The global novel coronavirus pandemic may have grounded us, but we can still enjoy happy hour. This daily series will provide delicious drink recipes for you to try at home. So call your friends for a virtual sip session and traverse the globe, even if it's only in your mind.
Today's cocktail hails from United Kingdom – Sloe Gin.
What is it?
The first surprise? Technically, it’s not a gin. The second? Making sloe gin is slow. But this ruby-red liqueur of sloe fruits soaked in sugar and gin rewards those who wait.
Sloe Gin has a slightly shameful past. The berry-like fruit grows from blackthorn bushes, which are riddled with savage thorns: ideal security fences for the ruling elite in 18th-century Britain when thousands of people were kicked off common land. Too bitter to eat, sloes were soaked in two commodities that were cheap at the time: gin (the Government allowed unlicensed gin production) and sugar (a result of the slave trade in the West Indies). Sloe Gin enjoys a respectable renaissance these days, however – just ask your hipster mixologist.
You'll need (Makes a liter)
1lb (500g ) sloes – preferably handpicked when ripe and softened by the first frost, although don’t wait for this if the berries are already ripe – a frost may not happen!
8oz (250g) sugar
34fl oz (1l) gin
4 drops vanilla essence (optional)
Step 1: Wash the sloes and prick each one with a pin (seven times, if you like to follow tradition). Leave them to air-dry.
Step 2: When dry, put the sloes in a sealable jar and pour over the sugar, gin, and add the vanilla essence. Seal the jar and shake.
Step 3: Shake the jar a little every other day for the first week, until the sugar dissolves. Then shake the jar once a week for two months.
Step 4: You can sample your sloe gin after two months has passed, but it’s best to leave it for at least three months. For a truly outstanding sloe gin, leave to macerate for 15 years, if you can wait that long!
Step 5: When you’re ready, or can’t wait any longer, strain the gin into screw-top bottles.
Step 6: Serve it neat, over ice, and/or with a little tonic water.
Picking sloes yourself is half the fun (thorns aside) but don’t be tempted to try a sloe straight from the bush! Tongue-shrivelling in tannic dryness, it’s not a pleasant experience. Far better to gather your purple bounty in a wicker foraging basket and stumble home through the early autumn leaves to crack open last year’s batch of gleaming-red sloe gin. Pour over ice with a little tonic water and kick off your sodden shoes, battle-worn by hedgerow stomping, to settle by an open fire for your first sip. Sniff the slightly plummy, almond-like aroma and swirl the smooth sweetness in your mouth. The tartness follows, but it’s not too sharp – only dry enough to hasten the next rich, warming sip.
For additional cocktail recipes, check out our Destination Drinks page.