How to make sloe gin… and a little bit of chemistry

First, the recipe.

Making sloe gin really is as easy as 1, 2, 3… – it only requires three ingredients (a fourth is optional) and the particular ratio my recipe uses is 1:2:3 (sugar:sloes:gin). The recipe is easily scaled depending on the size of the container you plan to use.

For a 1.5 litre Kilner jar, I use the following:

250 g caster sugar
500 g sloes
750 mL gin

(a splash of almond extract is optional; make sure you use an alcohol-based one rather than oil-based).

I usually sterilize the Kilner jar with a sterilizing solution made up with the tablets that you can buy in any supermarket – I’m not sure this is absolutely necessary, but better safe than sorry. I leave the jar upside-down on some kitchen roll and let it air dry.

Once you’ve gotten hold of the sloes (more on that later), I get rid of any leaves/stalks, wash them in water, dry them, and then put them in the freezer in a plastic bag. Leave them in there for a day or two and this should split the skins. If when you take them out of the freezer the sloes haven’t split, just prick each one with a sharp knife (it’s less messy if you do it while they are still frozen… and it doesn’t take as long as you think it will). Some sloe-gin folklore tells you that you need to prick the sloes with a thorn from the blackthorn bush you picked the fruit from; alternatively you should use a silver needle. This is stupid, you don’t need to do it – a knife is fine.

Simply weigh 500 g of the frozen sloes into the Kilner jar, add the sugar, then the gin, and finally the splash of almond essence if you plan on including it. Close the jar lid and then give the whole thing a good shake. Store the jar in a dark cupboard and give it a shake each day until the sugar completely dissolves – this shouldn’t take more than a few days. After that, invert the jar once a week (or just whenever you happen to remember). Then wait. The longer the better.

Just add time.

Just add time.

If you don’t have weighing scales or a measuring jug then the following is a good approximation: pick the container you want to make your sloe gin in and fill it half full with sloes. Add sugar until it fills the gaps between the fruit and reaches the same level in the container as the sloes, and then fill the container to the top with gin (add your almond extract if you want). You don’t need to use Kilner jars; just something that forms a pretty good seal – old gin bottles or even plastic drinking water bottles will do. Some people say you shouldn’t use plastic, but I couldn’t tell the difference between a batch made in a plastic bottle and one made in a glass Kilner jar.

16 months (11 over fruit, 5 after filtering) from hedgerow to glass.

16 months (11 over fruit, 5 after filtering) from hedgerow to glass.

Whichever method you use, you’ll notice the gin take on a light pink colour quite quickly and it will get darker over time until it reaches a deep ruby red colour. Of the first batch I ever made, I filtered one jar after 3 months, another after 6 months and the final one after 11 months (I couldn’t hang on for the full year). As with the whole glass/plastic debate, you will see varying opinions on just how long you should leave the sloes steeping in the gin. All I can tell you is that the stuff filtered after 3 months was good, the 6-month vintage was great and the 11-month batch was amazing (that stuff in the glasses over there is some of the 11-month batch). I’d probably draw the line at 12 months; it may well be a case of diminishing returns at that point in terms of what additional flavour can be extracted from the sloes.

In terms of filtering, no fancy lab equipment is required, we use a kitchen funnel and coffee filters – and we simply filter into the gin bottles that we emptied at the start of the whole process. At this point, you’re desperate for a taste, and you should have one, but just a small one. If you can, put the lid back on the bottle, put it into a dark cupboard and try to forget about it for as long as possible. It will certainly be drinkable right away, but the taste improves with age and it just gets better and better.

So, that’s the process. Simple really. If you search for sloe gin recipes on the web you will find many different variations (amazing for something with so few ingredients), but this one works for us. These proportions give a fairly sweet liqueur (although I wouldn’t say syrupy), and if you don’t want it to be quite so sweet just add less sugar at the start (you can always add more if you taste it during the steeping process and decide it’s not sweet enough; what you can’t do is remove any sugar, so best to err on the side of adding less rather than more at the outset). Similarly, if you want a stronger sloe flavour, increase the proportion of sloes. You can also get a hint of the almond flavour straight from the stones in the sloes without needing to add the almond extract, but adding the extract enhances the flavour. Just experiment – do batches with and without almond extract (we do), and vary the 1:2:3 ratio to see what you like best. Play with the timings too; it’s hard to really do anything wrong.

Oh, and when it comes to the gin, we usually use Gordon’s (just keep an eye on when it’s on offer throughout the year and buy it when it is at its cheapest; a litre for £18 is not bad). Having said that, the batch I did with supermarket-brand gin tasted just as good and even though we didn’t do a blind taste test, I don’t think we would have been able to tell the difference. Just don’t waste money on anything too fancy – any delicate flavours in the original gin will be well and truly overpowered by the sloes – but on the other hand, don’t use dirt-cheap stuff either.

