It’s been quite the year for gin. Craft distilleries have been popping up in neighbourhoods across the country, making small batches to secret family recipes with quirky names and beautiful packaging. Well-established brands have been breaking out from decades of tradition with interesting new flavours, and all manner of gourmet tonic water now lines the supermarket shelves. It would appears that Mother’s Ruin has become Millennials’ sup du jour.

One particularly delicious case in point is Greenall’s Sloe Gin – a new release from Britain’s ‘first and original London Dry Gin’ – Greenall’s. It’s made using their award-winning London Dry Gin (a recipe so closely guarded, only seven Master Distillers have been au fait to its ingredients in 250 years). This ruby-coloured number is hand-mixed with plump sloe berries and other natural botanicals and ingredients, including almond, cassia bark, liquorice root, coriander seeds and angelica, and left to macerate for eight weeks.

Twist off the cap and you’re hit with the sweet scent of marzipan. A sip reveals brambly sloe berries and cherry, a hint of citrus, and a wonderfully seasonal warmth. A double measure poured over ice is nothing short of delicious. So, quite why sloe gin is considered an ‘old people’s drink’, conjuring up images of Christmas Day with the grandfolks, I’m not too sure. Perhaps we associate it with Christmas because it’s when those homemade batches, created the year before, are finally ready to pull from the back of the cupboard and cracked open. For the last couple of years, I’ve made my own. More for the enjoyment of going out and plucking the berries from spiky hedgerows than anything, and the joy of transforming a plain Jane dry gin into a fruity little people pleaser. I recommend you do the same in prep for next year, for posterity’s sake.

That said, Greenall’s Sloe Gin is so good, perhaps don’t bother… It’s quite a versatile liqueur, as I discovered during a recent tasting event, working well in short and long cocktails. The hot toddy was a highlight; one I’ll be whipping up in a flask for a Boxing Day walk. There’s also a fizz to get the party started; another with thyme, that coincidentally takes seconds to make; and a practically medicinal one with honey and lemon you can use your favourite gin for. And because tee-totallers deserve more than a glass of squash when they come round, there are a couple with twists to make them alcohol-free. Chin-chin to a jolly good winter!

Sloe Thymes

 

50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
150ml cloudy lemonade (or lemon tonic)
Sprig thyme       Lemon slice

Fill a tall glass with ice, pour in Greenhall’s sloe gin. Slowly pour in the cloudy lemonade or lemon tonic. Garnish with the thyme and lemon slice. Teetotal twist: skip the gin, up the lemonade, and muddle the thyme with the ice to release more flavour.

1761 Royale

 

25ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
50ml Prosecco           Sprig of rosemary          Blackberry to garnish

Pour the sparkling wine in a coupe glass. Lightly bruise the rosemary then drop into the glass. Slowly pour the gin so it sinks to the bottom. Pop in the blackberry et voila!

Emperor’s New Cloves

 

50ml of gin (I particularly like Monkey 47 or Gin Mare for this)
Four medium-sized orange wedges
Two tsp golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon           Tonic water           Two cloves

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together on a plate. Rub one of the orange wedges around the edge of a tumbler. Rub the edge of the glass into the cinnamon sugar mix so it has an even coat. Put three of the wedges into the glass and muddle. Mix through a few ice cubes. Stud the rind of the remaining orange wedge with the cloves and add to the glass. Add a pinch of the cinnamon sugar and stir through. Pour over the gin. You can add a splash of tonic water to make it a longer drink. Mezcal or Bourbon are very good substitutes for the gin if you fancy something different.

Honey, I Drank the Gin

 

25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp of honey          1 x egg white          50ml gin
Small sprig of lemon thyme
Lemon thyme leaves to garnish
Nutmeg (optional extra)

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the egg white and give it a few shakes. Remove the lid, add the lemon juice, honey, thyme and gin. Shake until the outside of the shaker starts getting icy (about 30 seconds). Pour into a martini or coupe glass. Garnish with the thyme leaves and any other edible flora you might have to hand. For a dash of spice, grate over some nutmeg.

Take it Sloe Toddy

 

50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin          100ml cloudy apple juice
50ml orange juice          Cinnamon stick
Orange slice to garnish          2 cloves

Pour sloe gin into a mug or glass. Warm the juices gently in a pan with the cinnamon and cloves for 5-6 minutes until infused. Pour the liquid into the mug/glass with the gin. Garnish with the orange slice and cinnamon stick. Teetotal twist: skip the gin. Add to the warming liquid, 50 ml of cherry or pomegranate juice and almond essence to taste.

All recipes are for one, so you can easily multiple your ingredients for additional people.