Why is it called sloe gin?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Sloe gin gets its name from the sloe berries that are used in its production. These berries grow on hedgerows and are typically found in abundance during the autumn season. However, the sloe berries themselves are not particularly pleasant to eat in their raw form. They have a bitter taste and their high tannin content makes them quite astringent.

The term “sloe” refers specifically to the fruit of the blackthorn bush, scientifically known as Prunus spinosa. This bush is native to Europe and parts of Asia and is commonly found in hedgerows and woodland areas. The sloe berries themselves are small, round, and dark blue or purple in color. They have a thin skin and a relatively large stone inside, making them difficult to eat directly.

Despite their bitter taste, sloe berries have been used in traditional medicine and culinary practices for centuries. In particular, they have long been associated with the production of sloe gin. The process of making sloe gin involves steeping the berries in a base spirit, typically gin, along with sugar. Over time, the flavors and colors of the berries infuse into the alcohol, resulting in a rich and fruity liqueur.

The name “sloe gin” therefore reflects the key ingredient used in its production, the sloe berries. By using these berries, the gin takes on their distinct flavor and color. The term “sloe” differentiates this particular type of gin from other flavored or infused gins, highlighting the unique characteristics that the sloe berries impart.

Interestingly, the term “gin” itself has its roots in the Dutch word “jenever,” which refers to a juniper-flavored spirit. Juniper berries are a key ingredient in traditional gin production, and the addition of sloe berries to the base gin creates a delightful fusion of flavors.

Sloe gin is called so because it is made by infusing sloe berries in gin. The bitter and unpalatable nature of the sloe berries is transformed through the infusion process, resulting in a delicious and uniquely flavored liqueur. The name “sloe gin” pays homage to the key ingredient that gives this beverage its distinct taste and character.