Damson gin, like its kissing cousin sloe gin, is produced very simply by combining gin with damson plums macerated in sugar and allowing this mixture to steep for a period of months. It is hugely popular in Great Britain, especially around the winter holidays.
Small oval plums, damsons have yellow-green flesh and bright indigo skin. These plums have excellent flavor, but they are extremely, even unpleasantly tart when raw, so they are not favored for eating out of hand. Instead, they are often showcased in jams, jellies, preserves, and in the venerable damson gin, where the addition of sugar balances the acidity of the plum and allows the superior flavor to dominate. With a greater natural sugar content than than sloes — the fruit of the blackthorn used in the manufacture of sloe gin — damsons do not require as much added sugar to produce a pleasantly flavored liqueur.
Damson gin is not difficult to find, particularly in Great Britain, as many fruit-tree growers who raise damson plums in their orchards also turn their fruit into damson gin for public sale. Such artisanally made damson gin turns up at farmers markets and farm stands. Damson gin can also be purchased online and in select liquor stores that offer imported spirits. The early September harvest of damsons makes damson gin, which needs three months' steeping time, a traditional beverage for the Christmas holiday season.
If you are fortunate enough to have a ready supply of damson plums on hand and wish to try making your own damson gin, you will be pleased to know that it requires only minimal equipment and ingredients and very little labor.
To make damson gin, assemble the following ingredients:
- 1 pound (455 g) damson plums, washed and dried
- 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 cups gin
Prick the plums all over with a clean fork or the tip of a paring knife. Place the plums into a sterilized wide-mouthed canning jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid or cork and sprinkle sugar over the plums and add gin to fill to within 1 inch (2.54 cm) or so of the top of the jar. Put the lid tightly, shake vigorously, and place in a cool, dark place to steep.
Every week or so, give the jar a shake to distribute the sugar and plum juice. The gin should be ready to drink at 3 months. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth into a sterilized bottle, if desired, and consume within 12 months.