Sloe gin (or actually sloe berry gin) is a staple of an Irish or English Christmas. This is actually hardly a recipe. If you pick them in October and put them in the gin, you can drink sloe gin at Christmas, but it’s even better to wait a year or two. The flavor will only improve, and since the berries are soaked in alcohol they’ll keep almost indefinitely.
As soon as the berries of the sloe bush are soft enough that they burst open when you squeeze them, they are ripe for picking. Wear gloves! It’s a thorny bush, and you can injure yourself severely if you forget gloves.
Can’t find berries to pick? Use a forager app on your smart phone—a brilliant invention. I am lucky: My aunt Emilie has a sloe bush the size of the province of Utrecht in her garden, so we’re making this into an annual tradition. Anyway, wash them and freeze them overnight. If you can’t find sloe berries anywhere, blackberries would make a nice alternative.
Divide them between two clean jars and pour the gin over them. Scoop a few spoonfuls of sugar into the gin, close the jars, and shake well so that the sugar mixes and dissolves. Place the jars in a dark spot and forget about them. Shake them sporadically, when you happen to walk by.
After 3 months, or ideally longer, you can pour the gin through a sieve into a clean bottle. Before bottling, taste to see if you like it: If needed, add some sugar. Many recipes for sloe gin are very sweet; I use less sugar to start, as you can always add more. Let the gin stand for another day so the sugar dissolves.
You can gift the bottles or drink it all yourself. Some people pour it into a small glass with lots of ice, but I like it as is, neat, for sipping.
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