Lavender + Sloe Gin

18 Oct 2010

It was exactly three autumn season’s ago that I had my first delicious taste of genuine sloe gin. A group of friends from the local chapter of the International Women’s Organisation were preparing for their annual holiday batch and asked if I wanted a sample from the previous year. I remember curiously asking, “what on earth a sloe was”, because I honestly had no idea there was such a berry in existence. Ironically, I soon discovered that there was no shortage of sloes in our farm hedgerows and I vowed to go sloe picking the following year and make my very own mixture.

The sloe + gin infusion creates a complex flavour, perfectly sweet and fruity, yet slightly tart at the same time. It is not to be confused with the syrupy, commercially produced sloe-flavoured gin that is on the market which is far different.

Sloes grow on the branches of the black thorn tree. They look a bit like a blueberry, but can be slightly more oblong in shape.  Unlike their close relative, the damson or wild plum, you’d be best advised not to eat them raw as they are extremely bitter and can make your mouth quite dry. They are ripe in the month of October to early November. Really, (to our delight) sloes seem to be most useful when steeped in alcohol. The process of making sloe gin has been going strong since the 1800’s in this neck of the woods and the odd bit of folklore has it that sloes should only be pricked with the thorn from the branch itself and never a metal fork, unless it is silver.

I love the idea of using the various fruits of hedgerows for mixed drinks and martinis. These cocktails are quite popular here in Ireland and the UK. Sloe, elderflower, raspberry, plum, blackberry, blackcurrant and gooseberry infused with gin or vodka will all make a lovely “Hedgerow Martini”.

Having planted 55 lavender plants in our front garden beds this week, I got to thinking about creating a sloe + lavender gin infusion…or more to the point, how a lavender + sloe gin martini would taste {surely I deserved one after all my hard work, right?} I decided that if I tucked a few sprigs under the berries perhaps it would give the gin a subtle and complimentary lavender essence.

Here’s my recipe:

1lb/454gm of washed sloes

4 ozs/112gm of white granulated sugar

75cl bottle of medium quality gin

Sterilized 1 litre jar or wide necked bottle

2-3 sprigs of fresh lavender (no flowers)


Wash sloes well and discard any bruised or rotten fruit. Place lavender sprigs on

bottom of jar or bottle.

Prick fruit several times with a fork and place sloes in either your jar or

wide-necked bottle.

Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with gin to the rim.

Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place

until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months and it’s best if left

to mature for a year).

Strain the grog and enjoy on the rocks, with a splash of tonic or as a martini.

Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell.

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9 Responses to “Lavender + Sloe Gin”

  1. […] oz Wild Sloe Gin (here is link to my somewhat science experimental-esque step-by-step recipe for lavender + sloe […]

  2. Colleen K. Dodt says:

    As an herbalist who once stayed on a lavender farm in Co. Wexford and a Gin lover this was right up my alley. I have been over 25 times on my Celtic Awakening but never tasted this. Great idea. Now where does a good woman find an Irish Farmer to share it with? 😉

  3. […] vodka and then shaken, not stirred.  This year I thought I’d give it a try myself since we have sloe gin on hand from last season and fresh blackberries as well as loads of elderberries on the tree outside the farm kitchen […]

  4. Kellebelle says:

    That sounds amazing. Have to say I had never heard of a sloe till I read this post… but now all I want is some sloe gin!

  5. Fergananim says:

    “… perfectly sweet and fruity, yet slightly tart at the same time. ”

    Sounds like my kind of woman!

  6. tabitha says:

    So pretty. I only know the sloe from a book my daughter loves. It is a Cicely Mary Barker flower fairy book where you slide the picture and Blackthorn turns into Sloe, fairies which change with the seasons.

  7. Clare says:

    When I first heard of sloe gin, I thought people were saying “slow gin,” like maybe the process to make it was *really* slow. Just one of many new learnings here in Ireland! Save me some of that gin for next time I’m in Limerick, I need to try some! Beautiful photos as always. 🙂

  8. OMG!!! That sounds abSLOElutely divine…gin, lavendar and sloes…what more could a girl want!! I must make this…thanks for posting!!

  9. Lucy says:

    I love sloe gin
    LOVE it!

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