My walk to work takes me through Brockwell Park. This morning was one of those cold, crisp mornings. The leaves are a lovely mix of green, gold and red. My wandering mind stopped lighted on sloe gin. This rich and warming drink is very easy to make, with has just three ingredients; gin, sloes and sugar. Opinion about the proportions varies and I guess there are family recipes aplenty. This is our one:

First, sterilise a bottle with boiling water. I used a 750 ml, screw cap wine bottle. Just over half fill it with sloes. The standard advice is to pick the sloes after the first frost, though they are usually ripe before then. They certainly are this year. We went for a walk in Epping Forest a week ago and I have never seen such quantities of sloes. Blackthorn after blackthorn was laden with large and luscious berries. To simulate the frost, just put the sloes in the freezer for a night. The other received wisdom is to prick them before putting them in the bottle. I find it quicker to just give them a squeeze or scratch to break the skin.

sloes epping forest blackthorn

The next step is to pour in a good slug of sugar. A “good slug” is a bit of a Jamie Oliver term, so I should quantify it – about 200g. If you want to, then you can always add a bit more sugar later in the process. I used caster sugar, though I’ve sometimes thought about using brown sugar. Either way, granules are easier to pour through a funnel than soft sugar.

Now you can add the third ingredient, the gin. I topped up the bottle and then gave it a gentle swirl to dislodge air pockets. Repeating this, I was able to fit in 35cl. Which gin to choose? Well, clearly there is no point in using an expensive craft gin. You shouldn’t use a crap one either. My rule is that if I wouldn’t drink it with tonic, I should drink it with sugar and sloes either. In Dickson, a local off licence, I asked whether Grosvenor was any good and was answered with a negative shrug. Instead I paid an extra quid and bought a half bottle of reliable Gordon’s London Dry.

Give the bottle a little, gentle shaking and put it in a cupboard. It should stay there for about three months, getting the odd shake along the way. If you have room, it’s probably best to lie the bottle down but it will work whether you do or not. At the end of three months, decant it into another, sterilised bottle and then put it out of temptation’s way for a year or preferably two or three.

The trick is to have a stash of several years’ worth, so that each winter you replace the bottle (or bottles of course) you drink with a new one. Your initial abstinence will be rewarded. Sloe gin does benefit from time spent in the bottle.

sloe in with the gin

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