What is the story behind Sloe Gin?

What is the story behind Sloe Gin?
June 4, 2018 Gin Lane

If you haven’t tried sloe gin yet, you’re in for a treat. If you are a gin connoisseur, then sloe will open up a whole new world for you – one that will not only expand your palate and drinking horizons but also introduce some mythology and superstition into your favourite drink.

Sloes are the berries of the blackthorn plant and resemble a purple grape. However, anyone who has ever tried a sloe, expecting a grapey or blueberry-like flavour has probably been put off them for life; sloes are sour, and have a sharp, almost acidic taste. They grow best in colder climates, most notably England, but also do very well in Tasmania and New Zealand.

The mythology and superstition come from England, where sloe gin has been distilled for hundreds of years. Traditionally, sloes are supposed to be pricked before distilling with a thorn taken from the blackthorn plant they are growing on, but not one taken from another bush. It is also said that you should never prick sloes with a fork unless it is made out of silver.

Only the English.

Sloe gin became popular because it is so easy to make…and less easy to make well. All you need is a jar, some sloe berries, some sugar, some gin and some patience. Recipes vary depending on the distiller and the location, but it goes something like this:

  • Take a wide net jar
  • Add some pricked Sloes (only pricked with a silver fork)
  • Add sugar
  • Add more Sloes
  • Add Gin
  • Now put on the lid, turned the jar a few times and store in a cool spot. Turn once a week for about three months, decant and remove excess sloes, leave for a week and then enjoy.

Sloe gin is at its best during the cold winter months, when it will warm even the coldest English, or Tasmanian heart.

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in an incredibly cold area or don’t have access to an ancient family sloe gin recipe, we have plenty of recommendations for locally distilled sloe gin that can compete with the world’s best, starting with our gin of the month from Tasmanian distillery Nonesuch.


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