making sloe gin (with foraged Forest of Dean sloes)

November 14, 2009 at 11:18 am 40 comments

making sloe gin_shake upMaking sloe gin for the first time this week, with the sloes I picked a few weeks ago,  conjured up memories of making elderflower cordial for the first time:  no two sloe gin recipes are the same.  The quantity of sugar to sloes recommended varies from equal measures to half measures to none depending on who you ask.  I chose half measures of sugar to sloes calculating this would be the best combination for filling the gap between the berries and booze in my enormous 1.7ltr cognac bottle (no, I’m not a booze hound – I fished it out of my neighbours unlidded recycling box!)MOSAIC_sloe gin

Bottle 1
650g sloes + 325g sugar + 850ml gin (in a 1.7l bottle)

Bottle 2
200g sloes + a vanilla pod + 150ml  (in a 375ml bottle)

This article recommended using a vanilla pod instead of sugar to miraculously sweeten the sour sloes and produce a less syrupy liquer.  I’d bought a small bottle of gin as well for gifting when the time comes to decant it and liked the idea of experimenting with a sugar free variety of sloe gin. making sloe gin_vanilla pod method

Bottle 3
200g frozen raspberries + vanilla pod + 125ml gin (in a 250ml bottle)

I had no use for the last 125ml of gin so poked around in the freezer to see what other fruit could be used to replace the sloes.  My stoned damsons would have worked really well but I was quite taken by the idea of a raspberry red tipple.making sloe gin_with raspberriesAnd just 4 days later this is how they’re looking.sloe gin_4 daysnote to self:  made on 10/11/09.  Freezing sloes is supposed to help the skins to burst but most of the berries are still intact despite vigorous shaking.  Patient pricking instead of freezing next year then?  And keep some gin aside for topping up bottles once the gin/fruit/sugar settles.


Entry filed under: away from the plot, in the kitchen. Tags: , .

shed envy chutney for a chicken

40 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Johanna  |  November 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    sloes and sloe gin are a mystery to me but those bottles look so pretty

  • 2. Claire  |  November 14, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Another good recipe is blackberry brandy, 1lb blackberries, 8 oz sugar, 1 3/4 pints brandy.
    No need to pierce the blackberries and follow the same method as for sloe gin. Cheers!

  • 3. mangocheeks  |  November 14, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Mmm I can almost taste the sloe gin.

    For now I will have to settle for my rhubarb; rasberry and strawberry vodka and I still have a number of bottles of elderflower champagne in the shed – so its not all bad eh.

    Claires blackberry brandy recipe sounds good.

    • 4. Claire  |  November 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm

      Hi Mangocheeks,
      Your rhubarb, rapberry and strawberry vodkas sound gorgeous, could I please have the recipies? I’d like to try them next year when I shall have fruit on my plants for the first time, whoop whoop! (I’m new to this gardening malarky, only started this summer)

  • 6. Ann  |  November 14, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Oh wow, they look great! I want to make some and I don’t drink!!! Maybe I’ll have a go just to say I did it, come in handy at Christmas.

  • 7. miss m  |  November 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Mmmm, good looking booze … (the raspberry bottle looks divine !)

    Note to self: Find a way to be present at bottle opening(s). This looks too good to miss.

  • 8. Nip it in the bud  |  November 14, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Johanna – they were to me until a few weeks ago. Just as well my friend Deb knew what they looked like when we went hunting for them!

    Claire – hic, that sounds soooo delicious and I have blackberries in the freezer (I don’t actually drink much really but fruity sippy drinks at Christmas time appeal – probably doesn’t take as long to brew as stone fruit).

    MC – elderflower champagne sounds gorgeous, I shall remember that for next year. When’s the party :o3

    Ann – it’s fun making it even if you don’t drink it. My friend Deb is 8 months pregnant and got a terrible look for the checkout girl when she bought her gin!

    Miss M – if you find a way to be present at the bottle opening you can have the entire bottle for your efforts :o)

    Kirsten – I thought that too – they’re like blueberries but the size of black currants. Totally sour and inedible raw though unlike beautiful blueberries. I’d like to get a blueberry bush but they’re so expensive and difficult to keep growing

  • 9. Anne Maundrell  |  November 15, 2009 at 12:15 am

    I remember as a child I used to go along the cliff path near my home where there were lots of sloes growing and I used to eat them sometimes even though they made my mouth go fort of furry, they were so bitter. No one in my family ever made sloe gin but yours looks delicious.

  • 10. Jacqueline  |  November 15, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Wow, I love those photos. They look like works of art. I have never tried to make anything like this before, but you have taken the fear out of it for me.

  • 11. Matron  |  November 15, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I picked my sloes about a month ago and put them in the freezer to simulate frost! To be honest I don’t think it makes much difference at all when you pick them or what you do with them. I certainly won’t be pricking each one individually with a pin !! I
    I think you can add as much sugar or as little sugar as you like depending on how sweet you like your finished product. I’ve also made blueberry gin and blackberry gin in the same way!

