top of page
  • lizberwick1980


Autumn is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and there is no more misty fruit than the sloe. Each dark purple berry is touched with blue smoke, but don’t let their good looks fool you. Popping one in your mouth will draw your gums from your teeth, and your tongue will shrink away in fear – they’re tremendously astringent. But, with a little preparation, and a lot of patience, they’ll transform a plain old bottle of gin into a deeply delicious liqueur.

Making sloe gin is very much a case of life in the sloe lane. It can require quite a bit of patience but is extremely rewarding - here's the perfect sloe gin recipe. Or as a little twist you can easily make sloe vodka by replacing the gin with vodka.

What are sloes? Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn. It’s a member of the prunus family. Clouds of tiny white flowers on blackthorn trees and hedges are the first sign of the arrival of Spring. The blossom explosion on bare black branches often coincides with blasts of northeast winds, leading to the term ‘Blackthorn winter’. About a month after blossoming, blackthorn’s small pointed, dull-green leaves appear, disguising vicious thorns along the branches that make blackthorn such excellent hedgerow. It’s more impenetrable to livestock and humans than barbed wire.

Blackthorn wood has been used for centuries for tent pegs, walking sticks, the traditional Irish shillelagh or cudgel, and for piercing holes in leather. It also makes excellent firewood. In witch-burning days it was often blackthorn pyres that proved so deadly, though its use was also symbolic. Legend tells us that blackthorn formed the crown of thorns placed on Jesus before cruxifixion. Early Christians vilified blackthorn for its association with practitioners of natural healing arts. The sloes themselves are spherical and cluster tightly along the branches. If the berries you have found are oval and dropping from stems, they are probably damsons. Pick the sloes that have ripened in the sunshine, as these will be sweeter than those in the shade. Always pick from waist height upwards – this will leave plenty on the bushes for the wildlife and means you will collect the cleanest berries.

Sloe Gin

There’s a bit of folklore about only collecting sloes after the first frost, which was used as a signpost in time. If the frosts had started, the sloes had probably been around long enough to be ripe. However, there’s no need to wait this long. Early autumn is not only a more pleasant time to be out and about, but you can time your sloe harvest to the last of blackberries, meaning that you can have some instant gratification foraging along the way. You can also pick sloes as early as September and simply pop them in the freezer.

Try making this delicious sloe gin recipe in the autumn months and enjoy a warming sup in the colder months. It also makes the perfect personal Christmas gift for any gin lover.

Sloe gin can be drunk on its own and severed with ice and a slice of lemon. It is also delicious served with a mixer such as tonic water and ice cubes with a slice of lemon or orange. How long does sloe gin last? Provided your sloe gin is kept in an air-tight sealed bottle in a cool, dark spot then it should last approximately one year after opening. How do you make sloe gin? Follow our method below to make the perfect sloe gin to enjoy over the winter months or as a festive tipple.


  • 500g Sloes

  • 250g Sugar

  • 70cl Gin


  • STEP 1 After gathering your sloes, wash and remove any stems before pricking each sloe using a fork or cocktail stick. Pop in the freezer for a couple of hours. (You only need to do this freezer step if there haven't been any frosts yet).

  • STEP 2 Pop the frozen sloes into a 1.5 litre air-tight glass jar. Add the sugar and slowly pour in your chosen alcohol.

  • STEP 3 Keep your jar in a dark, cool spot, but for the first week each day bring it out and give the jar a good shake before replacing it. Once all the sugar has dissolved, leave it in the dark for as long as you can bear, three months at the very least. If you can make a year ahead before drinking for the best results.

  • STEP 4 Finally, strain the mixture through some muslin and decant into two clean bottles, and it will ready to serve either on its own or with a mixer such as tonic water.

Medicinal Uses

A member of the rose family, blackthorn is prized for its natural revitalising and refreshing properties, which not only make it extremely useful for medicinal products but also mean Prunus spinosa is an ideal skincare ingredient. Blackthorn is valued for its natural astringent properties, to tone the skin. Liz (who is also a Weleda wellbeing advisor), loves Weleda's refreshing skin tone lotion after a long day on her feet. It contains blackthorn extract from the new leaves that appear on the thorny black branches in spring. It quite literally puts the spring back in your step!

Most of us are familiar with blackthorn berries giving that wonderfully

purplish colour and fruity flavour to sloe gin. The juice from ripened sloes makes an invigorating, fortifying elixir: a natural health drink to supplement the diet during physically and emotionally demanding times. Doctors and naturopaths recommend blackthorn juice during convalescence, especially following a bout of winter colds or feverish ‘flu like symptoms that can leave us feeling depleted.

With love,

Liz & Susanna


P.S. If you've not already, you may also like to sign up to our newsletter at the top of the page to make sure you don't miss out on the latest news, offers and extra offerings. We also have a lovely Facebook Community that you are invited to join.

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page