Winter Warmer – Sloe Gin Recipe

I have recently discovered that certain alcoholic tipples are actually more efficient at keeping me warm than our costly central heating. A small can of vodka and cola (currently reduced to just £1.24 at my local supermarket), when dispensed into a suitable glass (because ladies don’t drink from cans, snort) keeps me rosy and glowing for at least two or three hours. Really. I kid you not. Granted, when I discovered this, I was wearing a jumper and a scarf, but still pretty impressive nonetheless.

So in light of this recent discovery, and given that temperatures have plummeted over these past few nights, I thought that it was about time that I posted my winter warmer recipe for sloe gin. I hadn’t tried sloe gin until last year. It was a drink name that I’d heard bandied about as a somewhat cliché homebrewing anecdote, and I remember reading a story in a magazine where a novice barmaid thought that “slow gin” was gin that you poured slowly into the glass. Ho ho.

But it all changed when I visited a late autumn English Heritage event at my local stately home, Wrest Park. English Heritage had set up a few stalls in the shelter of the orangery, with ‘rustic’ seasonal jams, chutneys and other preserves, as well as a selection of British wines and alcoholic beverages. They were offering small samples of each, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take part in some taste testing. I actually went for the damson gin first, as we have a damson tree here and I had already begun formulating plans before the gin had hit my stomach.

But if I’m honest, I wasn’t too enamoured with the damson gin. The sloe gin had a slightly more pinkish hue, looked suitably appealing, so I thought ‘why not?’. So I did. And it was good. Very good. Sweeter on first taste than I expected, and a few seconds later it just emanated this internal warmth that made it feel almost medicinal. Needless to say, I came away with a bottle and it has become one of my favourite winter warmers. I’m not a big drinker at all, which is probably why just one small glass is enough to ignite the internal heaters and keep me toasty for a few hours.

It then may come as no surprise that I have attempted to make my own sloe gin this year. Here at home, my blackthorn bushes (prunus spinosa, also known as sloe bushes because they bear the sloe fruits) have yet to crop, so Mum and I chose possibly the wettest and most miserable day to go sloe picking at our local country park. But we came away with a good crop, despite making sure to only pick around 10-20% of the fruit from one plant. That’s my general rule when it comes to foraging. Little bit for me, and the wildlife can have the rest.

And so, here is my sloe gin recipe. I can’t guarantee wonderful results, but it’s the product of much research on my part. I have quite a sweet tooth, so adjust the recipe at your discretion. Enjoy!

Sloe Gin Recipe

Recipe is to make a 1 litre bottle of sloe gin; adjust the ingredients depending on your needs!


  • Half a litre of gin (needn’t be high quality; I go for Waitrose’s own brand, my other half prefers Gordon’s)
  • Enough sloes to fill the other half litre
  • 150g-250g caster sugar, depending on taste


  • Decanter with lid, or 1 litre bottle with airtight sealed lid (with enough room in neck to push through sloes)
  • Fork or brand new hairbrush (yes, really!)


1. Sterilise your bottles. Important!

2. This next bit is the most arduous. You’ll need to prick each individual sloe a few times with a sterilised needle, a cocktail stick or a cutlery fork. Be prepared for mess and lots of sloe juice. Once you’ve pricked through the skin of each sloe, plop it in the gin bottle. Do this until you’ve filled half the litre bottle. If like me, you’re a bit impatient, you could buy a new hairbrush, sterilise it, and then whack the sloes with the hairbrush ‘teeth’. Very likely to cause mess, but is certainly a fun alternative.

3. Add sugar. 150g for sweetness, 250g+ for teeth rottingly sweet (but tasty) beverage.

4.  Fill the rest of the bottle with your gin.

5. Seal the bottle and then give a good shake. Store in a cool, dry place. You’ll need to shake your fermenting sloe gin about once a day for the first week of fermentation. Then it’s just once a week for the remaining 8-10 weeks.

6. After 8-12 weeks, open, decant and enjoy the rosy glow. And remember, if you prefer to leave your sloes in the bottle, you’ve got around 6 months to finish your bottle of homebrewed sloe gin! If you opted for gin sans sloes, you’ve got considerably longer.

Enjoy. I certainly will! And am also looking forward to the prospect of my own homegrown sloes next year, too.


  1. If you can hold off for 5 years Lucy, you will have a super-deluxe tipple (I know, it will be difficult, but stash some a away and write on it: To be drunk Christmas 2015)

    Alternative to the hairbrush method, use the pricky side of a grater, the bit used for grating lemon zest, and bash onto a tray of sloes.

    Though I’m not sure of the science behind alcohol and warmth – if it cheers you up on a dark cold night, go for it!


  2. Rowan Tree says

    Even better than the hairbrush and grater solutions is to freeze your sloes. As they defrost their skins split, so no need for tedious pricking!
    Some say that sloes are better after the first frost, but if I were to wait that long, the best ones would have already been foraged hereabouts. Perhaps the freezing option solves that dilemma too!

  3. My favourite winter drink along with Pineau des Charentes which I buy when on holiday in France, they both certainly warm the cockles.