Whereas the sugar and gin are easily acquired at your local supermarket, you’ll need to get your walking boots on to get the sloes, but they are really not that difficult to find. Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn bush, which is commonly used for hedges in the countryside; be careful when you go picking, however, because the thorns can be vicious (that’s why blackthorn makes for good hedges). Sloes are roughly 1 cm in diameter (or just a little larger) and are blue-ish/purple-ish/black-ish in colour. If you come across something similar, but are a little larger and are growing on a bush that has no thorns, you’ve probably found some bullace – see the photo below. Sloes, bullace and damsons are all types of small wild plum and it may well be that bullace developed over time from the sloe and, in turn, the damson developed from the bullace (or so Wikipedia tells me). And just to make things more complicated, there may well be hybrids of these growing out there in the wild too.

Sloes on the left, bullace on the right (I think).

Sloes on the left, bullace on the right (I think).

So, when do you pick the sloes? As with every other step of the process, there are myths and legends associated with this aspect too. The most common one is that you should wait until the first frost. If we had waited for the first frost, we wouldn’t have picked any this time around until December/January and there wouldn’t have been many left. I suspect in years gone by the first frost just happened to coincide with when the sloes were ripe, but we start picking any time from early September onwards. The answer to the question of when to pick the sloes is simply when they are ripe.

Warning – for those not interested in the chemistry, skip to the last paragraph, but for those who are, keep on reading. Sloes are really very bitter; you wouldn’t want to eat them or make any kind of dessert from them. The reason for this astringency is the presence of a variety of polyphenol compounds, some of which are shown below.

The compounds that make sloe gin taste like sloe gin.

The compounds that make sloe gin taste like sloe gin.

I found these in a 2014 paper entitled ‘Phenolic composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of the extracts from Prunus spinosa L. fruit’ (PDF here) where an ethanol/water extract of sloes was analysed by HPLC. The phenolic compounds identified in the extracts were neochlorogenic acid (1), quercetin (2), caffeic acid (3), myricetin (4), peonidin-3-O-glucoside (5), antirrhinin (6) and chrysanthemin (7). It is also presumably the reactions of these compounds (oxidation, oligomerization, esterification and maybe others) that leads to the change in taste of the sloe gin as it ages.

If you don’t want to try making your own sloe gin, there are commercial versions available. Be warned, however. Of the three I’ve tried, Gordon’s sloe gin is probably good for stripping paint but little else; Sipsmith sloe gin isn’t bad, but by far the best (at least to my taste) is that made by SLOEmotion. Their sloe whisky is also quite special too (I’m making some of my own this year). When I get a chance, I’ll post recipes for damson gin and cherry plum gin too… the damson gin probably won’t last long this year!

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115 Responses to How to make sloe gin… and a little bit of chemistry

  1. I tried making some a few years ago and didn’t put any sugar in to start with (after my Dad assured me you could just add it to taste afterwards). We left it for almost a year by which point it was almost opaque. We filtered off the lumps but there were little bits that we couldn’t get out even with double-ing up coffee filters. I considered taking it to work and centrifuging it but decided against it in the end and just let the insoluble stuff settle over time.
    The resultant solution was possibley the bitterest thing I’ve ever tasted (unsurprisingly), so we started adding sugar. And then more sugar. And then more. And more. And more. Eventually we’d added so much that it wouldn’t dissolve anymore and the consistency was like cough syrup; it was still very unpleasant. Somehow it was both bitter and sickly sweet simultaneously. We left it for another couple of months but it didn’t get any better and we had to abandon the batch.
    My best guess was that you need quite a high sugar concentration in the solution to get the right levels of desirable stuff/undesirable stuff or (having read this post) that the sugar’s involved in some of the chemical reactions going on during the extraction process.
    Despite this catastrophe, still a sloe gin fan though we now add sugar from the outset!

  2. Hayman’s is my favorite, Plymouth is expensive and not that good IMO, and Boodles Mulberry is an interesting twist.

  3. Rob Norton says:

    Tried this recipe, found it way to sweet as I prefer dry so next batch I used 100 grams sugar. Top Notch Stuff !!!!

  4. Caro says:

    This is a great post!! I’ve been looking for an answer on how long I should leave the sloes in the gin for a while now… and I’m extra assured that your post is from a fellow chemist ;)

    I have about a dozen bottles in the cupboard, some where the sloes have been in the gin for just over 2 years, some 1 year, some just 6 months. I taste them from time to time and write comments on a sticker on the bottle, sometimes adding sugar or other ingredients. The best ones by far have the sloes in the gin for just over 2 years (since autumn 2015) and they don’t taste spoiled at all. I have filtered a couple of the 2 year ones and I’m waiting to see how they mature now the sloes are out.

