Let’s make winning sloe gin

Winner World Sloe Gin Championship 2016

There’s a bumper crop of fat juicy sloes this year. Why not pick some to make sloe gin?

Sloe gin is a gorgeous tipple. Drink a tot on its own or add to a cocktail. Simply delicious.

Its latin name is prunus spinosa which might give you a clue to its spiky nature. Do go armed with gloves! Look for the blackberry bushes and if you’re lucky you’ll find the sloe bushes also known as blackthorn. They can grow up to 6 or 7 metres high and live for 100 years! But the ones round here are much smaller.  The fruits are mostly similar in size to a blueberry although I did find some woppers this year.

There’s plenty of debate on when you should make the gin – many say after the first frost. This year, they are so ripe, I don’t think they will last that long as many berries were already falling off the tree.

Being ever competitive, Six weeks ago I made some to enter the World  Sloe Gin championship which is for amateurs and professionals held at The George in Frant, East Sussex on 14 December, 2016.

Sloe Gin Recipe

First stage

You’ll need approximately half the weight of sloes in gin (eg 800 grs of sloes, 400 ml gin. Do use some decent gin. The better the gin, the better the sloe gin.

Glass jars (such as a Kilner jar) that you can seal. You can use the gin bottle but it is rather fiddly. Do keep the gin bottle for the finished sloe gin.

  1. Rinse the sloes and put them in the freezer overnight to break the skins down.
  2. Just before you are ready to bottle, sterilise your jars. Wash and rinse your jars and put the wet jars in the oven at 140ºC, Gas Mark 1 for 15 minutes.
  3. The next day, fill the jars with sloes and top up with gin.
  4. Store for 6-8 weeks. I am using the method used in Croatia to make fruit liqueurs and storing mine in the sun rather in a dark cupboard.

Second stage

Sloes with gin added and some orange peel for flavour
Sloes with gin added and some orange peel for flavour

For this stage you need to make some sugar syrup so you can blend the mixture easily and more precisely than simply adding sugar and mixing. Get a large bowl and sieve ready and a saucepan for the syrup.

  1. Mix 100 gr sugar (granulated or caster) and 50 ml water in a saucepan and heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved. Let this cool. This is sufficient for 750 ml gin.
  2. Carefully strain the fruit from the jars. You can use a jelly bag if you have one.
  3. Now it is a matter of adding the sugar syrup to the strained gin little by little, tasting with each addition, until it reaches a flavour you enjoy.
  4. Pour the gin back into the gin bottle or another clean bottle. You can drink straight away, but it will keep very well for years!

My award winning gin

I entered my sloe gin into the World Sloe Gin Championships 2016 and I am excited to say that mine was the winner in the amateur category!


The World Sloe Gin Championships


Now an annual event, hosted by The George Inn in Frant, this was the 8th such competition.

The “liquid deli” Demijohn, which has outlets in Edinburgh, Glasgow, York and Oxford, using sloes foraged in Worcestershire, was crowned Sloe Ginster World Champion for the third year in succession. The silver medal went to London based Mother’s Ruin.  The bronze medal was award to Bramley & Gage’s 6 O’Clock gin from Thornbury in Bristol. Elephant Gin made in Germany, but with South African origins, received a Highly Commended award.

The homemade category, which attracted more than 30 entries, a record number, was won by food blogger Danielle Ellis from  near Dursley in Gloucestershire. Susan Gage from Hailsham in Sussex came second. Third place went to Zoe Rutterford of Chickney Hall Farm at Dunmow in Essex.

Interestingly, in the blind tasting, the three judges – Anita Martin, Mark Baldwin and Dianna Morris – all scored the top six homemade entries above any of the commercial contestants.

Demijohn’s winning sloe gin described by judges Anita Martin, Mark Baldwin and Diana Morris as, “Not too sweet, not too dry and a perfect drink for the winter,” is based on a family recipe dating back to 1842.  It is made for made by a husband and wife team, Colin and Phyllis Hingston, in Worcestershire. Although the recipe, which uses London dry gin, is a closely guarded secret, Demijohn MD Angus Ferguson advises those making their own concoction “Never infuse for less than 10 months to ensure a rich and deep flavour.”

All proceeds of the event are donated to the MS which supports people with Multiple Sclerosis

If you can’t wait, try these local Sloe Gins

Made in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, Bramley and Gage use a high proportion of gin in their Sloe Gin.

Gibson’s Cotswold Organic Sloe Gin is a new addition to their range of fruit liqueurs

For a rather nice twist, try Chase’s Sloe and Mulberry gin created in Herefordshire.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the flavour of sloe gin. Hopefully I’ll get to make it one of these days when I can track down a source of fresh sloes. It’s not a common fruit here in Australia but I think it can be grown in the southern states where it is cooler.

    1. Would there be a native berry you could use to create your own version? Would love to know! We also make damson gin (small flavoursome plums). Lovely to meet you by the way.

      1. Hmmm maybe. I’m from NZ so I’m not very familiar with Australian natives, but that is a great idea! Lovely to meet you too!

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