Sloe Gin

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About Sloe Gin

With a rich fruity flavour and a distinctive deep red colour, sloe gin is a drink that speaks of endless summers, wonderful warm evenings with friends and cool refreshment that combats the heat. It occupies an interesting segment of the gin market because it’s technically a liqueur rather than a full-blown spirit, yet enjoys such historical provenance that regulators have been willing to bend the rules with regards to its naming and marketing.

Produced by steeping fresh sloes in gin for an extended period so that the flesh of the fruit and even the stones they contain have a major impact on the flavour, this is a drink that enjoys a ripe old heritage in the UK and throughout Europe. We stock a large line up of sloe gins from major brands and more exclusive, small batch suppliers. You can pick and choose from an embarrassment of sloe gins, some of which are suitable for everyday sipping while others might be best saved for a special occasion. For more information about the history of sloe gins and to find out about cocktails that take advantage of them as the main ingredient, scroll down to get up to speed.

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From the origins of gin distillation in the Middle Ages, the need to add some form of extra flavouring to jazz up the otherwise unexciting grain spirit base was significant. Early experimentation led to lots of different varieties emerging, with sloe gin becoming one of the most popular.

Part of the reason for sloe gin’s prevalence throughout the centuries is that sloes themselves, plucked from blackthorn trees and shrubs, were so widely available and easily accessible. Along with alternatives like damsons, it was common for amateur distillers to toss in sloes to make their product more palatable to potential customers, as well as to themselves.

As Gin production became more commercialised in the 19th century and it was possible to make a much purer spirit in large quantities, the slower process of steeping sloes in gin became a much smaller niche in the market.

The resurgence of sloe gin in the modern era has been made possible thanks to the development of manufacturing techniques that make its production far less time consuming and costly. The most affordable varieties can be created using simple flavourings and sugars, rather than requiring weeks or months of steeping to achieve the same results.

Did you know:

Sloe gin must have a strength of at least 25% ABV to earn its stripes.

Some sloe gins are as strong as 35% ABV, coming much closer to matching dry gin yet still offering lots of fruity flavour on top.

There is an annual sloe gin competition held in Herefordshire in which judges hand out prizes based on everything from the taste and overall quality to the colour and clarity of the gins in the running.

Sloes are a popular flavouring in other types of liqueurs and spirits, especially in Germany where they form the basis of Schlehenfeuer, a drink that uses white rum rather than gin to provide the alcohol.

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Sloe gin is not just brimming with the plumy, bold flavour that is associated with summer fruits; it is also reliant on quite a bit of added sweetness to meet the level of palatability that most fans will expect. Some products are more sugary than others, but even the lightest sloe gin on the market will still have a distinctively sweet hit when compared with standard dry gin.

Due to the sweeter taste, sloe gin works exceptionally well as a cocktail ingredient, while the spicier editions make a neat alternative to mulled wine in the winter, as well as in an iced context during the summer. Expect a sloe gin to work well with sweet treats, perhaps as a climax of an afternoon tea, or with dessert after dinner.

With a bottle of sloe gin in your drinks cabinet, you can cook up some compelling, thirst-quenching cocktails, including:

Sloe Gin Fizz – Add a double measure of sloe gin to a cocktail shaker along with a single shot of lemon juice, the white of one egg and 15ml of sugar syrup. Shake everything up for a good 30 seconds, then pop in a couple of handfuls of ice and get your arms working again. Using a strainer, decant this mix into a tall glass and then add the prosecco or champagne of your choice to top it up into a foaming, fizzing, funky final offering.

Blackthorn – Referencing the plant from which sloes are plucked, this cocktail requires 50ml of sloe gin and 30ml of dry gin to be mixed with 20ml of sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters in an ice-packed cocktail shaker. Once rumbled around, strain this out into a glass and top it off with a tasty twist of orange zest.

Mulled Sloe Gin – Sloe gin is practically perfect for mulling and keeping away the winter chills, so pop 50ml of it into a good sized glass and then add 100ml of high-quality apple juice and the same amount of Clementine juice, both of which you have first heated on the hob with a stick of cinnamon, 3 cloves and a few drops of vanilla extract. Don’t forget to take out the cinnamon stick and the cloves before you add it to the gin, as otherwise you’ll get a nasty surprise as you drink!

There are many different methods used to produce the modern liqueur we know as sloe gin, some of which rely on the traditional steeping approach while others speed things along with flavourings that take less time to prepare.

Regardless of the quality of the sloe gin, the flavour of the sloes themselves should be a dominant feature. These fruits are cousins of the plum and have stones shrouded in soft flesh, so there can be a real fiesta of flavours going on in your mouth when you sip a sloe gin.

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