    I’ve tried a couple of batches with random things added depending on what i could find in the kitchen…. I’ve tried a bottle with honey rather than sugar. The flavour is nice, but it’s very dry. I’ve got a small bottle with cinnamon and chilli in it too. Also nice, but I think they’d be better as two separate additions. I’ve got some ideas for other flavours too…

    I’ve seen one strange thing with adding almond essence – After a year or so, I get a bright green oily layer on the top of the gin. It tastes nice, but where did this bright green come from?!?

    • stu says:

      No idea where your green colour comes from! Just be sure you are using alcohol/water-based almond extract and not an oil-based one (the one we use is from Lakeland). Interesting to hear you leave them for 2 years over fruit. I might set up a long-term one! I need to update the blog with a post pointing out all the other stuff we now make. You should definitely try sloe brandy and sloe whiskey (if even you don’t like brandy or whisky – they taste like brandy and whisky just as much as sloe gin tastes like gin, i.e., not much). And our latest favourite is quince gin…

      • Keith Allan says:

        My wife made a huge batch from September harvest 2018 and the berries are still in. I wouldn’t say the berries are spoiled and the taste is excellent. I was starting to wonder if I should decant it all, judging from the other recommendations on the web, but in the interests of experimentation I’ll leave the berries in now. Likely to have the same batch for another 2 years as the harvest was so good! I’ll let you know if any changes occur.

    • Caro says:

      Hi all,
      Just reporting back as we sampled some of my 2015 batch last weekend. The sloes are still in there! Not good news though, they had definitely gone a bit manky and had a musty whiff about them. As a hardened sloe gin drinker I’m still undecided on whether I should bin it. I think 2/3 years is long enough.
      Also I don’t rate adding honey instead of sugar. It just isn’t strong enough!

      • bridget payne says:

        Caro – don’t bin it yet – Strain, to use in cooking, and dump the sloes..

      • Caro says:

        I’ve strained some and it’s okay! I’m going to keep some of it for cooking (thanks for the advice Bridget!), but I think the rest will be drunk :)

  5. Catherine. says:

    Great post! In your opinion, can I assume from the comments that sloe gin and vodka will last a long time. Just found a gift from my dad 2 years old and wondering if it’s safe to drink?


    • stu says:

      Should be absolutely fine. We’ve just been drinking some that was set-up in 2014 and then filtered in 2015, so is 3 years old now. Generally it just gets better with age, so yours should be pretty special at this point!

      • Catherine says:

        Wonderful! Thanks for the reply. Can’t wait to try it now. And just the right season!

        • Cally M says:

          We have recently finished a bottle of sloe gin made by my father in law who stopped brewing in the early 1990’s. It was outrageously delicious! I was about to make some to give away at christmas this year but I think I will hold on for another year. Also I have loads of whisky which we were given and don’t drink so I will make some of that too. I need some more kilner jars!

          • Mark Stonefrost says:

            Hi Cally – If you have not made sloe whisky I could drink the whisky for you. On a general point I made some sloe gin / vodka in 2017 and left it on the fruit ’till this spring – it was fine and just drinking it now its very good. I put half recommended sugar content in since I prefer dryer. Just made a new batch today based on the Sipsmith recipe using no sugar but seeing the comments on this site I think I’ll add a little before storing.

  6. John says:

    Interesting article, thanks. I have 2.5 litres of sloe gin about 2 months old, half with Tesco Gin and half with Gordons, and yes, the Tesco one does smell harsher. However, the immediate problem is this: at the back of the cupboard I found half a bottle of sloe gin I made about 5 years ago! It’s got a tawny colour now, and an amazingly rich flavour and I plan to add it to the new lot a la Madeira. However, it’s cloudy – I think because I crushed the sloes a bit and never did get it clear. Bought a polyester straining bag – useless, tried 4 layers of ktichen roll – also useless. Any idea how to clear it please? I’m starting to think of sintered glass filters as per chemistry lessons!

    • stu says:

      We use coffee filters… that might work if you leave it long enough. I’d only trust a sintered glass filter that had never been used in a lab – and you’ll probably need some kind of suction to pull stuff through. Alternatively, just decant… a little bit of cloudiness won’t do any harm!

      • John says:

        Thanks – I’ll try a coffee filter next. If that doesn’t work I think that if I add the small amount to the new batch it won’t be very noticeable. The new batch is remarkably clear. NB I’m tempted to squeeze the sloes to get more flavour out – nature’s teabag – do you think that’s wise or foolish?

