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Recipe for Bullace Vodka

a le parfait jar with bullaces but vodka gone

What once was a jar of bullace vodka, minus the vodka

A friend from Kent gave us a small bag of bullaces (a small type of plum that grows wild in English hedgerows) last October. We bunged them into a small Le Parfait jar, topping it up with sugar and vodka.

We found the forgotten jar last weekend, hidden behind some pickled plums. It was excellent. Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo, it didn’t last very long.

As with all fruit liqueurs, you can use gin or vodka as the base. We have a preference for gin in fruit liqueurs but this bullace vodka was superb. We will certainly make it again if we can find some bullaces in the hedgerows around the village. Generally they are not ripe until late September or early October.

There’s an old boy in our village who makes bullace brandy from an ancient secret recipe. I thought I might try to make some this year, using the proportions below. I made plum brandy a few years ago, but it took two years to mature before it was drinkable. It was still absolutely vile after one year. Three years on it was bliss.


Recipe for Bullace Vodka
Recipe Type: Liqueur
Author: Fiona Nevile
  • 1 pound / 450gm of washed bullaces
  • 6 ounces / 170gm of white granulated sugar
  • 75cl bottle of medium quality vodka – supermarket own brands are good
  • Sterilised 1 litre (at least) Le Parfait jar or wide necked bottle.
  1. Wash bullaces well and discard any bruised fruit.
  2. Prick them several times with a fork.
  3. Place the fruit in either a large Kilner/Le Parfait jar or a wide necked 1 litre bottle.
  4. Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with vodka to the rim.
  5. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved.
  6. Then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months, we usually let it mature for a year).
  7. Some people strain the potion (through muslin/jelly bag) after 3 months and bottle it, leaving it mature for a further six months. We strain and bottle after a year.
  8. Don’t leave the straining process any longer than one year as the liqueur can be spoiled by leaving the fruit in too long.

Tips and tricks:

The fruit will swell a little in the alcohol, so don’t fill your bottle/jar more than half full with fruit before you add the sugar and alcohol.

Make more than you need the first year, so you can compare different vintages. This liqueur does improve over time.

Some people drain the grog through muslin after a couple of months, to clarify the liqueur and bottle. We don’t bother as one old soak tipped that, once the vodka is drunk, you can pour medium sherry on the fruit and start all over again! The latter is devilish and drinkable within three months.

Keep your fruit vodka away from the light as this will maintain the colour. Unless it is in a dark green or brown bottle.

Every couple of months take a tiny sip. At this time add more sugar if it is too sharp for your taste.


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  1. Anita Houlson

    Have just found these little purple beauties in the hedgerow, guessed they were bullace, confirmed by internet search. Now off to buy alcohol to try the recipe for the bullace gin. Thankyou so much for the brilliant information.

  2. P Charlton

    We have done this for years and are great fans. We have used gin, vodka, white rum, brandy and also some bottling spirit we bought in France specifically for “fruits a l’alcohol”. Luckily we have 2 big bullace bushes in the garden hedge. We have also mixed the soused fruits (de-stoned) with plain chocolate – works well.

  3. Malcolm Parker

    Try freezing the fruit first. This breaks the skins and helps juice extraction. No need to spend hours pricking.

  4. When your bullaces are removed from the Vodka or gin do not throw them away, use them together with apples to make sloe/bullace jelly. I always keep more sloes/ballaces in the freezer to add to the alcaholed ones so I can finish up with a decent quantity of jelly. In my opinion sloe jelly is absolutely delicious. Recipe here….

  5. sonja brown

    Thank you for your bullis jam recipe it tastes fantastic , as we have lots of bullis in our garden we are going to have a go at the vodka liqure once again thank you for a grate recipe

  6. August/September: One (clean) gallon bucket full of ripe Kent bullace; put them into a medium carboy – about 18 inches across; add about half a kg white sugar; then four 70cl bottles of cheapest supermarket vodka.
    Swirl it around every week until the sugar disappears. I don’t bother to wash the fruit, nor do I prick them. That’s far too much hard work. By the end of December, certainly by mid-January, it’s very drinkable, has a slightly nutty flavour, looks like pale urine, tastes a hell of a lot better. Don’t filter it off, decant it by carefully pouring off the clarified liquid.
    I do the same with sloes. Again, don’t bother to prick them, they end up shrivelled so the juices must get through the skin alright. This for years has revived us on cold, wet and windy midwinter nights in the lambing shed. Known here as Lambing Oil, it’s a beautiful red colour and revives you if taken medicinally, I.e. in small doses! The Bullace vodka is a more recent venture, has the same life-giving properties. Both get better the longer they’re left, which can be difficult….. They make very good Christmas presents.

  7. Thanks for this, we have made some green bullace gin after finding your helpful recipe, but we still have enough left to try this vodka. Do they need as much sugar as this as they are green bullaces?

    Also, with the green bullace gin, do they need to be pricked as much as damsons do?

    Great site by the way!

  8. Bunnsy – how do we get in touch with you?

  9. I have several carrier bags of Victoria plums picked yesterday – any ideas? 🙂

    • Fiona Nevile

      Jam, jelly, wine and some in the freezer for cooking under slow roast belly of pork.

  10. Both leftover bullace and cherries go well in xmas
    cake,and no bullace and damson are not the same,
    any more than sloes and cherry-plums are the same as victoria plums.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Iian

      Good idea about the Christmas cake! Yes bullace (the dark ones) are not the same as damsons – I put one in the picture so that if someone found some they would know that they were not damsons 🙂

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