Sloe Gin is one of the most popular British drinks to make at home thanks to the easy availability of sloe berries, not to mention the delicious taste.
It’s also a great addition to many different cocktails so if you are starting to plan your summer parties and barbecues, why not make your own sloe gin?
Luckily, sloe gin is easy to make and it’s a drink that can be enjoyed all year round. Whether you like a long cool cocktail in the summer, or a warming drink at Christmas, sloe gin ticks all the boxes so let’s have a look at what you need to create this popular beverage.
From how to forage for sloe berries, to choosing your syrup, we have the complete guide to making sloe gin for your every need, including recipes for summer cocktails and winter warming drinks to try out once your gin is ready.
Firstly, you need to know when sloes are in season as you need to forage for sloes – unless you are buying them but where is the fun in that?
In the UK, sloes grow on the blackthorn bush between September and November.
The best time to pick them is when they are already ripe, so towards the end of the growing season and if you can pop them between your fingers, they are perfect for the picking. So, the first thing to do is go foraging.
Once you have picked or bought your berries, you will need a few other ingredients and some equipment before you can get started – but it can all be found in most kitchens which is what makes this drink so easy to make.
Requirements to make sloe gin
- Around 450 grammes of sloe berries
- A large jar with a lid
- A plastic funnel
- Around 250g of caster sugar
- Around 700ml of a high-quality gin
- A sieve
Instructions for making sloe gin
The first thing you will need to do is give your sloes a good wash to clean off any debris from your foraging.
You can just put them in your sieve and run cold water over them and give them a good shake to clear any dirt from them.
Next, you need to place all your berries into a plastic freezer bag and put them into the freezer overnight.
Doing this will help to split the skin on all of the berries, making it easier for the juices to come out naturally. Ideally keep them frozen for 24 hours for the best results
The next step is to make sure your glass jar is sterilised and dried and then you can place all of your frozen sloes into your jar.
Your berries should fill up at least half of your jar. Add in all of the sugar with the berries and then pour the gin into your jar as well.
Check out our guide to making your own gin if you’re feeling really adventurous.
Make sure you keep your gin bottle for later on in the process and only ever use high quality gin if you want decent results.
Once all the ingredients are in, you need to seal the jar shut and then tip it to make sure all the ingredients mix well together.
Now is the time for patience as your sloe gin develops. You need to store your jar away from sunlight and on its side.
Every other day, turn the jar right around so its lying on the opposite side and you will need to do this for around two or three months. After this time, we recommend you try a sample to taste it and see if its ready.
After three months you need to remove all the sloes from the jar and then you can strain the gin into the saved gin bottle – now you know why you needed to keep it.
If you leave the sloes in the gin any longer it will be too strong and undrinkable.
The longer you can leave your sloe gin in the bottle before drinking it, the better as the flavours will round out naturally.
You can also keep your gin for years, knowing that it will only be getting better over time.
Some people like to sweeten their sloe gin with honey, or a sugar syrup and you can make your own syrup if you prefer.
Once it’s to your taste, its up to you how to enjoy your homemade sloe gin. For some ideas, we have suggested some recipes later on in this article.
But first, because we want you to get the best possible results from your sloe gin, we have picked out some of the common mistakes and myths around making this popular drink, to help you to get it right first time.
Common mistakes when making sloe gin
1. Making it too sweet
It’s up to you how to make sloe gin to your taste. Some people add the sugar during the process, like we have suggested, while others prefer to add it at the end.
Our advice is to add some during the process to avoid a very sharp flavoured gin, but measure it out, don’t saturate your sloe gin with sugar.
It can be easier to use sugar syrup rather than waiting for granulated sugar to dissolve so you can use our recipe later in the article. If in doubt, then keep the sugar to a minimum and gradually add more later to avoid making it too sweet.
2. Using cheap normal gin
Sloe berries actually highlight all of the flavours within the gin that you use, so if you opt for a poor-quality gin, then your sloe gin will taste even worse. If you are going to the trouble of creating your own home-made drink then go for the highest quality gin you can find, for the perfect sloe gin.
3. Waiting for the first frost to pick sloe berries
This is another mistake people make and one that has grown up like an urban legend. All you need to do is pick them when they are ripe, which you can tell when you can squeeze the berries between your fingers. If they are hard then they are not ripe. You don’t need to wait for the first frost as you will be putting them in the freezer when you get home.
