Gift idea: Sloe Gin

13 Sep

Although Christmas feels a long way away now, it will be here before you know it. I have a special ‘Christmas’ bank account, which I save a small amount of money into every month, but I always spend more than the alloted amount to buy extra presents for my family. This year, however, I need to be good and will be attempting to make those little extra gifts myself.

The first crafty gift idea is Sloe Gin. I’m writing about this SO in advance of Christmas because it takes a very long time to make. The preparation takes an hour or so, but the finished product then takes another 2-3 months to mature.

This gift was inspired by my fiance’s foraging tour earlier this summer with Miles Irving, author of The Forager Handbook, at Latitude earlier this summer. Sloes are commonly found in hedgerows all over the country and a freely available to anyone with a eye for spotting them and the ability to avoid the thorns.We had planned to go foraging for them on a long countryside walk we are planning next weekend, but then a visit from P’s mum resulted in a huge bag of them, so we got started straight away!

750g of sloes

There are quite a lot of very different recipes on the internet, but in the end we used this recipe from the BBC, and multiplied the quantites to match the large bowl of sloes we were given.  Make sure you sterilise any bottles you use before filling them.

280g of caster sugar divided between two bottles

We didn’t have a large enough jar, so used two 750cl bottles instead and divided the sloes, sugar and gin evenly between them.

Pricking the sloes

If you haven’t picked the sloes after the first frost, you will need to prick each one individually. I thought this would be a faff, but it ended up being rather relaxing. P’s initial suggestion was to use a big kitchen knife (!?), but luckily my suggestion of a toothpick worked very well (and with rather less opportunity for self-harm).

Add the gin!

Next, add around 700ml of gin. If, like P, you like a G&T, make yourself a tasty drink at the same time.  The higher the alcohol content, the better it works, so we went for a 43% proof London dry gin.

Day one of the sloe gin!

And that’s it!

Well, not quite.

You need to store the bottles in a dark, dry place. We have put them in our bedroom closet. For the first week, you need to shake it every other day and following that you need to shake it once a week. Do this for 2-3 months and soon you will (apparently!) have a beautiful, deep red liqueur.

The only cost for this gift idea comes from the gin and then, if you want to give it away in nice bottles, from the cost of the bottles. The gin cost £15 and we estimate spending around £3 per bottle (which I will design some pretty labels for). We want to create 3-4 350ml bottles from this, so it will be a cost of around £6.75-£8 each.  However, if you save up 350ml bottles (which gin and other liquors come in) and put new labels on, each gift would cost just £3.75-£5. Not bad for delicious homemade liqueur!

The BBC recipe mentions that you can do the same thing using Blackberries and Brandy, which sounds AMAZING, so perhaps we will be doing some foraging next weekend after all…

UPDATED 13/09/11: Apparently, if you don’t want to prick each sloe individually, you can spread them out on a tray and place in the freezer to imitate the first frost. Take out as soon as the skins split.


7 Responses to “Gift idea: Sloe Gin”

  1. Zoe 13/09/2011 at 9:00 am #

    Fantastic idea. I think I should try this for the holidays… Good timing on the post! As planned, I’m sure.

  2. brixtonia 13/09/2011 at 11:42 am #

    Have brandy and am hoping to make blackberry brandy – will let you know how it goes! Blackberry season is nearly over though (down south at least), so best get cracking!

  3. Tim Neobard 14/09/2011 at 6:39 am #

    Hi Katie, was just chatting to Ben on the train about making some Sloe Gin and he said “Katie was blogging about that the other day” so naturally I said “Katie?” “Johnson from uni!” “ahh that Katie…” and here I am!
    Only just discovered sloes when I was out and about yesterday writing for my new blog ( and have ordered the wife to sort me out some gin to experiment by! Some good tips, I was going to wait till first frost but I guess I could gather some and prick them instead!

    • Katie 14/09/2011 at 7:13 am #

      Hello! Good luck with your sloe making. If you don’t want to prick them all, you can apparently pop them in the freezer to simulate the first frost. I like your blog – what a great place to live! Central London doesn’t have quite the same foraging opportunities…

      • Tim Neobard 15/09/2011 at 12:47 pm #

        So does 🙂 it’s going to be one of my articles!


  1. Sloe gin: An update « - 01/11/2011

    […] a month and a half ago, P and I made our first ever batch of sloe gin. We hand pricked each one and have been religiously turning the bottles every week to stir up the […]

  2. Sloe gin: the final product « - 29/12/2011

    […] The sloe gin we started back in September was finally finished off the week before Christmas. We bought some really lovely bottles from a kitchen shop down the road for around £4 each. […]

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