Nothing warms the cockles on a crisp winter’s morning quite like a swig of a homemade brew. Here’s a simple recipe for sloe gin, and a couple of other winter-warming concoctions, perfect for topping up your hip flask.
Ideally, these recipes should be made a year in advance but three months in advance will suffice if you’re running behind schedule.
You will need:
• A large kilner jar with a good, tight-fitting lid (sterilized and cooled preferably)
• A jelly bag
• A funnel
• Clearly labelled decorative bottles (for final decanting)
• 450g (1lb) of fruit (sloes/blackberries/ gooseberries/ raspberries/damsons or even cherries/plums or peaches)
• 225g (8oz) caster sugar
• 1 litre (1 ¾ pints) of good quality alcohol (vodka/gin/brandy/whiskey)
• A small dash of almond essence
1. Pick and wash the fruit, making sure you get rid of any little lurking beasties.
2. Stick the washed fruit in the freezer overnight. This will simulate the first frost and split the skin on your berries, allowing them to release their natural sweetness.
3. Pop the fruit in your kilner jar, and pour in the fruit and sugar.
4. Add a couple of drops of almond essence.
5. Close the lid tightly and shake the container to mix the fruit, sugar and alcohol together. Store in a cool dark place.
6. Turn the jar each day, until all the sugar has dissolved.
7. Leave to mature for a minimum of three months.
8. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if desired.
9. Continue to turn each day until all of the ‘new’ sugar has dissolved.
10. Carefully strain through the jelly bag and decant into pretty bottles, not forgetting to label clearly.
11. It is now ready to drink, but it best left to mature further.
For sloe gin
Follow the method above, but use sloes for the fruit, and gin for the alcohol.
For blackberry brandy
Follow the method above, but substitute blackberries for sloes and brandy for gin.
For raspberry vodka
This vodka recipe calls for more sugar, and more fruit, than the previous two recipes.
Use 350g (12 oz) of sugar and 600g (1 lb 5 oz) with a litre of vodka to create the drink, and follow the same steps as above.
These homemade tipples need not be solely reserved for winter rides, walks or Christmas gifts for family and friends.
Serve on a crisp winter’s day as a lunchtime aperitif or pour 25ml into the base of a champagne flute and top up with your favourite fizz for a punchy champagne cocktail.
Another tip is to keep the fruit after you’ve drained it – after being soaked in alcohol and sugar, it will be deliciously sweet and can be covered in chocolate and eaten with ice-cream, or simply served on its own for pudding.