4. Pricking all the sloes individually
While it is true that bursting the skin on the berries releases the juices and flavours, there is no need to try to prick them all by hand as that will be very cumbersome and time consuming. The freezing process ruptures all the berries in the same way and is far easier for you.
5. Struggling to find sloe trees for foraging
While some foragers do keep their sources secret, it’s not that hard-to-find sloe berries. If all else fails you can order them from a local farmer, or even buy them in a local greengrocer as long as they are in season.
How do I drink my home-made sloe gin?
Now that you know how easy it is to make sloe gin at home, it’s time to get a bit more creative with how you want to drink it. Some like to try it neat, or it works perfectly in a warm hot toddy in the winter. Alternatively, you can add mixers like tonic or even sparkling wine.
But if you want to get really creative, we’ve developed some sloe gin cocktail recipes for you to try, to make the most of your home-made liqueur all year round. But first, if you want to try using a sugar syrup rather than adding sugar to sweeten your sloe gin, its very easy to make at home as well:
How to make sugar syrup at home
Mix equal amounts of sugar and water into a saucepan and warm it until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then remove it from the heat. Once it is cooled, you will have your sugar syrup ready to add to your sloe gin and serve.
Here are our best suggestions for creating some cool and refreshing summer drinks with your batch of sloe gin, to enjoy out in the garden or at a family barbecue. These are all very easy to make and provide lovely light drinks for all your guests.
How to make sloe gin summer cocktails
1. Sloe gin negroni
Mix equal measures of sloe gin, gin, sweet vermouth and Campari and pour into a glass over ice. Stir gently and garnish for a cool flavourful drink ready to serve.
2. Sloe gin and elderflower
Instead of soda water or tonic water, try using elderflower as the mixer for your sloe gin to create a sweet and floral taste for the summer.
3. Sloe gin with limoncello
Mix your sloe gin with a measure of limoncello in a glass with ice, add a rosemary sprig into the drink and stir to mix the flavour, before topping up with sparkling water, for a delicious refreshing summer drink.
4. Sloe gin bubbles
For an amazing fizzy cocktail for special occasions mix sloe gin with your sugar syrup and some lemon juice. Add them all into a cocktail shaker, and then pour into your glass. Simply top up with champagne for a bubbly delight.
5. Sloe royale
For another sparkling sloe gin drink, try pouring sparkling wine into a glass, then slowly pour in a measure of sloe gin and a measure of cherry brandy which should both sink to the bottom. Top up the glass with chilled prosecco.
6. Minty sloe gin
Take a tall glass and crush some fresh mint leaves in the bottom before adding gin, lemon juice and your sugar syrup. Mix before adding ice, then top off with sloe gin and more ice.
Winter warming drinks with homemade sloe gin
Sloe gin isn’t just for the summer months and can be enjoyed just as much when warmed up to create wonderful winter drinks to enjoy by the fireside, and even to have on festive occasions to make it that much more special.
So, if you like to have your sloe gin on the warmer, spicier side, then check out our winter warmer drink suggestions to make the most of your home-made batch using our sloe gin recipe choices.
1. Mulled sloe gin
Try warming your sloe gin and mixing with apple juice and traditional mulled spices to create a fabulous festive drink, or warming winter beverage.
2. Chocolate sloe gin
Try adding sloe gin to your traditional hot chocolate drink of choice, for a delightfully warming sweet and spicy combination. Once you have tried it you will never go back to plain hot chocolate again.
3. Sloe gin martini
The perfect drink for cold winter nights, try mixing a measure of gin, with sloe gin, lemon juice and a teaspoon of cranberry jelly, in a cocktail shaker, before pouring over ice. The cranberries make this a great alternative festive drink for any table.
4. Orange and sloe gin
Why not try mixing your sloe gin with another seasonal winter fruit by combining it with the juice from a blood orange, add a splash of cherry liqueur and mix with a traditional tonic for a spicy winter warmer.
Making sloe gin at home couldn’t be easier and doesn’t require any specialist ingredients or equipment. As long as you are able to find yourself a plentiful supply of seasonal berries and you choose a high-quality gin, you can’t go wrong.
All you need is some patience to wait the three months for your wonderful drink to be ready, but if you make a big enough batch, you can rest easy knowing it will be getting better and better every year that use it.
And with our cocktail and winter warmer recipes, you have no end of ways to make use of your homemade sloe gin batch all year round and we are sure once you get the hang of it, you will be counting down the weeks until the berries are ripe so you can rush out and start the process all over again.
Last but not least, if you have a gin lover in your life, check out our range of gin hampers and gifts for the perfect treat.