  • 12. Choclette  |  November 15, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Just found your blog – it’s great and I shall be back. I’m also of the “don’t bother pricking the individual sloes” school. Mine has always turned out to be very tasty, though I do leave the sloes in for a year. Usually use 1/3 gin, 1/3 sloes, 1/3 sugar.

    Loved the look of the raspberries – hadn’t thought about doing that. Have tried redcurrents in vodka though this year, so waiting with interest to see what that will be like. Blackcurrents are also very good with vodka.

  • 13. Nip it in the bud  |  November 16, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Anne – a furry mouth is an apt description. I tried one and it was really bitter. Glad it conjured up nostalgic memories of home for you.

    Jac – it’s so quick and easy and the daily shake is quite comic :o)

    Matron – one recipe recommended weekly testing for sweetness but I can’t imagine there’d be much left if I did that! Your other varieties of gin sound scrummy

    Choclette – thanks for coming and joining us. Redcurrant vodka is one to try next year – we had lots of redcurrants from our neighbours plot and made gorgeous redcurrant jelly. Good to here the sloe gin improves the longer you leave it as I didn’t expect mine to be ready for this christmas so may just lose it to the back of the cupboard!

  • 14. treeforyou  |  November 17, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Oh wow! I’m impressed!! I might try it!! Thanks for sharing x

    • 15. Nip it in the bud  |  November 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

      thanks for popping over. There are some lovely recommendations here for other fruit to try and it seems that vodka + any fruit you can imagine works well too!

  • 16. Sue  |  December 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I made my sloe gin 3 months ago and have just tasted it and it is sooooooo bitter, my tongue just curls around. Not nice at all. Is there anyway that I can get rid of some of the sloe bitter taste. I have added a sugar syrup mix to it and it is slightly better, but not very palatable. If I can’t alter the taste, what can I mix it with to soften it down. I hope I have not wasted that litre of gin!

    • 17. Nip it in the bud  |  January 3, 2010 at 9:44 am

      Hi Sue, I’ve just sampled mine and it’s not tasting that special either! I think I’m going to have a go at stabbing all the sloes inside the bottle with a knitting needle because they don’t appear to have burst very much. The gin should be more syrupy than it is and it just tastes of gin at the moment! The sugary one is ok but the one without sugar probably tastes like yours (so the jury is still out on whether a vanilla pod is a suitable substitute – you can taste the vanilla through the bitterness though which is quite nice). So hard to say how to fix it. Perhaps try asking on the Sloebiz forum – the people on their seem to know a thing or too about making delicious drinks.

  • 18. Jade  |  September 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Hey, I would live to know how the sugar free sloe gin turned out as I am trying to steer clear of sugar. Thanks. X

    • 19. Sue  |  September 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      My last year’s sloe gin was a total failure. Never did get any better than the first time that I tasted it – very, very bitter and I decided that I would not waste anymore good bottles of gin making this again. The sloes were obviously not ripe enough, or something? But, too expensive to keep trying and failing, so will just stick to my gin and tonics in future, at least I know what this is going to taste like.

      • 20. Nip it in the bud  |  September 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm

        Hi Sue, mine’s a little bitter too but as I’m not a fan of gin it’s still an improvement as far as I’m concerned!
        I’m thinking of taking a knitting needle to mine as the gin doesn’t seem to have penetrated the sloes as much as it should have. I’d definitely prick them if I made it again – no matter how long that takes! The raspberry one’s good though. hic…

    • 21. Nip it in the bud  |  September 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      Hi Jade, my sloe gin didn’t go as syrupy as I would have liked because contrary to popular opinion about sloes bursting naturally when frozen they didn’t seem too! I would say that both versions still have a touch of the sour gin about them and that the sugared one is not all that much sweeter. The one without sugar does have a lovely vanillary hint to it and the one with raspberries + vanilla pod seems sweeter than the sugared sloe one. As I’m not a big fan of gin I’d be inclined to copy Mangocheeks experiments with vodka and make sugar free liquors using naturally sweeter fruits.
      Hope that muddle is helpful, N

  • 22. Andy Roberts  |  October 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Hi Nic, thanks for all your advice on here. My sloes seem to have a white fur on them in the bottle – is this ok or should I worry?

    • 23. Nip it in the bud  |  October 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Andy
      White fur on soft fruit is never good I’m afraid. It’s a sign of mould growth which means bacteria is present. I’ve experienced this at the top of jams if the jars have not been sterilized properly or the lids aren’t an airtight fit. I’ve heard it can also happen if the ingredients have cooled down too much before bottling.
      As your fruit is in alcohol and boiling doesn’t apply I’d guess your sloes were over ripe or you had a few bruised ones which could have been harbouring bacteria. It’s probably been feeding nicely on the sugar added.
      I don’t honestly know if this means your gin is completely spoiled or whether it’s salvagable if you remove the mouldy culprits. I happily scoop mould off the top of sweet preserves but in liquid I would guess it’s harder to be sure you’ve got it all. Perhaps you could pose the question on the Sloe Biz forum?