        • stu says:

          To be honest – if you’ve left the sloes sitting in the gin for long enough (6-12 months), then you’ve probably extracted as much flavour out of them as you are going to. And you’ll just end up with more debris to filter out. It may well be more effort than it is worth – but then again, unless you do the experiment, you won’t know for sure! Maybe just do it for a small handful – enough for one small glass – and then compare that with some stuff you’ve filtered where you din’t put the squeeze on the berries…

          • John says:

            I think, judging by your photos, they might not be sloes – they were more like small grapes in size and the trees not thorny. Interestingly, from what I can tell through the glass, they seem to have gone quite pale – is that normal?

            • stu says:

              I bet they were damsons then! And damsons are a real pain to filter – much more solid; filters clog quite a bit. And yep, they do go sort of pale. The colour gets sucked out into the gin.

              • John says:

                The new stuff is pretty clear so far – fingers crossed it stays that way!
                Wine makers use special stuff to clear wine (finings?) – wonder if you could incorporate that into the process…?

  7. Pingback: Getting in to sloe business | Chemical connections

  8. Joe says:

    That time of year again, I’m sure you’re article is getting lots of hits about now! I’m pleased you see no danger in letting the fruit stay in the bottle for up to a year or more, so many ‘recipes’ I see online say it’s ready after 2/3 months which seems far too short to let nature do it’s thing. Presumably if you’re using a gin bottle that had gin it you don’t need to sterilise to it put the filtered stuff back in? Cheers!

    • stu says:

      Yeah – if you’re putting it back in the gin bottle, don’t worry about sterilizing it. In fact, I never sterilize anything – if it’s an old bottle, just give it a good wash…

      • Richard Kidd says:

        Hi Stu, do you have any thoughts on Tom McAllister’s point above? I have a mix of gin and sloes that i was gifted a year ago, and forgot to add any sugar. Is there a better way than another to add the sugar now, and still have a drinkable sloe gin at the end of it all?

        • stu says:

          Thought I was replying (clunky iOS interface…) – see next comment…

        • John says:

          Funny how this thread popped up again one day after I picked some sloes! FWIW last years’ possibly-damson gin turned out beautifully. After a while the sediment steeled into a slightly gelatinous layer from which, with care and a steady hand. I could pour off the supernatant into bottles. That left me with a flagon with 2″ of nice-smelling residue, so with the ‘solera’ system in mind, I used that as the base for the 2018 crop by putting in fresh gin. Sloes to follow. I’m also making a batch from new, so it will be interesting to see how they compare!

          As for sterilising, no need – the proportion of ethanol in gin is idea for killing off micro-organisms,

  9. stu says:

    Hmm. We have a neighbour who did the same. Other than just add sugar, the only other suggestion I have would be to dilute it with more plain gin and then use that as a base to set up another batch of sloe gin (with sugar), but use fewer sloes… other than that, all I can suggest is add sugar to taste and see how it goes… – let me know!

    • Richard Kidd says:

      Thanks Stu. I will report back!

      • Richard Kidd says:

        Thought it might be helpful to know that i added the sugar, and it has come out perfect. I kept the sloes in the mix, added the sugar, left for 3 days – each day shaking the jar a little to mix the sugar in, and each day the gin absorbed more of it. On the 3rd day, there was no sugar at the bottom of the jar, so I then decanted it through coffee filters into my bottle and it has worked out a treat. Next time however, I will definitely put the sugar in first!

  10. Jon says:

    I am planning on using a Demijohn to do my sloe gin,. Do I need to fill it to the top with sloes and gin or does it not mater if it is only 3/4 full?

  11. Marilyn Burgess says:

    Hi, I have made sloe gin for a few years now & always had successful results. Last year I managed to pick extra sloes & decided to freeze them. I defrosted some 5 weeks ago & did my usual recipe, but the colour doesn’t seem to be developing, the gin is barely coloured. Do you think this is because they have been frozen for nearly a year & do you think the best remedy would be to add freshly picked sloes? Thank you in advance. Marilyn

    • stu says:

      Hmm. Interesting… it’s a bit surprising that the colour isn’t developing – have you given it a good shake? I’ve certainly used sloes that have been frozen for quite some time and it hasn’t affected how the sloe gin turns out. Also, the other thing to bear in mind is that the colour of the gin isn’t necessarily closely linked with the flavour. Just a very small amount of highly coloured compounds in the sloes can lead to very coloured gin (just think how a very small amount of food colouring can change the colour of a whole block of icing) – maybe these compounds have degraded over the year and you’re not getting the colour… it doesn’t mean that the flavour would be all that different (although it might). I’d suggest letting that jar sit and do its thing and then do a back-up one with fresh sloes in case the taste doesn’t turn out how you want it to on the first one – I wouldn’t add fresh sloes to it at this point; if you did and it doesn’t turn out to taste good, you’ve wasted new sloes! Let me know how it goes.

      • Graham Smith says:

        I know this thread is old. I used sloes that were 4 yrs in the freezer then 3 yrs in the gin. Came out perfect.

