Friday, February 20, 2009

Sloe and Easy

It's time to clear the name of a maligned liquor.

Most of us in this country don't know real sloe gin, only the syrupy facsimile liqueur: something you'd find in embarrassing drinks with unprintable names. Real sloe gin is made with real sloe berries -- the sour, inedible fruit of the blackthorn, which is a relative of the plum -- that are macerated for several months in real gin.

I remember it being treated as the liquor equivalent of T.J. Swan wine; not something to be taken seriously. People used it as an ingredient in Garbage Can Punch (essentially every one's BYOB dumped into a large container, occasionally an actual garbage can) . In England it's a very domestic drink. is made mostly in family kitchens in autumn and carried in flasks during hunting season. "Sloe gin, to the English, is a little bit like limoncello is to the Italians," Ford says. "In the countryside, everyone makes their own. The problem of selling sloe gin in England is that someone will taste it and say, "It's not as good as mine.'"

What constitutes good?

Good sloe gin has a unique crisp and tangy taste (a balance of sweet and bitter that's not cloying) and a faint, subtle finish of almonds. Its color and flavor make it an excellent mixer. For instance, sloe gin is wonderful in a glass of sparkling wine (two parts champagne to one part sloe gin).