Mulled Sloe Gin Cocktail Photo by Jonathan Gayman

Why you should sip sloe gin now

Sometimes two wrongs make a right – at least in the case of sloe gin. The ruby-hued cousin of your classic martini-maker is a 17th-century result of inedible sloes (a berry that grows on blackthorn hedgerows all over the U.K.) being steeped in undrinkable homemade gin with some sugar thrown in.

Early versions surely got the job (of getting you drunk) done, but probably left something to be desired in the flavor department. Modern pours are a highly potable, complex and versatile addition to any sophisticated bar.

“It tastes like a deep, dark fruit maceration,” said The Gin Room owner Natasha Bahrami. “A good sloe gin should have a medium body, [be] fruity yet crisp, citrusy with light peppery notes.”

Technically a liqueur, sloe gin is a bit of a shape-shifting spirit. On the one hand, it is a snuggly sip of warm spice, cherry and plum that can be enjoyed neat in front of a roaring fire. On the other hand, it plays well with citrus and club soda in its biggest claim to fame: the classic sloe gin fizz.

hayman's and sip smith sloe gins, available at the wine and cheese place, // photo by jonathan gayman

Show off your booze-savvy nature and pick up a bottle of Sipsmith, which actually lists the vintage because the sloe harvest, like wine grapes, varies year to year, affecting the flavor. Bahrami also suggested category staple Hayman’s, which is affordable and mixable.

Bahrami subs sloe gin in a Pimm’s Cup for a lighter, brighter take. She also floats a small pour on top of regular gin cocktails because the spirits get along so well they actually enjoyed spending the holidays together.

In the winter, she said to play up the spirit’s spice notes by making a crock of this hot, mulled sloe gin cocktail.

Mulled Sloe Gin Cocktail
Courtesy of The Gin Room’s Natasha Bahrami
8 servings

16 oz. apple juice
8 oz. sweet vermouth (preferably Dolin Rouge Vermouth)
5 cardamom pods
8 oz. sloe gin
4 oz. brandy
3 to 5 oz. honey (to taste)
Orange peels and juniper berries, for garnish

• Combine the apple juice, sweet vermouth and cardamom pods in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer 10 to 30 minutes. Add the sloe gin and brandy. Allow the mixture to come back to a simmer, then stir in the honey to taste. Remove from heat.
• Serve immediately or transfer to a slow cooker on low. Garnish with the orange peel and juniper berries.

Tags : Cocktails