The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Sloe Gin’s Slow Return

Posted on | October 22, 2015 | Written by Julia Punj | No Comments

Sloe Berries, ripening

Sloe Berries, ripening

If it’s not evident already, I love gin. Unlike some other alcoholic beverages, Gin is a liquor that tastes like something; it evokes history and tradition, as well as modernity and subtlety. Most people associate gin with out-of-date Marinis or simplistic gin and tonics, which are excellent drinks, but that’s shortsighted. There are many expressions of gin: Old Tom, London Dry, Plymouth Gins, Navy Strength, Sloe Gin, Genever, or barrel aged, to name a few. Each one has a specific flavor profile, and each serves as a foundation for delicious cocktails. While I could talk about all of them, today I am going to expound on the Sloe Gin.

Sloe gin is made from the blackthorne drupe. Known as the blackthorn berry, or Slow Berry, this fruit is related to a plum but it’s less sweet and less juicy, and it doesn’t have much culinary use other than jams and gin. The enterprising English found that pricking (traditionally with its own thorns) the berry, adding sugar and soaking the mixture with gin creates a fantastic, viscous drink. Originally the English heated the gin and drank it warm to combat the bone-chilling damp of London winters; however, once the Americans got hold of it, they realized that soda water and ice bring out the bitter berry’s flavors.

Swept up in the tide of cocktail culture, Sloe Gin is experiencing a modern day revival. Modern distillers are reviving the gin to expand their offerings; for example, Slipsmith pours its fantastic London Dry over hand picked Dartmoor sloe berries to create a a limited edition Sloe Gin; Hymans has had its Sloe Gin recipe for centuries, which is lighter and a bit sweeter than most; and Plymouth’s Sloe Gin recipe, which originated in 1883, uses Dartmoor water, less sugar, and a longer steeping time to create a less acidic berry-forward flavor.

In turn, these new expressions of Sloe Gin give rise more complex cocktails. There are, of course, the originals—the Sloe Gin Fizz or Sloe Gin Toddy—but Sloe Gin’s flavors lend themselves to more interesting pairings. Sloe Gin and Bourbon go very well together; Sloe Gin and baking spices are fantastic’ Sloe Gin and sweet Vermouth have an obvious affinity; and Sloe Gin is especially friendly with Egg. Working with both tradition and modern cocktails, below I’ve listed a few of my favorite Sloe Gin Cocktails.

Bourbon Sloe Gin Fizz

1oz Sloe Gin

1oz Bourbon

1 oz lemon juice

1 tsp simple syrup

4 oz club soda

Shake Gin, Bourbon, lemon, and simple syrup. Pour over crushed ice in a highball glass. Pour over with club soda, garnish with a lemon slice.


Sloe Gin 75

3/4oz lemon juice

1 tsp powdered sugar

1.5 oz Hayman’s Sloe Gin


Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon, shake with the sloe gin and pour into your glass of choice. Layer with the Cava.


Hayman’s Sloe Gin Toddy

1 tsp honey

4 whole cloves


1.5 Oz Hayman’s Sloe Gin

Hot water to taste, about a half cup

Orange wheel, cinnamon stick

Dissolve the honey in the hot water with the spices, add the Sloe Gin, and garnish with the orange wheel and cinnamon stick.


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