I remember the first time I saw sloe gin listed on a cocktail menu. I assumed it was just a thicker version of gin, like molasses. This was a little bit right, but mostly wrong. Sloe gin is a liqueur, while classic gin is a spirit. In the years since I first tried it, sloe gin has stayed under the radar at the cocktail bars I’ve visited. With the exception of gin-centered bars like Bathtub Gin & Co. in Seattle. Or world famous bars like Manhattan in Singapore. A bottle of sloe gin might be just what your basic home bar set up needs. But before we get into sloe gin cocktails, let’s talk about what it is in the first installment of “That’s the Spirit.”
What is sloe gin?
Sloe gin dates back to 17th century England. Thanks to the British government requiring public land to be divided up into parcels, hedgerows were installed to separate the land. Sloe gin is made from sloe berries or buckthorn, a species of flowering plant in the rose family. The berries were commonly found in abundance in the hedgerows. The fruit is also a cousin to the plum. The liqueur is made by combining the berries (or sloes), sugar, and gin and aging it in a sealed container. The mixture is turned regularly for at least three months but varies by how rich a flavor is desired. The sloes cause the mixture to turn deep magenta in color and are removed from the final product.
What’s the difference between sloe gin and gin?
It’s easy to spot some differences when looking at a bottle of sloe gin and traditional gin. However, with so many flavored spirits in the market, one could assume that one is just a flavored version of the other. This is incorrect. The main difference between the two gins is how they are made. Gin is distilled (using heating and cooling methods) and sloe gin is an infusion of the sloes into gin. Also, gin has nearly twice the alcohol content as sloe gin. (Notice the 47%ABV versus the 21%ABV pictured above.) Finally, the flavor between the two is quite different. Sloe gin is sweeter, due to the addition of sugar during the infusion process. Gin is much more juniper berry forward, which is responsible for the pine flavor. For more on traditional gin, I made some at the oldest gin distillery in the world.
How to make sloe gin cocktails
I’ll admit since I’ve been bartending almost daily for myself these past six months, I have become a bit of an overachiever. Two ingredient cocktails seem plain, until you taste them. There is nothing wrong with a simple drink. And in the case of the Sloe Gin & Tonic, there is still plenty going on flavor-wise. Use a flavored tonic water, and BAM! Unlimited possibilities. Plus, look at the color. It’s enough to impress even the toughest critic. Most people have their preferred gin to tonic ratio. I like a 2:1 ratio, of tonic to gin. So, four ounces of tonic for two ounces of gin. Serve with plenty of ice and a sugarcane straw if you’re feeling fancy.
This is a nice, boozy sip. With plenty of herbal notes from the sloe gin and the vermouth, the drink melds together well with the bitterness of the Aperol. It’s also smooth and silky. I like that in an after dinner drink. And, what’s not to love about this name. Say it a couple of times, I think you’ll like it too.
- 1 oz sloe gin
- 1.25 oz Aperol
- 1.25 oz sweet vermouth
- 0.5 oz London dry gin
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice.
- Stir until chilled and strain over a large ice cube.
- Finish with a spray of orange oil or express an orange peel over the drink.
Sloe Gin Fizz
If you’ve heard of sloe gin, chances are you’ve heard of the most popular way to drink it. The sloe gin fizz. While the modern preparation of this drink includes an egg white, the original was made with soda. I thought about making you a video, but this one from the Educated Barfly worked. Plus if you like videos, the Educated Barfly has new cocktail videos three times a week. If you’d rather go with the modern gin fizz recipe, you can find that below.
Sloe Gin Fizz
- 1 egg white
- 0.75 oz lemon juice
- 0.5 oz simple syrup
- 1 oz sloe gin
- 1 oz London dry gin
- 2 oz prosecco
- Add all ingredients to a shaker.
- Shake with no ice until foamy.
- Add ice to the shaker and shake well.
- Double strain into a glass of ice and top with prosecco.
Despite the drink’s name, The Modern was invented at the start of the twentieth century by Charlie Mahoney. He was the head bartender at the Hoffman House hotel on Madison Square in New York City. The drink features two of the trendiest ingredients of the time, Scotch whiskey and sloe gin. And despite this cocktail looking like the previous ones in this post, it is hands down the most unique. Thanks to the heavily peated Scotch, this will help you transition to fall and wool sweaters.
- 1.5 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 oz peated Scotch whisky
- 1 oz sloe gin
- 1 dash absinthe
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Add the lemon juice and sugar to a shaker and stir until sugar dissolves.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the shaker, along with plenty of ice.
- Shake well and strain into a chilled glass. Serve with a brandied cherry.
Sloe Gin Brands I Recommend
- Plymouth Sloe Gin: delicious, classic flavor; made by the world’s oldest gin distillery
- Haymans Sloe Gin: very balanced flavor
- Sipsmith Sloe Gin: tart and fruity flavor
The only other thing I would say about the brand you buy is to avoid super cheap sloe gin. They tend to be artificial and overly sweet. And with that, we conclude our journey through sloe gin cocktails. What did you think? Have you experimented much with sloe gin? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Cheers!