Booze | June 1, 2022 6:57 am

Review: Fords Sloe Gin Is Your Ideal Base for Summer Cocktails

A bittersweet take on the “original gin and juice” hits all the right notes for warm weather drinks

Fords Sloe Gin, a cocktail and a cheese board on a table. Fords Sloe Gin is a new release and an updated take on a classic UK liqueur.
Sloe gin, a quality staple in England, is slowly making a comeback in the U.S.
Eric Medsker

What we’re drinking: The Fords Gin Co Sloe Gin, a gin-based liqueur that combines Fords London Dry Gin with sloe fruit from England and France

Where it’s from: Distilled in London at Thames Distillers, Fords Gin (which turns 10 this year) is a collaboration between eleventh generation Master Distiller Charles Maxwell and Simon Ford. A mix of nine botanicals, the company’s flagship gin starts with a traditional base of juniper and coriander seed and is balanced by citrus (bitter orange, lemon and grapefruit peel), florals (jasmine flower and orris) and spices (angelica and cassia).

Why we’re drinking this: Because sloe gin barely caught on in this country, but it’s slowly having a resurgence in the cocktail world — and that’s because it might be the ideal base for a summer-y drink.

“Sloe gin history really comes from the hedgerows of England,” says Fords co-founder Simon Ford. “You have to think of a feudal system — the lords and ladies want to keep riff-raff off their land. The beauty is that the hedgerows they grew, these had sloe berries.”

Only problem? On their own, sloe berries aren’t that great. But add some gin and a sweetener, and you have what became a commoner’s substitute for Port. “People were making sloe juice — this goes back 300 years,” says Ford. “And there was a gin craze. So you had people mixing sloe juice with gin, though probably bad quality for both of them. But it was the original gin and juice.” 

Sloe gin slowly became a respected product in England, but here, its influence fizzled out. “It had its moment, but it ended up being a cordial like blue Curacao, which so badly made in the 1970s,” says Ford. “We never had that in the UK. Sloe gin has always been traditional and a well-made product.”

Basically, sloe gin’s potential comeback appears to be hitting at an ideal time; drinkers are embracing gin, low ABV cocktails and the combination of bitter and sweet in their drinks. Let’s test it out.

How it tastes: The Fords take on sloe gin is crafted with high-proof, nine-botanical Fords Gin and sloe fruit from France and England; it’s steeped for 12 weeks, then sweetened with sugar, before being cut to 29% ABV (which is slightly high for a sloe gin).

Overall, this is a lovely mix of plums, raisin, grapefruit, lemon and a lingering, almost honey-like sweetness on the finish (with a hint of cloves). It’s actually really nice on its own, albeit with a thick, dry mouthfeel. Cut it with tonic, however, and you’ve got a low ABV winner that’s equal parts bitter, sweet and fruity (Ford himself suggests that the best drink you can make is simply Fords Sloe Gin with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon tonic). 

Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler and his Sloe Gin Silver Fizz Cocktail
Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler and his Sloe Gin Silver Fizz Cocktail
Dina Avila

Fun fact: Fords teamed up with a few star bartenders to create some cocktails. If you want a take on a classic, here is a Sloe Gin Silver Fizz by Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

  • 1.5 part Fords Gin Co Sloe Gin
  • 1 part Fords Gin
  • .75 part fresh lemon juice
  • .5 part 2:1 simple syrup
  • .5 part egg whites, gently beaten, or aquafaba 
  • 2 parts chilled soda water

Pour soda water into a chilled 8 oz footed highball glass. Combine gin, sloe gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg whites or aquafaba in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold. Fine strain into a highball glass. Serve immediately with no garnish.

Where to buy it: The Fords Gin Co Sloe Gin is available at select stores and online (for about $34)