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Now is the time... to make Sloe Gin

Now is the time... to make Sloe Gin

These days are long and difficult. But with each seasonal shift, we can seek out little chinks of light, moments of connection with friends, family and nature and focus on the things that we can do. Pull-on your raincoat, take yourself for a walk and go hunt for sloe berries.
Now is the best time to make Sloe Gin - and it will be ready to sip and share for Christmas.


There is something grounding about gathering seasonal berries and making slow recipes. 

This is a recipe that will take 2 months to mature. Think of this like sending a nice letter to yourself in the future, or preparing the kind of Christmas gift for an old friend that truly says - I've been thinking of you.


Sloe Gin Recipe

Sloe (or sloe berry gin) is the original ‘wild’ liqueur but any fruit can be used, depending on your taste and preference.

Preparation: 15 mins, plus maturing time. 

Makes 1 litre / 34fl oz (4 ½ cups)

225g / 8oz sloe berries

125gr / 4½ oz (⅔ cup) caster sugar

750 ml / 25fl oz (3 cups) gin

Place the berries, sugar and gin into a large sterilized glass jar.

Store in a cool, dark place for 2 months, shaking intermittently to help the sugar to dissolve

Once matured, strain into bottles and refrigerate.

You will find this recipe and many, many more in 'The Irish Cookbook’ by J.P. McMahon.



The sloe berry is the fruit of the blackthorn tree. Before foraging for sloes make sure you know how to identify the tree and from this its fruit. Also - wear a pair of rubber gloves as its long sharp thorns are unavoidable.

Learning to Identify Blackthorn trees and Sloe Berries.

  • The tree grows naturally in scrub, copses and woodland, but is commonly used as a hedging plant.

  • Densely branched, mature trees can grow to a height of around 6–7m and live for up to 100 years. 

  • The dark brown bark is smooth, and black-purple twigs form straight side shoots which develop into thorns.

  • Leaves are small, slightly wrinkled, oval, toothed, pointed at the tip and tapered at the base

  • Early to blossom, blackthorn trees have clouds of snow-white flowers in early spring (March- April). White flowers appear on short stalks before the leaves either singularly or in pairs.

  • The flowers develop into blue-black fruits measuring 1cm across in Autumn.

When to pick Sloe Berries.

  • There’s lots of debate about when to pick sloes. For the best flavour, wait until the berries are ripe. They should be a rich dark purple and should squash easily between your fingertips. It's a good sign if they've already started to drop naturally to the ground.

  • If you're picking the berries for sloe gin then traditionally you wait until after the first frost. Or you can pick them earlier, bag them up and put them in your freezer to mimic the first frost. (The theory behind this is that the frost splits the skins so the juices can flow into your gin without you having to go to the effort of pricking all the berries.)


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