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Needless to say, this year is an excellent one for making your own sloe gin at home, so read on for our step-by-step guide of making a very personal homemade and guaranteed delicious sloe gin!
Select ripe sloe berries. The simple rule holds true: if you can squeeze the stone right out of the berry, they are perfectly ripe and yield a great flavour. Contrary to a widespread belief, you don’t have to wait until after the first frost!
Deep freeze. While it is believed that you have to pinch or cut open the skin of each berry, we recommend to simply deep freeze the berries for a day or two. This will break down the tannins in the sloes and evenly break the skin of the berries. We know your time will be more wisely spent than slicing open each individual berry…
Start macerating. Another widespread belief is to use cheap gin as you won’t taste the difference later. We must intervene: for a balanced and structured sloe gin, we highly recommend to take as much care in selecting the gin as in selecting the berries. Add the same amount of gin with berries to get a 1:1 ratio and start the maceration process.
Other ingredients. The stones of the sloe berries hold their best kept secret yet: a marzipan almond-y flavour. If you have the right equipment to break some of the sloe stones, do so during the maceration! An easier solution would be to add a few crushed almonds at the start of the maceration. Depending on your palette, you can also add a range of other spices such as star anise, cinnamon, clove or even pepper. We recommend a very conservative addition of any additional spices to avoid overpowering the flavour of the berries. Try testing the spices in different jars for different flavour profiles.
Wait. To get the right balance you want to leave the sloe gin macerating for several months; two being the minimum amount of time. Make sure you occasionally shake the vessels gently to move the gin and the berries around during the maceration process.
Add sugar. We recommend not to add any sugar during the maceration process. This is because the sugar will prevent the gin from extracting the natural fruit sugars and flavours from the sloe berries. If you add the sugar after the maceration you can add the exact amount needed to create a well balanced sloe gin. We recommend to only add the sweetness after straining the sloe gin through a super fine sieve. The best way to then add sugar is by using simple syrup (mix one part water with one part sugar in a pan at low temperature avoiding boiling at all times) instead of granulated sugar. That way you can continue to taste and test – and don’t have to wait for the sugar crystals to dissolve.
Enjoy. Once you have found your perfect balance of flavour and sweetness, it is ready to drink – though it will improve and mature over time