  12. Liz cash says:

    Help needed please. I’m making sloe gin as wedding favours and wondered if you could tell me the approximate yield I could expect from your recipe. Thanks

  13. Zoey Boon says:

    I’ve just decanted last year’s Sloe gin and will ‘try’ and save a bottle for next year. This year’s batch has just been made along with a Rosehips Brandy we’re trying. Great afternoon trips with the kids hedgerow foraging.

  14. Bob Heath-Whyte says:

    I made some in October 2006 and have just decanted it. Would anybody advise that I drink it? or should I use it to clean some jewelry?

  15. caroline says:

    please, please don’t throw away your gin sodden sloes. just fill the bottle up with cheap cream sherry, or British fortified wine, and leave for another 3-6 months.
    The sherry will take on another dimension, and even if you don’t like it, it’s very good for cooking with, think venison stews, gravy etc.
    And the gin/sherry sodden sloes – stone them and throw them into a chocolate brownie mix. keep packs in the freezer to add through-out the year. Don’t try making jam from them (sloes or damsons) , they just sit there like ball bearings.

  16. Debbie says:

    Hi I’ve got just under a litre of sloe gin which I need to decant into wedding favours, I may be a little bit short so could I add a bit of neat gin to it ? The weddings in January so it’s cutting it fine to make some more.

    • stu says:

      Sure! Depending how much you’re planning to add, it will change the flavour though. It will dilute the fruit/sweet flavour of the sloe gin – but that’s not to say it will be unpleasant. And it might not change too much if you’re only adding a little bit. Also, might be best to just use vodka instead of gin otherwise the sloe gin may present itself as being quite gin-y. The thing about sloe gin is that most people can’t really tell it’s gin…

  17. Debbie says:

    Thank you !! I’ll go with the gin &maybe a bit of vodka and keep my fingers crossed

  18. donlanc says:

    Interesting threads. I have several litres maturing from last winter’s crop, made with less sugar to prevent over-sweetening. The result is highly astringent, even if more sugar, or honey, or syrup is added. Adding yet more makes it sweeter, but seems detached from the astringency that stubbornly remains. Any ideas, please?

    • stu says:

      Hmm. Never come across that before. Typically adding more sugar should balance things out. If you haven’t already taken the fruit out, then do so. Then perhaps leave to mature for a good while (maybe a year) – that tends to mellow the flavour. One other option is to dilute with an equal amount of fresh gin and use the resulting concoction as the base for a new batch of sloe gin; just add half the sugar and half the sloes of what you would normally use.

  19. Tom Devlin says:

    The only time I’ve had overly stringent sloe gin (quite bitter) was when I went out in early mid September and picked a batch. I’m fairly now certain that the berries were not ripe (they were quite hard) but I wanted to get in before someone else picked my patch.

    The lesson here is that this is a waiting game – hanging on long enough for the berries to fully ripen but getting your batch picked before some other like minded soul beats you to them. Can be nerve racking but doubly rewarded when well executed.

    And that’s the biggest problem I find with sloe gin – getting to the ripe fruit before everyone else! The making and drinking part I have no trouble with!

  20. John shannon says:


    Do you use the exact same method for damson gin and sloe whiskey i would like to try this too?

    Ive just made 6 batches of sloe gin for the first time should i be wanting to break the berry up as its inside the gin to release more flavour or just leave it? Mine were thawed out when i made it some i pricked wih a knife the rest i sort of squished a little bit in a bag, reading a comment further up it seems i may have a problem now filtering it out? should it be clear with no debri floating around?

    • stu says:

      Sloe whisky – yes, exactly the same method as for sloe gin. Damson gin, you need less sugar and it only needs to sit for 6 months, not 12. For recipes, see my other post ‘Getting in to sloe business’. I generally slit each sloe, so what you have done is fine. Some debris is OK too – sloe-based drinks don’t seem to end up with so much sediment and so are fairly easy to filter. Damsons generally kick out a lot more and so can be a pain to filter. Just have patience… I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you based on what you have described!

  21. John shannon says:


    Many thanks for reassuring me! Ive just been and had a look at them they have a ‘furryness’ to some of the berries now is this normal?


  22. John shannon says:


    Thanks you for all this info its been so helpful!
    I currently have mine im the garage is this ok as it does get quite cold in there?
    Or would a cool cupboard be best? We have one at the top of the stairs for towels no boiler or anything in there so will stay cool?

    Thanks john

  23. Stephen Murphy says:

    Hi Stu. Made sloe and damson gin many times before (even plum brandy, red currant vodka and a mutant cassis with rough gin) but this year I have an oily green deposit on the surface of the gin after a few months. Is this normal, or has the batch gone weird?

