50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin, add 10ml sugar syrup, 20ml fresh lemon juice and 20ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin, then drizzle over ice for a modern classic that mingles traditional gin flavour with ripe blackberry liqueur and zesty lemon flourishes.

Your options don’t end there, though. You can’t beat a sloe-jito (a sloe-infused mojito) on a sizzling summer’s day.

Can I make sloe gin at home?

Of course you can! It couldn’t be easier to pick your own sloes and steep in Sipsmith London Dry Gin. Just beware some of the myths circulating online if you do. You’ll often hear that sloes are best picked during the first frost of the season. Not so! Like all fruit, it’s best to pick sloes when they are ripe. How do you know if they’re ripe, we hear you ask? Simple: gently squeeze them. If it feels like a rock, it’s not ripe. If it feels like a little juicy plum, it’s ripe. There’s no need to test each one. If a few are ripe, the entire crop is ready.

Another popular belief is that sloes need to be pricked with a thorn from the blackthorn plant they were picked from. Which is lovely and romantic, but again, simply not true. For best results, what you should do is place the sloes in a freezer bag or tupperware box and freeze them for a day or two. Pricking them ruptures the fruit once, allowing the flavour to slowly leak out while they are sitting in the gin. However, freezing is better as it ruptures the sloe berries thousands of times, and evenly.

The secret to making the best sloe gin, then? Find good sloes (you can order online if you can’t locate a blackthorn hedgerow near you), then freeze them overnight, add enough fruit to almost half-fill a bottle, then top it up with good-quality gin. We’d recommend Sipsmith London Dry Gin. Completely unbiased, of course.

How long will my sloe gin last?

Keep your sloe gin in an air-tight, sealed bottle in a cool, dark spot and it should last roughly a year after opening. Meaning you can enjoy one sensational sip at a time, in no hurry. (Easier said than done, though, be warned).

What can I do with my leftover sloe berries?

Here’s a fun fact: leftover sloe berries can be turned into great Christmas gifts. Take sloe jam, for example – a seasonal treat that makes an ideal stocking filler, and couldn’t be simpler to make. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Hedgerow Jelly is a traditional favourite in which sloe berries are combined with other hand-foraged picks, including rosehips, crab apples and rowanberries. While other recipes put the focus squarely on dark, plummy sloe berries. It’s entirely up to you.

Alternatively, have you thought of making a box of moreish sloe chocolates? Remove any remaining pips from your berries, lay them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and dust with cinnamon and orange zest. Melt good-quality chocolate and pour over the berries until they are well coated. Then leave to chill in the freezer until they’re set.

Then there’s the different beverages waiting to be concocted from your leftover sloes. Explore five ways to use leftover sloe berries in our guide to making sloe brandy, sloe cordial and even “slider” (yes, you guessed it – sloe berry-infused cider).

How to delve deeper into the delicious world of sloe gin

Sipsmith offers a tip-top array of sloe gin products and accessories, ensuring you’re well-equipped to enjoy this unique gin variant to the fullest. And while you’re at it – why not pick up a Sipsmith Sloe Gin Limited Edition Gift Box for the gin lover in your life this Christmas?

Sloe gin is synonymous with winter for a reason. So craft a Winter G&T for a sensational sip on a chilly evening and share your creation on social media. Remember to tag us @sipsmith – we love seeing what you are serving. 

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