Don’t be sloe to taste these tipples
With the berry in season, Sam Wylie-Harris shows you three ways to bring a sample of the countryside inside
If you go wild for sloe gin, now is the time to head to the hedgerows and start foraging for the small, plump purple berries currently weighing down blackthorn bushes. Too tart to eat on their own, distillers steep them in gin to create a fruit liqueur that’s sweetened by adding sugar or honey and then matured for several months to produce a jammy, tart spirit that’s most famously enjoyed in a Long Peddler, a simple mix of sloe gin and bitter lemon.
Seen as an autumnal tipple, we’ve done the hard work for you and hand-picked three batches to buy and use in cocktails... 1. ROCK ROSE SLOE GIN FIZZ “Our sloe gin has been two years in the making — the first year of experiments, and the second year allowing the gorgeous berries to steep in our Autumn Edition,” says Martin Murray, co-founder, Rock Rose Gin.
“The blackberries and elderberries really complement the sloes providing a unique taste.”
Rich and fruity with a smooth, warming finish, try serving Scottish Sloe Gin (£25, 50cl, Dunnet Bay Distillers) with rosemary or black- berry, or using it as the perfect base for a less traditional sloe gin fizz. Ingredients: 50ml Rock Rose Sloe Gin, 25ml lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup, 1 egg white, champagne. Method: Half fill a shaker with ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white. Shake well and strain into a glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon rind. 2. SIPSMITH SLOE AND BITTER LEMON Created from the backbone of their classic London Dry, Sipsmith Sloe Gin (£25, 50cl, Sipsmith) is subtle, complex and bursting with flavour. Velvety in the mouth with a balanced sweetness, we love its purpley-red colour. The berry-rich flavours can be dropped into a G&T to make a delicious alternative to the classic. Otherwise, mix with lemon. Ingredients: 50ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin, bitter lemon tonic. Method: Pour all ingredients over ice and garnish with lemon peel. 3. CHASE SLOE AND BITTER LEMON Wild hedgerow sloe berries from Herefordshire and the ultimate forgotten fruit, mulberries, are gently macerated in Chase GB gin and then oak-aged in Rhone Valley red wine casks to create sweet notes of ripe blackcurrants, redcurrants, stone fruit and a rich botanical complexity for Chase Sloe & Mulberry Gin (£30, 50cl, Chase Distillery). Smooth and rich with cassis and plummy stone fruits, its sweetness is balanced by a touch of tartness with a long finish and subtle oaky undertones. Ingredients: 50ml Chase Sloe & Mulberry Gin, bitter lemon tonic. Method: Pour all ingredients over ice and garnish with lemon peel. Keen to make your own sloe gin? Here’s how... Once you’ve picked your sloes, we suggest this homemade sloe gin needs at least three months to mature, so it is best enjoyed in January. Ingredients: 75ml sterilized bottle, 100g white sugar, 1 bottle of your favourite gin, plenty of sloe berries. Method: Pour clean, washed sloes into the bottle to around the 7cm mark — some say to prick the berries or freeze them first, either method is optional — and add in the white sugar, top with gin. Over the following weeks, gently tip the bottle up from time to time to dissolve the sugar slowly. Keep out of direct sunlight and pat yourself on the back when you pour the first glass.
BERRY NICE: Chase Sloe Gin and bitter lemon is just one of the fantastic combinations to try this autumn