What is Sloe Gin?

M.C. Huguelet

Sloe gin is a liqueur made from gin infused with sloe berries. It is popular in the US and many European countries, especially Ireland, Germany, and the United Kingdom. While commercial sloe gin is widely available, many people choose to make the liqueur at home. It may be consumed on its own or may be mixed into a cocktail.

Sloe gin can be drunk by itself or mixed into cocktails.
Sloe gin can be drunk by itself or mixed into cocktails.

The berries used to produce this liqueur are found on the blackthorn tree, which grows in Europe as well as some parts of the US and Asia. Known as sloes, these berries are closely related to the plum, though they are usually smaller in size. They tend to reach ripeness in late autumn. As a result, sloe gin is traditionally produced in October or November.

Sloe gin is popular in Ireland, Germany, and the UK.
Sloe gin is popular in Ireland, Germany, and the UK.

Contrary to what its name might suggest, sloe gin is not a distinct type of gin, but is rather a regular gin which has been flavored. While it is commercially produced by liquor manufacturers in the US and Europe, many people opt to make it at home. Making this liqueur requires gin, sloe berries, superfine sugar, and a large, sterilized, sealable jar.

To produce 4.25 cups (one liter) of homemade sloe gin, begin by cleaning one pound (454 grams) of sloe berries. Prick each berry with a sterilized needle to ensure that its juices can pass into the gin, and then place the berries in the jar. Add one cup (225 grams) of superfine sugar and top with 4.25 cups (one liter) of gin. Seal the jar, shake it thoroughly, and store it in a cool, dry place.

In order to develop a rich flavor and a deep red hue, the mixture must be allowed to infuse for several weeks. It should be shaken once per day for the first week, and once per week for the next eight weeks. After this steeping period, the liquid should be separated from the fruit by decanting it through a sieve into another sterilized container. The fruit can now be discarded, or can be used to make jams or ciders.

Once ready, the sloe gin can be consumed by itself or can be mixed into cocktails. The Alabama Slammer is one of the most popular sloe gin-based cocktails. Sloe gin can also be used to give a fruity flavor and a colorful tint to drinks normally made with regular gin, such as the Gin Fizz or the Long Island Iced Tea.

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