Sloe Gin is a gin based liqueur flavoured with fruit from the blackthorn bush.
Traditionally a home-made drink, you can now buy it commercially: there are at least two makers of it (as of 2006), Plymouth and Gordons.
It is a sweet, red liqueur that, at home, is made with a bottle of gin sweetened with sugar and steeped with sloe plums. Before the fruit is put in, each plum is pricked to allow its juices to seep out better. Purists like to prick the fruit using thorns from the sloe bush; modernizers use a fork. When you realize that sloes are a very small fruit, and that consequently some 350 to 500 of them are needed to make 1 bottle, your sympathies will fall with the ulta-modernizers, who just freeze the fruit for a couple of days, causing them to split on their own (thaw before using.)
You make it in a wide-mouthed jar, putting everything in. You use about 1 ½ pounds (700g) of fruit , 1 ½ cups (12 oz / 350g) of white sugar per 700 ml of alcohol, to yield 1 litre of the liqueur. Drier versions will use as little as ½ cup (4 oz / 115g) of sugar. Wash the fruit, then make sure it is thoroughly dry before using so as not to introduce water into the mix. Some people enhance the flavour with almond extract,
Put a lid on the jar, and shake it a few times to mix. Don’t worry if the sugar doesn’t dissolve all at once; it will slowly over time. Put to steep in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. For the first two weeks, turn the jar every day, then once a week.
After the 3 months, strain into a clean jar. Let sit for a few days for sediment to accumulate on bottom, then decant into another clean jar or bottle.
The sloes will shrink down to the size of raisins as the juice leeches out of them. Afterwards, the gin-soaked and sweetened sloes can be eaten.
You can make a schnapps-type Sloe Gin by omitting the sugar altogether. Without the sugar to help draw the juices out of the fruit, it ends up a light pink instead of red.
1 ½ pounds (700g) of sloes is about 350 to 500 sloes.