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How to make Sloe Gin

How to make Sloe Gin

With Halloween, Bon Fire Night and Christmas all looming, it signifies the perfect time to begin thinking about making the traditional winter-time tipple - sloe gin. Sloe gin is a drink which in recent years seems to be becoming more and more commercialised with many major distilleries making mass-produced versions of it. But this doesn’t change the fact that it’s easily made at home, and often tastes much better too!

Making sloe gin is incredibly easy to do, armed with just a little knowledge and a handful of kitchen tools it really takes little more than time and the cost of a bottle of gin which will be flavoured by the wild sloes.

The sloe is the fruit of the very common bush, the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Most of us will be familiar with it in one way or another, but of course when collecting ANY wild foods you must be able to identify the species with absolute accuracy, although it really is very easy to ID with a simple guide book.

Sloe Picking

The Blackthorn tree is usually quite small and often forms an impassable hedgerow boundary due to its heavy blackened branches and formidable thorns which have a nasty habit of leaving the tip inside of wounds, meaning they become infected, so be careful when foraging sloes!


In the summer months the blackthorn produces small, round green fruits which darken with age, and in September they will appear as a purple-blue fruit with a white bloom present on the surface. Sloes are very sour, but they do sweeten with the onset of the first frosts of October and November, which is the customary time to forage these small berries from the hedgerow. If however it’s been a warm year, the berries can be added to the freezer to help sweeten them up, and this will also save time with the tedious job of pricking each fruit which will otherwise need to be done before soaking in the gin.

How to make Sloe Gin

There are many varied recipes for sloe gin, but the best recipe will be the one that you like the most, and by this I mean that you will need to play around to obtain the desired sweetness. Sloe gin is very easily over-sweetened, so hold back on the sugar if you prefer a more tart taste.

Tools Needed:

Kilner Jar with rubber seal

Pin (if the sloes were not pre-frozen)


1lb sloes 8oz caster sugar (be careful here, it’s easy to add too much sugar, this amount is too much for my personal taste)

1¾ pint gin of good quality gin


1. Place de-frosted sloes into the sterilised jar. If the sloes are not pre-frozen, each slow will need to be pricked with a pin.

2. Pour in the sugar and the gin, seal tightly with the use of the rubber seal and shake the jar until the sugar begins to dissolve.

3. Store the jar in a cool dark place and shake the jar every other day for a week or two. Then shake once a week until ready to drink.

Your sloe gin will be ready in December, by this time it will have taken on the colour of good claret. It can now be strained and bottled. Some people like to eat the sloes whilst enjoying the drink (watch out for the stones!).

Sloe gin is the perfect drink to enjoy in front of a crackling fire over the festive season with some cheese and biscuits and also makes a wonderful Christmas gift for a loved one.


Well ...I'm in!
Paul 07-10-2013 at 18:56
I squash the sloes with a potato masher to split them, saves time with the pin!
Jeff Gibson 07-10-2013 at 20:08

It's often done with a pin as squashing the sloes or making the holes too big leaves the liquor with lots of bits in. Fair enough, this can be strained, but crushing them also makes the drink lose it's subtleness which it does have if made correctly. Each to their own though.
Terry 07-10-2013 at 21:08
Is there any benefit for not freezing the fruit and pricking instead?
Also, can you really taste the difference in the quality of the gin once it has been re-fermented?
Hugh 08-10-2013 at 13:03
Hello Hugh,

The taste will be slightly less sweet if not frozen first as the fruit and sugars start to break down.

Cheap gin can be used, some will notice, some won't, so that's a personal choice really.

Pricking the fruit with a pin is really just a traditional way to do things, but as the puncture is small, it will give a slightly more refined taste due to there being less of the broken down fruit exposed to the gin.
Kris 11-10-2013 at 11:37
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Mike 01-04-2015 at 10:32
We use a cheap Gin as the taste of the Sloes will cancel the flavour of most botanicals in a more expensive one. We also take a thorn off the tree we get the sloes from to prick them - a large coffee filter will get rid of most if not all of the bits from the fruit.
Martin 25-09-2015 at 17:32
Could I use ripe rose hips instead of slows ?
walter oates 17-09-2016 at 23:58


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