Magenta Miracles: Sloe and Damson Gin

sipsmith_50cl_sloe_2014 Now, unquestionably, is the time to don your wellies, snatch up an old carrier bag and head out to the hedgerows in search of sloes and damsons. Many may well have done this already, others may be waiting for the frost. To the latter we say, ‘Why wait for nature to do what your freezer will do just as well?’ One can, of course, simply buy a bottle of sloe gin: Sipsmith make a delicious one, and Gordon’s Sloe Gin is – if we’re honest – as good as anything we’ve made ourselves. But that is not quite the point. The point, we contend, is the ritual: the large glass vessels reminiscent of a Victorian laboratory; the dark, powerfully purple liquids working their magic within. You’ll find our own recipe below, but we would also like to leave you with two tips: First let the fruit’s natural sugars transfer to the gin and add sugar syrup afterwards so you can balance the necessary sweetness with that essential sourness. Second, splash out on the best gin you can in all conscience justify: the idea, after all, is not to mask the gin’s complex botanicals but to enhance them. You’ll need: 750 grams ripe sloes or damsons 1 litre of gin 300 grams of granulated sugar 200 millilitres of water Once the sloes or damsons have endured a frost or a night in the freezer, combine them with the gin in a large Kilner jar. You might at this stage like to pop a couple of almonds in there or a dash of almond essence – it’s up to you. Now for the tricky part: hide the jar of gin in the cupboard under the stairs and try to forget about it for at least 3 months. When the time comes, add the sugar to the water in a saucepan and heat, stirring until dissolved, then allow to cool. Strain the gin through a muslin to remove the fruit (don’t be tempted to squeeze it or you’ll get a cloudy liquor), return to the washed up jar and add the sugar syrup to taste. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Psalm 128