    • stu says:

      Oooh… that’s unusual. I think I’d opt for weird. I’ve never seen that. Did you wash the sloes before use? You could always decant it off and see how the remainder comes along, but I’m not sure what the green stuff would be…

  24. Stephen murphy says:

    I didn’t wash as I’d heard this washes of the bloom on natural yeasts which adds flavour/second fermentation etc. also adds water. I have drained it off and will see – don’t want to get the gripes. I added almond essence, could it be this. It was oil based.

    • stu says:

      The yeasts may well add flavour, but there will be no fermentation going on… yeasts don’t work at that alcohol strength – that’s why you need to distil to make spirits (you can’t get there by fermentation). Yeah – oil-based almond essence could be the problem.

  25. Terry Gormley says:

    Hi Stu,

    I made 4 bottles of sloe gin last September………..3 normal and 1 with added blackberries. We got through 2 bottles over Christmas, (which were the 1 normal and the one with Blackberries). The one with Blackberries had a much fuller flavour.

    My question is: can I now open one of the other bottles (that has been strained/filtered) and add blackberries now, for say, 3-4 months (and then strain/filter), or will opening the bottle at this stage affect the taste (and the maturing process)?



    • stu says:

      Hey Terry – should be fine just to open it up and add a bunch of blackberries for a few months. May not end up exactly like the first bottle that had the blackberries from the start, but I bet it’ll end up pretty good. Let me know how it goes! Stu

  26. Christopher Hope-Wynne says:

    Hello Good Man and thanks for the recognisable organic chemistry addendum and helpful hints and advice.. I’ve just made 6 litres of SG with Aldi’s best tincture and very little sugar which shall be left in sepulchral quiet till Xmas and beyond. Happy Days to all readers as I listen to G&S Operetta!
    C H-W

  27. Christopher Hope-Wynne says:

    By the way, without wishing to send coals to Newcastle one can use the sloes one used to make the SG to make Nelson’s Blood by retaining the drained sloes in the Kilner jars and adding port for the prerequisite length of effluxion in the dark to be refiltered and left to philosophise before consumption. Delicious over ice cream but watch your coronary circulation!

  28. Joe Parsons says:

    Hello there again, it’s that time of year…
    I’ve been a bit slack in picking this year but a root around the freezer turned up a good couple of kilos of berries all ready to go. My question though relates to decanting last years lot which have been steeping under the stairs for 12 months. Previously I have used a muslin bag to strain the fruit which has the added benefit of allowing one to wind it up and squeeze out every last precious drop. This year though I tried your method of using coffee filters but I’ve found the liquid comes out incredibly slowly (glacially paced) and sometimes it just stops altogether, is the sediment floating in the gin causing this blockage or am I missing something obvious? Many thanks. J

    • stu says:

      The amount of sediment can vary from batch to batch… although I usually don’t have much problem with sloes (typically damsons are a pain to filter). But yeah, it’s the fine sediment clogging the coffee filters. Maybe best to go back to muslin bags for this batch… sorry I don’t have better advice, but good luck!

      • Joe Parsons says:

        Thanks and yes I think that may be the best route, if only I could find where I put them… Weirdly I’m getting the same thing when I decant my bottle of blackberry vodka, perhaps these filters are too fine? Anyway thanks for the swift reply.

  29. Caroline says:

    Please defrost the sloes before adding them to the gin.
    This stops the gin from being cloudy later on.
    Also use almonds rather than almond essence or oils during the steeping, you can also toast them for a different flavour as well.

    • stu says:

      I like the idea of toasting almonds! Never really had a problem not defrosting the sloes, but good to know – it may well make a difference!

  30. Alec Swan says:

    Ah – a seemingly live page! I’m in need of advice – I have made a great deal of sloe Gin over the years and feeling rather pleased with myself, considered my self a bit of a Sloe Gin Know-all! :D

    I take an empty Morrisons Spring water container (5l), tip the contents down the drain and having left the sloes in the freezer until solid, I then put 2lbs of sugar, 2lb of Sloes and 3 litres of gin.
    Every year it’s about the same – – this year and after 2 months, visually the mix now resembles meths in appearance – there is simply no colour. It tasted a bit too sweet so I added another pound of sloes – and it’s made very little difference to the colour, though the taste has improved.

    Any thoughts? Why is it so anaemic by appearance – my shooting guests will be convinced that I’m feeding them mets! I’d be grateful for your advice.

    • stu says:

      Hmm. Weird. Did you pick the sloes from the same place you have done in previous years? It might sound silly, but I presume you are 100% sure they *are* sloes…? And presumably the gin is definitely gin…?! I’ve always had my jars of sloe gin go quite dark just a few days after set up (it takes very little colour compounds to be extracted to make a solution go quite dark). The chemical composition of sloes may well vary a little year on year depending on growing conditions, but if they are deep blue/purple to begin with, that should get extracted quite soon into the gin. I’m really quite lost on this one – other than perhaps dodgy gin or dodgy sloes…! Sorry!

