Sloes are tiny berries that grow wild in hedgerows around England. Unpleasantly astringent on their own, they are popular in sweetened jams and preserves, and they develop a rich, tart flavor when infused in gin. Naturally, enterprising distillers have been incorporating them into liquor since the 17th century. The spirit takes on the flavor and bright color of the berries, and then sugar is typically added to counter the fruit’s tart flavor. What’s left is not technically gin, but actually a gin-based liqueur.
To experience the authentic flavor of sloe berries, use a British-style sloe gin, such as Plymouth, Hayman’s or Sipsmith. Most sloe gins are less boozy than their unflavored counterparts, and it’s common for them to clock in around 25–30% ABV.
The British traditionally used sloe gin in wintry drinks, but it’s become most famous for its turn in America’s refreshing Sloe Gin Fizz, where it’s paired with club soda, citrus and simple syrup. This synergistic combo yields a cocktail that is tart and quaffable, with sloe gin’s characteristic reddish purple hue.
The Sloe Gin Fizz is certainly the most famous and craft-focused cocktail to utilize the colorful spirit, but sloe gin can also be found in ’80s-era favorites like the Alabama Slammer. However, while that college staple may feature the liqueur, it doesn’t highlight it front-and-center like the fizz.
The Sloe Gin Fizz is a simple riff on the classic Gin Fizz, which uses a not-sloe variety as its base. While most Gin Fizzes employ egg white for a silky texture and creamy head, the sloe version often skips this protein-packed ingredient. However, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you’d like to add egg white to your drink, simply shake up all the ingredients without ice to emulsify the egg with the liquids, then shake everything again with ice to chill the drink. You’ll be left with the same refreshing cocktail you know and love, but one that’s sporting a richer body and thicker head.
Another easy way to experiment with the cocktail is by splitting the base between sloe gin and dry gin. This results in a cocktail that walks the line between a Gin Fizz and Sloe Gin Fizz, with milder berry notes and a fainter color, but one that still features the same easy-drinking sensibilities.
- 1 1/2 ounces sloe gin
- 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- Club soda, to top
- Garnish: lemon wedge
- Garnish: cherry
Add all the ingredients except the club soda into a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a highball or Collins glass filled with fresh ice.
Top with the club soda.
Garnish with a lemon wedge and a cherry.