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Fermented sloe gin recipe: a new approach to making sloe gin

a dish of ripe sloes

A dish of innocent ripe sloes waiting to be transmorigified

I don’t know whether you saw Colin Boswell’s comment on “The Great Sloe Gin Challenge – Three variations of our sloe gin recipe”. He outlined a method of making sloe gin by fermenting the sloes first and then adding the gin to the liquor. Having been brought up on traditional sloe gin recipes his comment was a revelation.

I love sloe gin and like most other sloe gin makers am keen to make a great brew. I hate to admit it but it would be great to impress my liqueur making guru, Gilbert. This recipe gives me the possiblity of two great outcomes. This new technique may produce a superb sloe gin opera or rolling of drums.

Colin Boswell wrote, “The secret of a good sloe gin is the extent to which the very high natural tannin content plus its other constituents have been extracted. I have found that replicating, as perhaps you have above (that’s me!), red wine production by fermenting the sloes on their skins makes an outstanding sloe gin. What you must beware of is that too high a concentration of sugar will kill the yeast and no fermentation will take place.

Layer 2 inches of frozen sloes interspaced with 3 tablespoons of sugar then another 2 inches of sloes and so forth in a fermentation bucket. Add a port wine or high alcohol yeast, probably fermenting out to 14deg. The more technical can measure the specific gravity before and after fermentation to gauge the alcohol content and how much sugar needs to be added.

Stand in a warm place, keep a close eye on fermentation and add small amounts of sugar until fermentation ceases.

Fermenting will of course raise the alcohol content but more importantly it extracts the full flavours of the sloes which other methods fail to do.

I would greatly appreciate the views of an experienced amateur winemaker on this.”

We make wine but are in no way experienced winemakers. So I couldn’t comment intelligently on the method. Instead I decided to give this method a go. I must admit I never would have considered fermenting the sloes before adding the gin but I haven’t been thinking laterally as regards sloe gin. I can see the wisdom behind this method, upping the alcohol level before adding the gin. As Colin says, why let the sloes become imbued with the gin – unless you are going to use the sloes for something else (they can be added to mince pies, Christmas cake, chocolate or the boozy crumble that will have you mother-in-law finally sleeping in a heap under the table).

For this experiment I am using 2 pounds of sloes (900g). I am planning to use the fermented sloes for sloe sherry.

You can get a range of good red wine yeasts online from many sources. I use the art of brewing .

I asked Colin for the ratio mix of fermented sloes to gin and received this reply.

“6l fermented sloe juice to .4l gin, assuming sloe juice has reached 15% alcohol, will give sloe gin at 25%. 50/50 gives 27.5% alcohol. By comparison, if the sloe juice was not fermented, alcohol content at .6l/.4l gin is 16% and at 50/50 20%. The gin and sloe juice need at least two months, preferably longer but should be acceptable by Christmas.

I also recommend the addition of juniper berries, 10 to a gallon of sloes.”


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  1. andrew richards

    hi i am new at this i did my first sloe gin recipie was a round two year ago and it came out verry well couldnt do it last year becoas o lack of sloes i dont know if you had the same problem but this year was realy good i live in exeter but have to travel to get to the destonation where i have found a realy good crop of sloes me and my mate picked 4 litres of berries and i made a good load of sloe gin when do you reacon is the best time to pick them ive been told that you have to wait for the first frost before picking them but i think picking them a month early and freezing them has the same affect i would like some comments back please

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Nollwark

    Wow 29 bottles ๐Ÿ™‚

    Please keep us up to date as to how you get on!

  3. No idea how my “little babies” are doing as I’m away from home at the mo, & back again tomorrow to give them all a good turning over. All in standard gin/wine bottles – (there’s only so much gin you can drink to make space for the other ingredients . . .!)

    I have to decide before Xmas whether to strain & bottle individually, or just strain the whole lot into one big tub & hope that the overall result averages out just right – as ther’s been a bit of tweaking of the recipe as the seaon has gone on.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the last berries on my daily dogwalk are still usable and worth collecting & processing.

    Either way, I’ve got 29 bottles to strain already – ๐Ÿ™‚ . . . & then I have to decide which recipe to use to convert the gin-infused pulp into something else.

    I’ll keep you all informed . . .

  4. thankyou FN
    Its in with the towels now thanks!
    Christmas here we come.
    titty tidy

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Nollwark

    I reckon the best thing about sloe gin is the sampling ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your recipe sounds like a good mix – thanks.

    Hi tittytidy

    A warm dark place like an airing cupboard would be perfect.

  6. tittytidy

    3 ltrs of fermented sloe juice and 2 ltrs of gin
    have now been mixed and put in a demi and air lock.
    lets see what happens now!

    ps should I still keep it in the warm and what about the dark?

  7. nollwark

    Despite recent gales there are still plenty of the last of the sloes to be had here in south Cheshire – easily spotted as the leaves have all been blown away!

    My first ever batch of sloe gin (being sampled early just to check the quality!) is fantastic (50%gin, 25%sloes, 25%sugar) – Might fine-tune the last batches to lower sugar and higher sloe content, but generally very happy, as I prefer the taste of my own brew to that of a commercial producer that I am also sampling for comparison!

  8. thankyou richard will leave bubbling and feeding slowly for another weeek
    cheers alex

  9. Alex – fermentation bucket is best for the first week or so. leave the lid slightly loose to allow the gas to escape. once it calms down (or after you have strained the fruit and stones out) you can use a demijohn with fermentation lock. there are lots of winemaking books around but most of them are from a while back so recipes are too sweet for my taste. I use half what the old books say (e.g. 1.5 lbs sugar to a gallon, not 3!!) Internet is a good resource – and this site in particular is fab!

  10. Hello please could some one please tell me would it be better to ferment in a bucket or a demijohn?
    at the moment it is fermenting in a bucketwith a llid but it causes alot of pressure so I have to kkeep lifting the lid to release the co2.
    would it be better in a demi with an air lock?
    thanks alex

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