  31. My Mother made a bottle of sloe gin a few years ago and confined it under a kitchen seat,forgotten never to be seen again.That is until fifteen years later I discovered a dark dusty bottle waiting to be opened.On opening and with great intrepidation the liquor touched the lips WOW!One of the clearest,smoothest,strongest most beautiful tastes ever.😋 CLEVER MOTHER.

  32. Caitlan Dula says:

    Hi sloe ginners – …This thread felt relatively well used…Has anyone noticed the sloes are peaking earlier this year? (2020). I found a bush (!) that looks like it will be ripe in a week or so. It’s in a sunny spot and it’s been not down here in Devon, but am I deluding myself?

    • stu says:

      They are certainly starting to look ripe around Cambridge… especially in some places. This would be early, but when they’re ripe, they’re ripe…

    • Caro says:

      Yes! I have also noticed this down in Kent! We have a bush at the end of our drive and they do look ripe! They also feel a bit squishy… perhaps 2020 has been a strange year for them too…

  33. John shannon says:

    Hi Stu.

    Love this page many thanks I will be about to make my third batch of SG. I have also noticed they seem to be ripening a lot earlier this year and I am in Belgium now and have recently stumbled on some massive sloes bushes after nearly 2 years of not seeing any ( I usually get them While in UK and bring them over) reading some posts after my previous questions I see there was a mention of adding blackberries so im going to try it this year.

    Anyways back to the original reason I’m here how long would you recommend freezing sloes for as I would like to get a decent amount so I can do some when there ripe and freeze some to do another batch later on in the year but don’t want to damage the sloes reading a previous post you mention it may take something out of the berry after freezing too long how long have you or anybody reading this froze there berries for?
    Many thanks John :)

    • stu says:

      Hey John – I think I’ve had sloes in the freezer for a year or more before using them; I don’t think having them in the freezer for that length of time does them any damage in terms of the flavour you ultimately get out of them!

      • John Shannon says:

        Great Stu thanks for the reply I will freeze some see how they get on and report back for future reference.

        Cheers John.

        • Caroline says:

          I’ve done SG, one year, with washed
          Frozen sloes
          Fresh pricked sloes
          Fresh sloes

          Left them marinating for a year plus, and after the second shot couldn’t tell the difference between them.

          One experiment I didn’t put sugar in, and added sugar syrup on bottling. A complete failure. Consigned to the cooking shelf.

          Last years experiment, sloes picked from the lizard, Cornwall against sloes picked from Bristol airport area. Bottling next weekend. Will let you know..

  34. Anne M says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one to think the sloes are early this year, I worried they couldn’t possibly be ripe, but the really felt it. They’re currently swimming in their boozy sugar bath so fingers crossed!

  35. mrsdanvers63 says:

    I’m just about to get started on some sloe gin with sloes picked last week and three weeks ago. They are certainly ripening early this year here in Suffolk. Having waited to get really ripe ones after my first forage I struggled to find many left on the bushes. Other foragers beat me to it, and to top it all the farmer had cut back the hedge.
    I was just about to follow Sipsmith’s advice of adding a sugar syrup after the sloes had done their job when I found you. Thanks to all the comments here I’ll be sticking to putting the sugar in at the beginning of the process. Cheers!

  36. Martin Ratcliffe says:

    Thank you Stu for a really down to earth post and great advice! My sloe gin has now been started so we’ll just have to wait for the results. I was hoping to try it on Christmas day but note your comments on it improving with age!

    • stu says:

      Hey Martin! Well, there is no harm in sampling some at Christmas, but if you can, maybe set some aside to age for longer and then compare…

    • Joe says:

      One of the many reasons Stuart’s page is my favourite (only!) Sloe Gin resource now is the advice to keep it for longer than 3/4 months. I’m always amazed at the number of Sunday paper articles around this time of year saying start your sloe gin now and you’ll have lovely presents for Christmas…you really won’t you know! I’m sure Auntie Ethel will be touched at receiving a gift but may not relish drinking a bottle of sharp tasting purple turps!! Give her some from 2 or even 3 years ago however and you’ll be in her best books for sure!
      I have to say I’m not entirely convinced by the freezing method either, I’ve had some in the freezer for months before and they still come out as hard as ball bearings and no split skins. For my money if you’re leaving fruit in a bottle of liquor for nearly a year, which I do before straining, then the skins will probably split of their own accord during that process and you’ll get all the goodness from the fruit possible without the need for freezing, knives or cheese graters etc!
      I have noticed very variable sized fruit this year, happily spotted one Damson tree though mainly with fruit too high so lucky birds I guess but also many Bullace or other cross type trees and quite plump fruit too. 4Ltrs of discount gin bought (Bombay London Dry Gin £16/Ltr @ Sainsburys FYI) so now to strain last years and set this lot off!
      Thanks Stuart 👍

