This cranberry gin is a New England take on a British classic, sloe gin. This gently sweetened infused gin liqueur is easy to make, with suggestions on ways to adapt the flavors. Perfect for festive sipping or giving as a gift.
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I will admit upfront, this one wasn't my idea, it was my husband's. For anyone who has spent any time in the UK, you have probably come across sloe gin. Or if you haven't, you missed a treat. It's basically a liqueur made from gin, sloe berries and sugar and tastes a little like a sweet port.
It can be a little scarily addictive, partly as it tastes a little you are just drinking juice. It's all too easy to drink a lot of (not that I'd recommend that, of course). But, it makes a lovely after-dinner drink.
I only know of one commercial variety of sloe gin, though new gin flavors/infusions are increasing on the market. Sloe, though, is generally something you forage and then make at home. That may be part of the appeal.
Having moved to New England, I don't believe there are any sloe berries anywhere to forage. So, there was no real option to make our own. There are, however, plenty of cranberries, so we decided to try making a cranberry version.
We had picked up some cranberries at the Cranberry Harvest that we went to in September, so after getting some decent gin and some things to add flavor, we were good to go.
There was limited precedent so we largely took tips on making sloe gin as a basis (such as this recipe). We made a couple different versions so that we could compare the flavors. All in the interests of science, of course.
Making cranberry gin
This is pretty easy to make as all you do is put cranberries in a bottle or jar, add any aromatics you wish, then top up with gin. Leave it in a cool, dark place to infuse then strain it. Mix with simple syrup/sugar syrup to taste.
The only areas where there is a slight question is how to prepare the cranberries, and which aromatics to add. Many sloe gin recipes freeze them first. But cranberries have a firm skin, so we tried one piercing them instead.
Even after a couple of weeks, you could really see the change in color. In fact, even after a day or two the lovely pink started to seep, as above. We left them nearer a month and were delighted with the results.
They all seemed to work well mixed as 1 part sugar syrup to 6 parts cranberry gin, at least to our taste. This is probably less sweet than many sloe gins, but worked well for this. The beauty of making your own, though, is you can adapt to taste.
To help you with your own experimenting, here are our tasting notes from the three versions we made.
Cranberry with orange, berries were pierced:
This was the most cranberry and gin tasting of the lot. If you like the taste of both, then this is the one for you. It is probably pretty much exactly what you would imagine cranberry-infused gin to taste like.
There is a lovely fruity tartness from the cranberries but a definite gin undertone. It tastes pretty good on its own, though it's fairly strong, but our recommendation would be served on the rocks with a slice of lime.
Cranberry with orange and cinnamon, frozen berries:
The cranberry flavor was less obvious here but the cinnamon really came through. If you like the idea of a festive-flavored liqueur, then this is perfect for you. On the other hand, if you are not a cinnamon fan, then don't even try it.
It works wonderfully in my warm cranberry cocktail, or mixed with red wine to make a spiked mulled wine. I would like to try this with the berries pierces as I think a stronger cranberry flavor might help balance out the cinnamon and complement it really well.
Cranberry with lemon and rosemary, frozen berries-
There wasn't a particularly strong cranberry flavor here either, but the lemon and rosemary gave this a lovely mellow, aromatic flavor.
For me, this was one of the easiest to drink, but I can understand if you are a gin fan it might taste less gin-like and there isn't a whole lot of cranberry flavor. It is however very drinkable and would be great mixed with tonic as well, even without the sugar syrup added.
Overall, it seems it did really make a difference to the amount of cranberry flavor to pierce the berries and then it is down to your taste whether you want some of the other flavors to come through as well.
I was pleasantly surprised by just how different the character of each of the gins was based on the additions, but they all tasted good in their own way.
Cranberry gin is a wonderful homemade liqueur that makes a great addition to cocktails, or simply sipped on its own. It makes a wonderful gift and is fun to experiment with the flavors. Give it a try, and enjoy!
Looking for more drinks with cranberry? Try these:
- Cranberry whiskey sour
- Warm cranberry cocktail
- Cranberry Moscow mule
- Plus see more cocktail recipes in the archives. You might also like to try some homemade limoncello.
- 2 cups cranberries 200g, approx
- 750 ml gin (ie 1 bottle)
- ½ orange zest approx, ie from ½ a fruit, or lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick or sprig of rosemary
- 125 ml sugar syrup once matured, approx (to taste)
- Prepare the cranberries- there are two methods, one was to prick holes in the berries (sterilize a needle and pierce right through in a couple places), the other was to freeze them (clearly easier). As in notes above, pricking brought out more cranberry flavor so would recommend if you have time.
- Half fill one or more sterile bottles or sealable jars with the cranberries.
- Add any additional flavoring/ aromatics- we did one with orange rind, another orange and a cinnamon stick, another with lemon rind and rosemary.
- Fill the bottle or jar with gin and seal.
- Store in cool dry place for at least two weeks, but a month or two will let the flavors develop a little better. Beyond that, you should strain the gin to store any longer to save the fruit going bad in the gin.
- Once the gin has matured, strain the solids out of the gin. Combine with the sugar syrup to get desired level of sweetness (I suggest 1 part sugar syrup to 6 parts gin) - you can either do this as you use it or all at once and store in it's sweetened state.