How to Make The Ultimate Sloe Gin – Laying Down

Although this project doesn’t include hammers and nails, I think it still counts as ‘shit I want to make’. I used to make a batch of sloe gin every year, but after a few fallow years, I am running out of sloe gin reserves, so it’s time to get some ready for next year.  This describes how to make sloe gin.  I provide a sloe gin recipe, ingredients and a step by step guide with photos.

What is Sloe Gin?

Sloe gin, is a British liqueur made by infusing gin with sloe berries for a year or so (with the addition of some sugar).  What comes out the other end is a bloody delicious, rich and fruity winter tipple.  


Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) which grows in and around the hedgerows of the fields Britain (and Europe, North America & Asia).  They look like this:

Sloes. Fruit of the blackthorn

Apparently they are related to plums but they are much smaller, and taste bitter.  They become ripe in the autumn around October (it is suggested to pick them just after the first frost but it depends what the demand is for your local bushes).

The Ingredients

In the past I have always ‘winged it’ so this year I thought I would actually measure what I put in, so here are the ingredients per litre of gin (I am making 3 litres):

How sloe gin is made – ‘Laying Down’

The first stage is ‘laying down’ which is where most of the hard work is done.  This is where the sloes are prepared and added to the gin and sugar. The gin then needs some regular turning/moving for about a year after which it needs to be filtered and bottled.  Finally – the 4th stage is the drinking stage which should be in about a year.  You need to be patient!

1. Wash the berries.

Washing the sloes

2. Remove all the stalks and leaves and ensure that the skin of each sloe has been broken. Some people freeze the sloes to do this, either by putting in the freezer or picking after the first frost.  I’m not convinced that this is 100% effective so to be sure, I use the ‘truly amazing Pendsé sloe pricking device’ to pick up the sloes.  One can then remove any stalk / leaves and put the prepared sloe in a container ready to be infused.

This is the most time-consuming bit of the process.  Also a bit messy so worth covering your table.  Get a couple of mates to help you, put on some tunes and have a few beers / wine.  A nice way to spend an autumn’s evening catching up with some friends.

Sloe Pricking Device - Pricking sloes

3. Once the sloes are prepared, then weigh out the correct amount of caster sugar and sloes for each jar (225g of sugar & 482g of sloes).

Weighing the sloes

 4. Start to fill up the jar by alternating 15mm-20mm layers of sloes and sugar.  Don’t worry too much as it will all get mixed up anyway.  It should look something like this: 

Adding sloes and sugar to the jar Ready for the gin to be added

5. Once you have finished, the jar should be a bit less than half full and you can now fill it up with the gin.  If you following the measurements I have given, a 1 litre bottle of gin should fit perfectly.

Adding the gin Ready for laying down

6. Finally, check they are watertight and box them up.  Remember to label them so that in a year’s time you know the quantities etc.

 Packaging up the sloes

Sloes ready to be stored

That is pretty much it for now.  Store in a cool dark room (e.g. garage or shed) and turn / move every couple of days for the first week or two, then once a week, then once a month.  Again – it doesn’t matter too much, but it just needs to be gently mixed up once in a while.

More to follow in a year when it’s time to bottle …… enjoy!

6 comments

  • We are a Soil Association organic farm and every year, I pick and sell sloes picked form the woods and hedgerows. if you can’t get out to pick them yourself, get in touch with me.

  • Steve 'The Bear' Bearman

    Thanks for the instructions Chris I have knocked up a jar tonight. Can’t wait to sample the hooch.

  • Nick Sanderson

    I came across your link to your recipe on the Sloe Biz site following up my post of 7 years ago on pricking sloes (the internet never forgets or forgives!). The conventional wisdom is that steeping the sloes for more than 3 months will draw out too much cyanide from the stones to be safe. The most I have steeped for is 6 months, and the flavour is undoubtedly improved with more of that almond taste from the cyanide in the stones. Indeed some old recipes call for bitter almonds (full of cyanide) to be added. Presumably you are still alive, so perhaps the 3 month prescription is an old wives’ tale.

  • Hi, been reading your sloe gin method & thought you might like to here how we have been making it for well over half a century.

    We take 1lb sloes to 1 bottle of gin plus approx 10oz of GRANULATED sugar.( you can try less to start with & add more if you like it sweeter)

    We nick sloes and drop into glass Demi John or similar jar ( old glass sweet jars used to be favourite)

    Add sugar and gin put cork in jar, shake, store in dark cupboard bringing out for further shake every few days.

    When sugar has dissolved & liqueur is rich ruby colour, taste, if you like it sweeter add couple more ounces of sugar , leave to dissolve. When it’s tasting good, strain through muslin into bottles, preferably dark, co or cap ( you can use saved gin bottles) then enjoy at your leisure!

    We find if it’s left for a long time on berries you get a less fruity, more sherry style of drink with a not so attractive colour.

    Also do not see the need for more expensive caster sugar as granulated dissolves easily in the alcohol. In the old days we used to use rock candy but it’s not as readily available as in 50’s & 60’s.

    I have tasted older sloe gin and although palatable it lacks the unique fruity taste & vibrant claret colour.

  • Margaret A. Hogan

    fisrt time I have had a go thanks to two new friends that picked them for me .have had a taest very nice so have done some more merry Xmas to all

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