      • 24. Andy Roberts  |  October 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm

        well your comments make a lot of sense – I did think the sloes were quite ripe when I picked them but it was fairly early in the picking season and everyone says dont pick til ripe.

        I’m not sure what to do, I would have to decant the whole thing which given the bottles I’m making it in would be nigh on impossible to remove the culprits. Can bacteria grow in alcohol, well it seems like it.

        Its not a dense fur, its more like strands coming off the top few sloes. I’ve added a post on the other forum you mention but noone has answered yet.

  • 25. Andy Roberts  |  October 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm


    Well, after the first appearences of the strnage looking stuff no more has developed, most of the sloes look fine and the whispy stuff sits on top of the berries, the liquor itself looks clear enough. I was thinking about this and the the berries were very ripe when I picked them and after freezing them I wonder whether its some of the insides of the berries rather than anything malicious!

  • 26. Nip it in the bud  |  October 24, 2010 at 9:31 am

    thanks for the update Andy. If your gin is looking fine your thoughts on the berries splurging sounds plausible. So it should be ready for you in time for Christmas :o) Enjoy x

  • 27. Andy Roberts  |  October 25, 2010 at 7:25 am

    made some more this weekend and watched the berries closely, the ripe berries seem to have split even more than last year through the freezing process and a little bit of pulp seems to come out of each one, so am going to assume everything is ok with the brew!!!

  • 28. Nip it in the bud  |  October 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    yay, I’m pleased to hear it. You did well foraging two batches of sloes. Don’t tell anyone where they are!

  • 29. Andy Roberts  |  October 25, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    actually very easy, when we moved into our new house 10 years ago, the builder planted a Blackthorn hedge, cursed him at the time but I’m glad he did it now!! Have made sloe rum as well this year.

  • 30. Nip it in the bud  |  November 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    that’ll be quite some Christmas party then Andy ;o)

  • […] Sources: 01 Sloe Gin Bottle, 02 Making Sloe Gin , 03 Sloes on the bush , 04 […]

  • 32. nic@nipitinthebud  |  October 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    reading a blog post today about making sloe gin has reminded me of my sloe gin experiment. The moral of my story is single pricking each sloe would seem to be worth the effort if you want a lovely silky rich syrupy drink. I ended up throwing mine away as it never really thickened up and I don’t like gin enough to tolerate the disappointing fruit flavour from unburst sloes.

    As for the vanilla pod no sugar version, that must be an urban legend too! The raspberry’s worked fine but I won’t be making it again (I’m just not a drinker) much prefer raspberry vinegar!

  • 33. andrea dixon  |  October 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I took the time last year to prick each sloe, I also added 1star annise to the mix… worked really well, have just picked this year’s slows and look forward to another batch

    • 34. Nip it in the bud  |  October 27, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      thanks for taking the time to share your successful experience Andrea, further confirmation if any were needed that short cuts never work! Hope this year’s batch turns out as well.

      ps. I have a jar of star annises in the cupboard, bought from an asian grocery store for less than one would cost. And yet I’ve never used them for anything other than one chutney recipe years ago. Thanks for the reminder to dig them out!

  • 35. Linda  |  February 10, 2015 at 1:55 am

    I’m not sure what berry a sloe is and I don’t think we have them here. But can you use blueberry’s?

    • 36. Nip it in the bud  |  February 14, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Hi Linda, sloe gin is a very particular flavour which is weird considering they are inedible and tart raw! Perhaps that’s why they work well with the gin which personally I don’t like much. They have no natural sweetness in themselves, that comes purely from the sugar (don’t try the no sugar version, it was horrible!). Using blueberries would no doubt work since most fruit soaked in alcohol and sugar will produce some sort of pallatable fruity syrup and would be similar to my experiment with the raspberries. I’d probably say go for vodka though instead of gin as it’s a more neutral liquid and I’ve a friend who’s experimented with all sorts of fruit vodka and been happy with the results

  • 37. Megamoose  |  November 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    How was the raspberry and vanilla gin please!!?

    • 38. Nip it in the bud  |  November 7, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Not very nice! Just goes to show you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. The vanilla did nothing to sweeten it and the raspberries weren’t sweet enough to do the job of making it syruppy

  • 39. Alan  |  October 26, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    I got carried away and made gooseberry gin, it is a little odd and I won’t do it again, I did also make raspberry gin with some mint, this wasn’t to bad.

    • 40. Nip it in the bud  |  October 26, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      I love your experimenting! I’ve never made any kind of fruit gin again either ;0/


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About Nip it in the bud

Welcome to my blog about growing and cooking allotment veg since 2009 and growing sweet boys since 2012. Take a walk with us through our life in Gloucester with a boy, a baby and 3 cats.

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