Sloe gin
Home-made sloe gin
Homemade sloe gin in preparation

Sloe gin is a British red liqueur made with gin and blackthorn fruits (sloes), which are the drupe fruit of the Prunus spinosa tree, which is a relative of the plum.[1] As an alcoholic drink, sloe gin contains between 15 per cent and 30 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV); however, European Union regulations established 25 per cent ABV as the minimal alcoholic content for the blackthorn beverage to be a sloe gin. Historically, despite being a liqueur based upon gin, the EU included the colloquial name sloe gin to the legal definitions; thus, sloe gin is the only alcoholic beverage that legally uses the term gin without appending the liqueur suffix.[2]

The traditional method of preparation of sloe gin is to soak the blackthorns (sloes) in gin with some sugar, and the mixture sweetens when the blackthorn fruit mature in the alcohol. Commercial sloe gin is made by flavouring an inexpensive neutral grain spirit. US distilleries use close fruits related to the blackthorn, such as the beach plum and the Aronia berry, to produce American versions of the British sloe gin.[3][4]


Sloe gin is made from ripe sloes, which are traditionally picked after the first frost of winter (late October to early November in the northern hemisphere). Each sloe is pricked, traditionally with a thorn taken from the blackthorn bush on which they grow. An alternative folktale says that one should not prick the sloes with a metal fork unless it is made of silver. A modern variation is to pick the sloes earlier and freeze them overnight, to mimic the effects of frost.

A wide-necked jar is filled half way with pricked sloes, and four ounces (110 g) of sugar is added for each imperial pint (570 ml) of sloes. The jar is then filled with gin, sealed, turned several times to mix and stored in a cool, dark place. It is turned every day for the first two weeks, then each week, until at least three months have passed.

The gin will now have a deep ruby red colour. The liqueur is poured off and the sloes discarded, or infused in white wine or cider, made into jam, or used as a basis for a chutney or a filling for liqueur chocolates.[5] The liqueur can be filtered or decanted back into clean containers and left to stand for another week. Careful decanting can eliminate almost all sediment, leaving a red liqueur that is not cloudy.

Recipes for sloe gin vary depending on the maker's taste. The sweetness can be adjusted to taste at the end of the process, although sufficient sugar is required while the fruit is steeped to ensure full extraction of flavour. When made sufficiently slowly, the alcohol extracts an almond-like essence from the sloes' stones, giving sloe gin a particular aromatic flavour. However, some recipes use a shorter steeping time and include a small amount of almond essence. Another common variation is the addition of a few cloves and a small stick of cinnamon.

In North Yorkshire, Masons Gin distills the sloe berries in the gin as opposed to the traditional infusing the berries in the gin after distillation.[6]

UK competitions

A sloe gin competition is held each January in The Pandy Inn, Dorstone, Herefordshire,[7] with the winner crowned the "Grand Master of the Sloes".[8] There were 30 Sloe Gins entered in the 2015 competition. They were sampled and scored on colour, clarity, taste and quality by more than 50 judges.

There are also the Sloe Gin Awards in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire,[9] which are held annually and include gold, silver and bronze awards.

The George Inn in Frant, East Sussex, near Royal Tunbridge Wells, plays host to the annual Sloe Gin World Championships in December.[10][11][12]

Related liqueurs

In Germany and other German-speaking countries, Schlehenlikör (de) is made by soaking sloes, sugar, and possibly some spices in vodka, gin or rum. The most popular commercial brand, Schlehenfeuer, based on white rum, is made by Mast-Jägermeister SE,[13] better known for its product Jägermeister.

In Spain, patxaran is made by soaking sloes in an anise-flavoured spirit, resulting in a light reddish-brown, sweet liquid, around 25–30% alcohol by volume.

In Italy, bargnolino is made by soaking sloes with sugar and spices in spirit alcohol (recipe varies locally), resulting a reddish, sweet liquor, around 40–45% alcohol by volume; it is often chilled before serving.

In Poland, tarninówka is an infusion (nalewka) of sloes in vodka or rectified spirit.

Slider is still cider in which the sloes used to make sloe gin have been steeped; it is a tradition of Devonshire in the UK. Sloe whisky and sloe brandy are variants on the tradition, and are often mixed with ginger beer or ginger ale.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "History of Drink: What Exactly is Sloe Gin, Anyway?". Kitchn. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  2. ^ EU spirits regulation(PDF) Regulation(EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89, Appendix II No. 37, Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  3. ^ "News: Green Hat Gin". New Columbia Distillers. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  4. ^ Martineau, Chantal (19 July 2012). "America's Answer to Sloe Gin". Food Republic. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Recipe for Sloe Gin Truffles"
  6. ^ St Leger, Henry. "The 6 best gins you've never heard of". The Gentleman's Journal. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Golden Valley annual Sloe Gin Competition prepares for kick off". Hereford Times. 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  8. ^ "Dorstone Sloe Gin Competition 2010 - judging this Friday". Hereford Times. 2010-01-20. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  9. ^ "Sloe Gin Awards". Retrieved 2012-01-09.
  10. ^ "Sloe gin makers gather for contest". BBC News. 16 December 2015.
  11. ^ "The Sloe Gin World Championships will be held at a Tunbridge Wells pub next week - News - Kent News". Archived from the original on 2017-01-04. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  12. ^ "Sloe Gin World Champion Announced! - Produced in Kent". 22 December 2014.
  13. ^ "Schlehenfeuer". Mast-Jägermeister. Archived from the original on 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  14. ^ "Sloe Gin Tasting – A Comparison of 17 Sloe Gins". 25 November 2010.