MULLED WINE, SCHMULLED WINE – POUR ME A SPICED SLOE GIN

On my first date with my husband – dinner at his place – I turned up with a bottle of gin as my contribution to the meal. He’s since told me that when he saw me on his doorstep, cradling a bottle of Bombay, he knew I was a keeper (which is lovely, because let’s just say I did the walk of shame the next morning). The moral of the story is, a good dinner guest always brings booze – and you might even gain a husband for your trouble.

A good gin has never let me down, so this Christmas I’m getting into festive spirits and infusing my booze with sloe berries, sugar and spice. I’m also launching a campaign to cement my status as best guest ever by turning up to Christmas lunch with a litre of homemade sloe gin. It’s actually ridiculously easy, but looks super impressive – bring your brew to a party and everyone will be lavishing you with praise for your cleverness.

Being a modern lady, I sourced everything I needed to make it online. Including the sloe berries, which I sourced on eBay! They were picked in Northamptonshire the day of my order, and turned up on my doorstep the next morning all plump and pristine. Very impressive. In my fantasy life, I would have tracked down a vintage crystal carafe for the gin so I could turn up on Christmas day all fancy-like. But a Kilner jar will do.

The recipe I used is by Laura Fyfe, and was in the Nov ‘13 issue of Jamie magazine.
Thank you, Miss Fyfe!

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Sloe & cinnamon gin
Serve with prosecco or mix with half soda water and half tonic for a G&T with a twist.

450g sloes
700ml gin (but I used an entire 1L bottle)
100g sugar
2 cinnamon sticks

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1. Prick the sloes all over with a fork (a wooden skewer did the trick for me; or you can freeze them first – this splits the skin and saves you the boring job of pricking a whole bunch of berries) and place them in a large Kilner jar with the rest of the ingredients.

2. Give the jar a good shake to dissolve the sugar and place in a dark cupboard for at least 2 months. Give it a little shake once or twice a week.

After a week or so, your gin will start to turn a very festive crimson – or, as fashion types would say, Oxblood. Make a batch now and divide it, including some berries, into smaller jars to give as Xmas pressies, along with instructions to let the booze infuse for another month or so.

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A note on sloe berries: I may just be an ignorant Aussie, but having never seen a sloe berry before, I tasted one. Do not try this at home – they’re mouth-puckeringly tart – and bloody bitter. Now I know why you need to add sugar to sloe gin. My two-year-old, however, mistook them for blueberries and was popping them like there’s no tomorrow. Do not try this at home either, because sloe berries have pips. Try not to let any toddlers choke on your watch while making sloe gin.

Photography: Selina Altomonte

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