The Short Buzz: Blowing the Dust Off Sloe Gin

When I mentioned a piece on sloe gin that appeared in the NY Times a few weeks back, a sommelier friend of mine scoffed, proclaiming it must having been a very sloe news day.  The pun aside, the retort was expected.  The notion of a return to the gin-based liqueur does seem rather dubious, though there are a few less skeptical bartenders who are willing to experiment. 

An alias to the Alabama Slammer and muse to the Sloe Gin Fizz; could the ruby tinted liqueur that lost its American popularity some forty years ago find new life in the US?  Well, it would be in the high hopes Plymouth Sloe Gin producers, whose product hit the market earlier this month.  The makers of Plymouth Gin, a recognizably superior gin product in its own right, have reproduced an 1883 recipe that they boast will offer artisanal quality.

Unfortunately, the reputation of sloe gin has become entangled with the memories of overly saccharine liqueurs and lackluster cocktails.  Plymouth is fervent on capitalizing on shifting attitudes and has exported 1,000 cases to the United States.

“It’s almost like a serious liqueur,” told a mixologist to the NY Times, who happens to be revitalizing sloe gin onto his cocktail menu.  “Almost like a serious liqueur,” is not necessarily confidence building, but as trends come and go, sloe gin has an outside chance.

Traditionally macerated with sloe berries, clove and cinnamon, the recipes vary, as it is sometimes referred to Schlehen Wine or SOS wine depending on the English community.  There is a German sloe gin, called Schlehenfeuer, which tends to be higher in alcohol content (76 proof) than its English counterpart (usually around 40-60 proof), and sometimes is made with rum or vodka.  Mast-Jägermeister AG produces the most commercially successful brand of Schlelenfeuer.

In Spain, particularly in the Basque region, there is Patxaran, which is not distributed in the US.  Like sloe gin, the recipes vary, although the maceration of sloe berries takes place in a clear anisette opposed to a gin or vodka base.

The flavor of Patxaran tends to be fruity with perfumed spice notes unlike the sweet, bitter tang of sloe gin.

Sloe Gin in bars at the University of Alabama resulted in this drink:

Alabama Slammer

0.5 oz amaretto almond liqueur

0.5 oz Southern Comfort liqueur

0.5 oz sloe gin

0.25 oz orange juice

0.25 oz lemon juice

0.25 oz simple syrup

Combine ingredients and ice into a shaker.  Shake vigorously and strain into a highball glass over ice.

The Short Buzz is a regular post highlighting spirits.  

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