Sloes aka blackthorn

Sloe Gin – What is it and how can I make my own?

You might have heard of sloe gin before, but what exactly is it and how is it different from regular gin?

Sloes are a type of fruit, part of the same family as cherries and plums and Sloe Gin is made by infusing gin with ripe sloes and usually adding sugar to the mix. This is then left to mature over several months and then strained off, leaving you with a tasty, sweet and fruity liqueur. The alcohol content varies between 15-30% ABV but EU regulations state that to be called Sloe Gin, it must have a minimum of 25% ABV.

There are a number of fantastic sloe gins available, including 6 O’clock Sloe Gin, Sipsmith Sloe Gin, Elephant Sloe Gin and Hayman’s Sloe Gin however, it’s really easy to make your own at home, especially if you have access to fresh sloes.

Here, ILoveGin explores some fantastic recipes for how to make your own sloe gin from home, as well as what differentiates this kind from other gins, sloe gin cocktails and more.


What’s the Difference Between Sloe Gin and Regular Gin?


Ripe Sloes


Traditional gin is classified as a spirit whilst sloe gin is a liqueur however, this isn’t the only distinguishing factor separating the two. There are a number of other factors that differentiate gin from sloe gin, including the following:

  • Sloe gin is sweeter than traditional gin due to the addition of sugar
  • Traditional gin is clear, whereas sloe gin is coloured a deep red
  • Sloe gin can be made by steeping sloe berries in gin, whereas traditional gin is made via the traditional distillation processes
  • The ABV for sloe gin is much lower than London Dry ginIn order for a spirit to be classified as gin, it must not only have a minimum ABV of 37.5%, but it should also contain juniper and by law, the predominant flavour must be of juniper. Given the lower ABV of sloe gin and also the dominance of the fruit flavour, it can therefore only be classified as a liqueur.

How To Make Sloe Gin


If you are fortunate to be able to forage for sloes in the countryside or in woodlands where there are a few blackthorn trees along the paths where you take a daily walk, then you will know that the best time to pick them is around September or after the first frosts, when the berries are dark and slightly squishy.  They are suitable for freezing until you are ready to use them, or you can use them fresh, but they should be pricked – tradition says to do this with one of their own thorns!

There are a lot of great sloe gin recipes available online. Here, ILoveGin take a look at the BBC Good Food sloe gin recipe.

You’ll need the following ingredients for this sloe gin recipe:

  • 1 litre of gin
  • 500g of ripe sloes
  • 250g of golden caster sugar


Step 1: Prep the Sloes

Rinse the sloes before patting dry with a clean tea towel. Then, prick the sloes with a cocktail stick or stainless-steel fork and tip into your chosen sloe gin container. BBC Good Food suggest either a 2-litre glass jar or dividing up between two smaller jars.


Step 2: Sugar, Seal and Shake

Once the sloes have been placed in the jar(s), then add the sugar and the gin, seal the jar(s) and shake well. For the following seven days, shake the jar(s) once daily, and store in a cool and dark place. Leave the jar(s) here for 2-3 months.


Step 3: Sieve and Present

Once 2-3 months has passed, it’s time to strain the sloe gin, using a plastic sieve lined with muslin and set over a bowl. Strain the sloe gin through this and decant the liqueur into clean, dry bottles.

Once the sloe gin has been placed in these bottles, you can then seal, label, drink and enjoy! BBC Good Food say that the drink will mature and improve over time.


Sloe Gin Cocktails




While sloe gin can be enjoyed neat, it also goes great in cocktails like a Sloejito (a twist on the classic Mojito) or Sloetini (a martini-style cocktail).

6 O’clock Gin have also created a fantastic cocktail for their sloe gin, the Sloe & Spiced Apple Juice. For this, you’ll need:

  • 200ml of spiced apple juice
  • 60ml of sloe gin

You can create spiced apple gin simply by heating cloudy apple juice with a selection of winter spices for 20 minutes or so. Once the apple juice has been infused with these spices, you can then pour it into a mug or heatproof glass and top up with the sloe gin.

Use an orange wheel, star anise and cinnamon stick to garnish.


Why not try a Sloe Gin Fizz? 

Sipsmith have an easy recipe:

2 parts Sipsmith Sloe Gin
1 part lemon juice
1 egg white
3/4 part simple syrup

1.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a shaker
2.  Dry shake well
3.  Add ice & shake again
4.  Strain into a sherry glass or small highball
5.  Top with Champagne, enough so that the height of the froth is roughly equal to half of the drink

Where Can I Buy Sloe Gin?

You can find the 6 O’clock Sloe Gin, as well as other liqueurs and gins in the ILoveGin gin shop.

It can be great fun making your own sloe gin, however, for those who don’t want to wait 2-3 months for a taste, and those who want to explore the variety of sloe gins out there, there are many Sloe Gins available from different UK distillers and I’m sure you’ll find yourself a favourite. If you can find 5cl miniatures to try, then I certainly recommend buying a few to see which you prefer – some brands are much sweeter than others and the ABV does vary too.

Share your favourite recipes with us! 

Let us know and share your recipes, tips and favourite cocktails with us on social media or if you have a bottle lurking in the cupboard somewhere and you aren’t sure what to do with it, why not try one of the recipes above and let us know your favourite cocktail using sloe gin!

We would love to know how you enjoy your Sloe Gin, so we look forward to hearing if you have tried to make your own sloe gin or if you have a favourite store bought brand!

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