Like fashion, the drinks we gravitate to tend to be dictated by the seasons: fresh, zesty and light during the summer months; bolder, more intense and warming once the colder weather kicks in. Sloe gin is definitely a winter spirit. That deep berry shade, that rich, comforting taste – it’s the liquid equivalent of slipping into a cashmere coat.
If you’re organised and pride yourself on making your own, you’ll have picked your sloes a couple of months ago. Right now they’ll be steeping in an airtight jar with sugar, topped with good quality gin ready to be cracked open for Christmas. Well done you.
If on the other hand, like us you’ve missed the boat on the foraging front you can still get into the sloe groove – you’ll just have to seek out the riches of the professionals.
Not that that’s a bad thing. Okay, you won’t get to bask in the warm glow that comes from nursing your boozy sloes until they mellow to perfection but hey, a good sloe gin is a good sloe gin.
And in our humble opinion the best shop bought varieties come from Chase, Sipsmith, Plymouth and the new offering from Bloom – Sloe Bloom Gin. All have an agreeable lush, smooth almost medicinal quality that warms you from your head to your toes, with a shock of tartness that makes your tastebuds perk up and take notice.
Do like the outdoorsy set and add to your hip flask for emergencies, or simply sip and enjoy by the fire.
The Cocktail Lovers say…
Whether you’ve rocked the D.I.Y version or gone for shop bought, try your sloe gin in a cocktail. The simplest is a shot of sloe gin topped with Prosecco, served in a champagne flute. If you want to get more adventurous, try the two recipes below.
Sloe Bloom Punch
50ml Sloe Bloom Gin
Dash of lemon juice
Dash of apricot brandy
Shake all ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a cocktail glass.
Hot Mulled Sloe
50ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin
50ml cloudy apple juice
Cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks
Slice or two of fresh orange or satsuma
Pour the cloudy apple juice and water into a saucepan. Add a few cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks, plus a slice or two of orange or satsuma. Cover and simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes. Add Sipsmith Sloe Gin and allow to warm back up to a simmer. Serve in tea cups, mugs or Irish whisky glasses, garnished with half a slice of orange and/or cinnamon stick.
Recipe by Jared Brown, Master Distiller at Sipsmith
This week we’re loving…
Talking of seasonal cocktails, the Arctic Clarity on the menu at Claridge’s is just the ticket for warming your cockles in style. Created by Leon Dalloway as the signature serve for Martin Miller’s gin the clever blend of MM gin, Zerbinz Alpine pine liqueur, a tot of Laphroig Whisky and a couple of dashes of grapefruit bitters is more than a great drink, it’s an experience for all the senses.
“It’s like walking though a forest which has just enjoyed a soft, woody, citrusy-noted shower,” says Dalloway. “The Laphroig adds a smoky mystique and the grapefruit bitters give balance and depth.”
Add one solid block of ice (made from water flown in from Iceland and flavoured with Silver Needle tea no less), serve on a basalt rock slate spritzed with sandalwood and garnished with an alpine flower and a zest of grapefruit and you have a sophisticated winter cocktail in HD.
Available in Claridge’s Bar and The Fumoir from Monday 18th November. Claridge’s, Brook Street, W1K 4HR. www.claridges.co.uk.
As featured on The Independent, Dish of the Day blog 19/11/2013