  4. Wonderful photo…

  5. A bit late for this year, but you can do the same with blackberries (and drink it at New Year)

  6. Hello Lucy,
    Just been scanning the universe for a sloe gin recipe and came across your blog in around about way, just like to say what an excellent blog all round so if you do not mind I’ll tag along for a while.

  7. hi ya
    why not try white rum and also believe me not whisky superb XXXXX
    sloe and easy dose it x

  8. Try adding a clove or two to the bottle, and try vodka as well, I almost preferred the clove+vodka version at my last attempt.
    This year the sloes seemed to have matured early, so have already picked a good couple of carrier bags full ready to be cleaned and frozen !

  9. Has anyone made jam from the resultant sloes?

  10. dawn dizzy theodore says

    NO NEED TO PRICK EACH ONE! put all your sloes in a plastic tub or bag and put them in the freezer overnight. They burst, so saving you time and sore fingers…..Hope this helps someone. x

  11. A small point I know…. but No fermentation takes place, just a gentle leaching out of colour, flavour and juice from the sloes.

    pricking with a needle is laborious I know, but the whole idea is to allow the juice and NOT the mushy innards to disolve into the gin, thus keeping the liquor clear and bright, and for the same reason don’t shake too vigorously, just gently upend it a few times.

    Tried demerara or dark soft brown sugar?….. a lovely variation

  12. A quicker way to add lots of holes to your sloes it to put them on a board and roll them round with the spiky side of a grater. Ready in a couple of minutes!

  13. i have made both sloe gin and sloe vodka this year i am also going to try using the seeped sloes in some cheap white wine after bottling the gin as i have been told it makes a lovely fortified wine

  14. Has anyone tried using brown sugar instead of caster? Always used caster in the past, but I’d be interested to see what the difference in flavour would be.

  15. I have made Sloe Gin this year for the first time and very very excited however what do I do at this time of year with the bush/tree?

    Do I cut back lots or just prune?

    Need to know for maximum fruit production next year!!!

  16. going to try to be self sufficient with all veg and some fruit next year (the wife). and im going for the alcohol side of things, hence the noting down of your sloe gin recipe. picked up 2ld from walton on the naze plus possibly the last 4lb of blackberries before they go off. The blackberries are going into either jam or if i get at them first brandy. Frozen pies already in storage so hopefully my wife wont miss a few pounds. Il be keeping an eye on your recipes from now on good luck and thanks…

  17. I have been making sloe gin for years, and never tire of drinking it !!! ( In moderation of course). It is interesting to see all the different methods that people employ to prepare this. My recipe is simply 1 75cl bottle of gin, supermarket quality, as best quality is not needed, 12 ounce of sloes and 12 ounce of caster sugar. I prick the sloes 3 at a time with a fork. When the sloe gin is ready, remove the remains of the sloes and they can be used in various ways. Place in a sieve, and squash them through to clear the fleshy remains from the stones. The alcoholic remains can then be used in baking (fruit cake) or to enhance the flavour of a bottle of cheap white or red wine.

  18. Just been reading the suggestions above and thought I’d share with you my thoughts re sloes.

    sloe gin/vodka/white rum are 3 that we have tried.I’ve used dark brown sugar in the white rum and it’s soooo tasty.I hadn’t thought of using caster sugar,so will try that.Thanks for the tip.

    Also made blackberry brandy…lovely!Has anyone tried plum vodka? I’ve a batch on the go at the moment and am confident that if it doesn’t turn out well,it won’t be wasted.The plums will go into a sponge pudding,the remaining liquor…well,in a glass!

    As it’s almost Christmas,I have won some alchohol in the raffle.Bottle of ruby port and a bottle of Grouse.Any suggestions? I don’t drink either of them.

  19. Cockfosters says

    Whilst walking in the Suffolk countryside last week i came across a sloe bush with almost 100 sloe’s still attached. I picked these immediately and have just finished making a litre of sloe gin. My grandfather used to say that sloe’s should not be picked until they have been subject to a sharp frost or two- so this could prove to be an interesting experiment. I have always picked mine in September. I agree with Lesley above- blackberry brandy is fantastic.

  20. Another variation that I´ve tried is vodka with wimberries/bilberries, same process as sloe gin. Berries can be foraged around august. Its slightly more tedious as berries are a lot smaller so you need to pick more, but its worth it, makes a beautiful drink!

  21. I was so excited with the prospect of making sloe gin in september/october, 2012 I had sourced sloe bushes at a number of locations and was very disappointed to find virtually no sloes at all. I didn’t miss the boat because others were there before me but because 2012 has apparently been a bad year for them. Roll on autumn 2013!!!

  22. Nowhere can I see whether it is necessary to wash the sloes … any advice?


  1. […] squash, herbal tea, wine, G&T, and I imagine I’ll be enjoying my forthcoming batch of sloe gin in a mug too. I’ll even eat homemade soup out of a large mug. I have no shame. I just prefer […]

  2. […] gin, available from your local discount supermarket for well under a tenner. Check out my sloe gin recipe […]