Slowly but surely, gin has been gaining popularity in a country where vodka and bourbon are king and queen (yes, we make those too:). For the past nine years, we’ve been lovingly making our signature gin, but at the same time we’ve also been obsessively making our traditional sloe gin for all you thirsty folks. We hope below you’ll find out all you need to know about this exciting and somewhat unknown purple hued spirit?
Meet Prunus spinosa, better known as sloe berries or blackthorn plums. These dark, small, and kind of unpopular berries grow in the wild around northern Europe as hedgerows, and they’re particularly common in the UK.
Unlike more popular berries, sloe berries are quite tart and astringent, which is why you won’t often see them topping a cheesecake. The British, ingenious folk that they are, did find a way to make good use of the wild berry — they steeped it in gin to give the fragrant spirit a bit more personality, added some sugar, and Sloe gin was born! Yay for us!
Traditionally, sloe gin became somewhat of a winter specialty in Europe as the berries ripen in the Autumn, are added to gin, and then it’s decanted around the holidays with family keeping warm by the fire during the cold winter. Today, sloe gin is enjoyed in a variety of excellent classic and newly crafted cocktails. You’ve heard about the Sloe Gin Fizz? That’s a summer cocktail, right? How about a Sloe Royale? No? Keep reading.
Sloe Gin is made with regular gin, so it does display some of those lovely herbal, juniper undertones you would expect. On sight alone, the sloe berries give Sloe Gin a darker color.
On the nose, you’ll find notes of pomegranate and cranberry. The palate brings ripe sweetness, fresh acidity, and sour cherry with the sloe berries imprinting that unique tartness, warmth, and depth of flavor. To finish our sloe gin is surprisingly dry and tannic with slight almond notes.
Sloe gin is deliciously complex but also very easy to enjoy. (maybe or maybe not include these next lines...) Our traditional Sloe Gin, made with real whole sloe fruit, not from concentrate or syrup. It is NOT your Grandma's sloe gin or that s**t you drank in high school.
Now some of you may know this, but many do not. Gin, by definition, must feature juniper as the predominate botanical and must be bottled at 40% abv or above. At Spirit Works, our award-winning California distillery, our Gin is infused with old-world and local botanicals including orris, angelica root, cardamom, coriander, fresh zested oranges and lemons, as well as unique hibiscus. That’s a world-class gin right there!
On the other hand, lesser known sloe gin is actually a liqueur as defined by our friends at the TTB, meaning it must be made with gin, but also sloe berries, a small amount of sugar, and is generally lower in % abv than your normal 40% abv spirit. We recommend sipping it neat first to really enjoy the beauty of this wonderful liqueur.
Once you’re done sipping you should know that our Sloe Gin is also as versatile as any other spirit for your favorite cocktails. Make yourself a traditional Sloe Gin Fizz by combining it with a splash of lemon juice, a teaspoon of sugar, optional egg white, and top it with soda.
Or you can also always substitute the sweet vermouth in any cocktail like a Negroni or Manhattan to create a delicious, modern alternative. And our most favorite way to enjoy sloe gin is to top an ounce of our Sloe Gin with dry sparkling wine in a flute glass and add a kiss of lime juice and bitters for a stunning Sloe Royale. Still up for more? Add a splash of sloe gin to your Margarita. You can thank us later.