how to make sloe gin

It’s autumn, and I’m thinking about sloe gin and sparkly lights and candles and crochet blankets. For those of you wanting to know how to make sloe gin, here’s a recipe.

Having left it until later this year, the sloes are softer, darker, and they’ve lost their bloom. I’ve always picked them in September, and plonked them in the freezer overnight, because the traditional sloe gin recipe states that you shouldn’t pick them until after the first frost. However, I think the first frost must’ve been earlier than it is nowadays, because the sloes have undergone a transformation and their bitter, dusty taste has been replaced with that of a very tart plum. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects the sloe gin.

The first thing you need to make sloe gin is – you guessed it – sloes. They grow on the blackthorn bush, and look like tiny little plums, blue-black with a slight whitish bloom. The blackthorn has quite sharp thorns, so be prepared when you’re picking to come home a bit sore. You might also come across a bush with bigger, slightly less tart fruit – these are bullaces. These won’t give quite the same almondy taste to the gin, but they’ll work as a substitute.

Back in August I was featured in Woman & Home magazine talking about picking sloes, and how the annual ritual of making sloe gin marked the beginning of autumn, my favourite season. Yesterday afternoon we got soaking wet, had a lovely time, came home and curled
up in the sitting room with hot chocolate and watched a film.

Sloe Gin Recipe:

Go and have a look in the hedgerows and you’re sure to find some sloes. Don’t forget a bag. If you’re like me, you’ll forget, and have to take them home in a dog poo bag.
This will earn you strange looks from passing walkers.

how to make sloe gin

All you need for home made sloe gin is a jar, a bottle of gin, a pound (450g) of sloes and 100g of sugar.
Sterilise the jar by washing it in hot soapy water and then rinsing with lots of boiling water.
Plonk the washed sloes in the jar, and add the sugar and gin.
Put it in a dark place, and give it a swirl once a week from now ’til Christmas
Strain it into a bottle, and drink.
It’s that simple.
This year I’ve experimented by using vanilla sugar (caster sugar I keep in a jar with vanilla pods) and I’ve added a vanilla pod to the sloe gin mixture, too.
This may be delicious.
It may be disgusting.
Reports to follow in December.

how to make sloe gin

This is my entry to lovely English Mum’s Great Big Autumn Bakeoff.
It’s not baking, but I’m hoping that a recipe for sloe gin means she’ll let me off!


The final result: this is the 2010 vintage, sloe gin made with vanilla. Two years on its absolutely delicious: warm and mellow and just what you need on a winter evening. Happy sloe-picking!


  1. Oooh! Never made it with vanilla sugar! I shall wait for your verdict!

  2. ok you have inspired me, i’ve been thinking about it for days and will go out later and do some picking!!

  3. We don’t have sloes! (Or, if we do, they’ve escaped me for +40 years.) What do they taste like?

  4. Never had sloes and can’t stand gin, but even I feel inspired to try this!

  5. Mmmm, soundy yummy, although I don’t think that sloes grow in Canada. Do you know the Latin name for them?

  6. Looks fabulous 🙂

  7. Rachel: Thank you for visiting me across the pond. I love the pictures of your village and look forward to seeing more of your garden. Sloes….do you know the botanical name of the plant? I will have to google for translation. Perhaps I will just have to come over and share some of yours. LOL

  8. I know where you got your jar!!!!! 😀

    I think it only fair that you have me over to sample it one day as I’ve never had Sloe Gin and I was there when you bought the jar!


  9. Ooo hello that’s my kind of Christmas present! Thanks for adding them to Thrifty Christmas x

  10. Hahaha! Liz you’re still logged in as me. Looks like I’m leaving myself comments like a loon.

  11. You can be the first victim. I mean sampler. Tee hee.

  12. Hi Layanee,

    Hrmm, let me have a look online. The Sloe (Prunus Spinosa) is known in North America as the Blackthorn – does that help? And if you want to come and share some, that would be lovely!

  13. Glug glug!

  14. Yes, it’s Prunus Spinosa – also known as the Blackthorn in North America. So you can go foraging at the weekend!

  15. The end product doesn’t actually taste at all gin-ish. It’s sort of sweet and slightly almondy, presumably because of the stones in the sloes.

  16. They are amazingly sour. Archie says they make your mouth all dusty, which is the best description ever. And my noodling online has discovered that you do have them in Canada – known as Blackthorn over there. Maybe they are rare, though?

  17. I’ve since discovered that it’s not unheard of, so hopefully it won’t be utterly disgusting!

  18. Yay! We can all be pickled by Christmas.

  19. I’ve always wanted to have a go at making sloe gin but I’m ashamed to say I don’t even know what a sloe looks/tastes like let alone where to look for them!

  20. I last made sloe gin about 7 years ago and happened to find an old unopened bottle at the back of my in-laws booze cabinet a couple of weeks ago – my mother in-law and I both had a little sneaky snifter while preparing sunday lunch – it was heaven! tho’ we did both feel a little woozy not long after! this has reminded me to get out there and pick and make more! great blog!

  21. Thanks Stephanie, and thank you for visiting! I think the alcohol content of sloe gin increases rapidly month by month. Yours was probably 100% proof!

  22. Ah, well, with my photo above now, you’ve no excuse! Give it a try – it’s so easy!

  23. MIne are in the freezer waiting for me to have a quiet weekend (and to get some gin in, not sharing my Heidricks with sloes)

    Yum yum yum

  24. Thought we had to wait until the first frosts before we picked them? (Like Brussel sprouts are best after they’ve had frost on them! Well so that say.) Okay then, note to self for weekend: pick blackberries (for bramble jelly) and sloes. I always prick each sloe (very laborious) with a cocktail stick – to make it easier for the juices to come out presumably! Thanks for the tip about the vanilla pod I’ve an ‘out-of-date’ one hanging around somewhere, will pop that in too!

  25. Mrs Janice Wallis says

    Hi, I have some sloes in the freeszer and just about to make sloe gin again. Question. White sugar, or light brown or dark brown? I have used all, but it depends on the quality of the sloes. What do other sloe gin makers think??

  26. Hi Janice, thanks for visiting! I’ve only ever made sloe gin with white caster sugar, but I’d love to try a dark brown, molasses-rich sugar for a lovely treacly taste. If you do try it, let me know how it works out!

  27. This is the one thing I want to try this year. I think my sloes aren’t ready yet, as they haven’t turned completely black. Sloe Gin is so delicious though…I wonder what the vanilla flavour was like hmmm?