There aren't nearly enough cocktail recipes these days that feature sloe gin—it's probably because (until recently) there weren't many palatable sloe gins on the market. Traditionally made in England by macerating blackthorn (often called "sloe") berries in gin, sloe gin is a product you could rarely find stateside in any form that resembled true sloeberry gin. Fortunately that changed with the introduction of products from the likes of Plymouth and The Bitter Truth, both of which are now readily available and quite delicious.
The Blackthorn from Esquire's Handbook for Hosts uses sloe gin to great advantage, subtly underlining the natural sweetness of the liquor without turning it into a gin-berry punch. It's important to use a good quality sweet vermouth here; you'll be using a whole ounce, and that much bad vermouth can sink the drink. My preferred sweet vermouth is Carpano Antica, though Dolin Rouge or Punt e Mes would also both be good choices.
This cocktail is tasty and intriguing, at turns sweet, savory, and spicy, with hints of cloves and cinnamon. It's something like a cold mulled wine, which is perfect for the holidays. As a bonus, it's dead simple to make. The recipe makes one three-ounce cocktail, but I like to split it into small cordial glasses and serve as an aperitif.
About the author: Marleigh Riggins Miller writes and photographs for SLOSHED!, a website about cocktails, spirits, home bartending, and entertaining.
- 2 oz sloe gin
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- dash Angostura bitters
- lemon peel for garnish
Fill a mixing glass or shaker tin with ice and add the sloe gin, vermouth, and bitters.
Stir well until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or two cordial glasses.
Squeeze a lemon peel over the top and drop the peel into the drink. Serve.