Mixologists and bartenders are intimately aware that the list of alcoholic ingredients is never-ending, with many once popular historic liqueurs and cordials falling into obscurity. Sloe gin is one of these mixtures that has only had a recent comeback. Originating from the blackthorn bushes that litter the English country, sloe gin is an underrated, but delightfully fun, liqueur that has a fascinating history and endless potential.
What Is Sloe Gin?
Sloe Gin is an alcoholic liqueur first created in the late 18th century. Although its exact origins aren't clear, the massive popularity of gin in western Europe and America during the 18th century led to some interesting experimentations with the clear liquor. Soon, the plum-like berries (called sloe drupes) that hang from England's multitude of blackthorn bushes were soaked in gin and left to steep. Sugar was added to make sure that the sloe juice was successfully extracted from the berries in every batch, and what resulted was a sweet mulberry-colored liqueur.
Sloe Gin's Flavor Profile
As with most products, sloe gin's flavor changes depending on the quality of the bottle. The highest quality sloe gins aren't overly sweet, and they retain their natural, plummy taste. You can pair sweeter cocktails with these sloe gins to get the sweetness you might prefer. Lesser quality sloe gins utilize more artificial flavorings and overcompensate with sugar, leaving the gins with a very sweet taste and a sharp alcoholic after burn.
Sloe Gin and the American Market
It wasn't until the early 20th century that sloe gin made its way across the Atlantic into the American market. Thanks, in large part, to the massive popularity of the Sloe Ginn Fizz at the turn of the century, sloe gin cocktails were requested for the first few decades of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the 1960s and 1970s marked a significant shift away from sloe gin in the United States, and the ingredient slowly faded away from import lists until it was nowhere to be found.
However, sometime in the late 2000s, the United Kingdom-based gin company, Plymouth, shipped over a few crates of sloe gin to the United States, effectively ending its dry spell. While the liqueur hasn't yet gained back the popularity it once had, modern mixologists are taking to reimagining Pre-Prohibition ingredients and recipes into unique contemporary cocktails. So, a sloe gin resurgence might be just around the corner.
Popular Sloe Gin Cocktails
While you can enjoy sloe gin neat, many people prefer to add the richly colored liqueur with other ingredients to create wonderful craft cocktails. Take a look at some of the most famous sloe gin recipes and see which era of sloe gin drinks you like best.
Sloe Gin Fizz
This Pre-Prohibition cocktail is considered a staple among sloe gin drinkers and has remained a beloved drink for over two centuries.
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce sloe gin
- Club soda
- Orange slice for garnish
- Cherry for garnish
The Alabama Slammer was born in the 1970s around the University of Alabama and had an infamous national debut in the 1971 edition of Playboy Bartender's Guide.
- ¾ ounce Southern Comfort
- ¾ ounce amaretto
- ¾ ounce sloe gin
- 1¾ ounces orange juice
- Orange wheel for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the Southern Comfort, amaretto, sloe gin, and orange juice.
- Add ice and shake until chilled.
- Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with an orange wheel.
A Prohibition cocktail named after the legendary silver screen icon, Charlie Chaplin, this easy mixture results in a rather sweet tasting drink.
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce apricot liqueur
- 1 ounce sloe gin
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the lime juice, simple syrup, apricot liqueur, and sloe gin.
- Add ice and shake vigorously until chilled.
- Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass or similar.
Another historically sweet drink, the Sloe Royale is incredibly easy to make as it only combines Prosecco with sloe gin. The drink's pleasing sunset hues make it perfect to have at parties or celebrations.
- 4 ounces Prosecco
- ¾ ounce sloe gin
- In a chilled Champagne flute, combine the Prosecco and sloe gin.
- Using a cocktail spoon or stirring stick, mix the ingredients.
Best Sloe Gin Mixers
Once you've gotten your fill of these sloe gin cocktails, you'll probably be itching to experiment with your own sloe gin recipes. Here are a few go-to mixers to give you a strong foundation for any cocktail you might want to make:
- Ginger beer
- Lemon juice
- Lemon tonic
- Pomegranate juice
- Apple juice
No Point in Sloe-ing Down Now
While sloe gin has had its ebbs and flows, it continues to be an impressive looking and unique liqueur; from its wonderful flavor to its mulberry coloring, you'll quickly impress anyone when you make them a cocktail with this lesser-known English ingredient.