  37. Roy Mitchell says:

    Just picked what turned out to be exactly a pound a half of sloes at my golf club – the greenkeeper said one of his men will be furious, as he makes a gallon of it every year and stores it in their workshed forever, well until they drink it anyway. The reason I mention it is because I’m in West London and these sloes are certainly ripe but clearly much later than everyone has said so far. Haven’t made sloe gin for years but will use your recipe, albeit less sugar. Too long to wait, esp. in times like these!

  38. Joe says:

    How fastidious is everyone with sterilising when making their SG. For instance if you’re using the gin bottle from the supermarket then presumably there’s no need to clean that out before adding sloes, sugar and then the gin back in? Also when it comes to the time to remove the sloes and strain if you’re putting it back in the same bottle is a quick rinse sufficient or is it best to re-sterlise the container? I have a few 2017 bottles that could do with a further straining I think and wondering what the best practice is. Thanks

    • stu says:

      Hey Joe – I don’t sterilize; I usually make it in kilner jars that I just wash thoroughly and then dry. If you make it back in the same bottle you’ve just poured the gin out of, then definitely no need to sterilize. As for bottling it after filtering, again, I just wash bottles then dry them. Your resulting sloe gin will be about 20-25% alcohol by volume depending on how much fruit and sugar you use and not much can live in that sort of environment anyway… I’ve never had a problem.

  39. Christine Dennett says:

    Can I please ask what sugar people use? Could I use brown sugar? I was wondering if it would give the vodka a caramel sort of flavour? Thank you

    • stu says:

      I’ve used brown sugar before; I don’t think it makes a huge difference to be honest.

    • Caroline says:

      I’ve the full range. The darker the sugar, the deeper the colour of the end result.
      Muscovado sugar gives a richer taste, and if you use too much will overpower the taste of the sloes, so 125 grams per litre of gin.

  40. Having played with brewing beer in the past the technique there was to add egg white to the cloudy liquid which caused the ‘floaters’ to join together and sink to the bottom of the container. Not sure if it would work but maybe worth a try.

  41. colin says:

    hi if your sloe gin is to syrupy can you just ad more gin to it to thin it down. without any problems

  42. Amanda says:

    My sloe gin is not as syrupy as I’d like.
    The recipe used 450g sloes/225g sugar/1L gin. Should I try more sugar, more fruit or less gin(!) next time? Or is the trick toad sugar syrup?

    • stu says:

      Hey Amanda – my recipe of 1:2:3 (sugar, sloe, gin) gives a fairly syrupy drink. So, if you have 225 g of sugar and 450 g of sloes, you only need 675 mL of gin… your recipe would have been much more dilute in terms of extracts from the fruit and also the sugar, so less fruity and less sweet. So, try less gin next time (or more fruit + sugar!).

  43. John says:

    Morning Stuart i hope your well and staying safe.

    This year i made Sloe Vodka i froze the sloes and put them straight into the jars and combined the ingredients. I read online you can do this but the skims dont seem to have split and it hasnt started to take on a pinky red colour either.

    Should i just stick something in to try and squash the sloes a little 🤷🏻‍♂️
    Thanks john.

  44. Pingback: Sloe progress – steel city scribblings

  45. Christine Atkinson says:

    Good morning! I just made my first batch of sloe gin and I am very excited! I live in the States and it can get very warm in our basement/garage. Would it be ok to store my batch in a refrigerator in the basement? It doesn’t get opened very often. Or am I better off finding the coolest, darkest spot in the garage and hoping for the best?

  46. Andrea says:

    I’m a little late to the pass but I have just decanted my damson gin and it is horrifically sweet, I wondered if I added more damsons to the gin back in its pot would that work do you think, minus sugar of course? My damsons shrivelled like raisins, they were frozen ones and I made it in my Rumptof.

    • stu says:

      You’d need to dilute with gin too and it might be hard to get the right balance; the better bet would be to make another separate batch with minimal sugar and then blend the two so that you end up with the sweetness level you want.

  47. NickM says:

    I’ve just picked about a Kilo of sloes after spotting them on a dog walk a few mins from my house. We back onto a rather ‘wild’ conservation where someone has kindly planted over 100 sloe bushes.
    I tried to make sloe gin once before and it wasn’t great – I don’t think the sloes were ripe enough. I was temped to leave this years crop to further ripen, but concerned they might all disappear if someone else beats me to them!
    I was trying to find out if it was possible to further ripen them at home, but couldn’t find much. it seems some fruits can be and others cant.

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