Sloe gin is a smooth, fruit liqueur made with sloe berries, sugar, and gin. Good-quality bottles will have an earthy, plum flavor with an almond undertone.
If you’ve got no sloe gin or you want something a little different then keep reading. This is an essential list of sloe gin substitutes, perfect for drinking straight up or added to your favorite cocktail recipe.
What can I use instead of sloe gin?
If you’ve got no sloe gin, then you can use damson gin or a plum brandy like Sljivovica or Vizantija Plum Rakija. For a no-alcohol option use either Grenadine or sloe berry syrup. To get the authentic taste of sloe gin, it’s easy to make your own at home but you’ll need to allow two months for infusion.
1. Damson gin
Sloes aren’t the only fruit for macerating in gin. Damson plums are a similar-tasting fruit that make delicious vibrant red, fruity liquor. If you need a substitute for sloe gin, then damson gin is a great choice.
There is a range of options on the market, but Averell Damson Gin is well worth trying. It has an enticing aroma that’s similar to cherry juice or sweet vermouth. Like sloe gin, it’s got an earthy taste that’s a delicious mix of sweet and tart.
You’ll find Averell has a more dominant tart flavor than most sloe gins, so drinking it neat may be too much for some. It also has a higher alcohol content (33% ABV). However, Averell is ideal for mixing into drinks like a Blackthorn cocktail or a Charlie Chaplin.
2. Plum brandy
There are plenty of plum brandies on the market that’ll make a suitable sloe gin alternative. Sljivovica is the national Serbian drink and is a spirit made from plums. It’s got a much stronger alcohol content, so reduce the quantity with recipes like sloe gin fizz or negroni. This drink also makes a good digestive, served with a dried prune.
Vizantija Plum Rakija is another plum brandy made from three different types of plums. It has been aged for 4 years and has a fruity, nutty flavor with a vanilla aroma.
The plum brandies that we looked at were clear or amber in color so keep that in mind. In some cases, your cocktails won’t look the same as if you’d used sloe gin.
Tip: also consider using cherry, apricot, or blackberry brandy.
If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic replacement for sloe gin, then grenadine is an excellent option. It’s a popular bar syrup that adds an enticing red shade to mocktails and cocktails. Add it to your next hedgerow royale and you won’t be disappointed.
Grenadine is commonly made using pomegranate, so the flavor deviates a little from sloe gin. It’s sweet and tart but will give drinks a similar fruity flavor. You’ll also locate it easily in liquor stores as it is a bartender staple
4. Sloe berry syrup
Mixologists will love sloe berry syrup as a backup in cocktails. It’s a no-alcohol mixer that gives drinks the taste of the liqueur you’re trying to replace.
This drink is not easy to find outside of the U.K so an online purchase may be required. You’ll also want to add a shot of gin to up the alcohol content in your next gin fizz.
Planning a huge night? Grappa is a decent option that is made from grape pomace. It has a serious punch of alcohol, ranging anywhere from 37.5 to 60 percent alcohol by volume.
Grappa has a sour plum flavor with a hint of honey. You won’t win any awards here for choosing a drink that mimics sloe gin, but its fruity flavor is in the ballpark. Also, the night promises to be a good one.
6. Dried sloe berries
For most people around the world, it isn’t easy finding sloe berries growing wild on the Blackthorn bush. Thankfully they can be purchased from specialty food stores and online retailers as dried berries. These gems work (almost) as well as the fresh ones for making sloe gin!
Once you receive your order, drop a cup of them into a quart jar then top up with dry gin. This is a long-term play. You’ll need to let them sit for two months, shaking occasionally to help with infusing the fruit.
7. Sloe berry vodka
A bottle of Ursus Roter Sloe Berry Flavoured Vodka or any similar brand may work as a substitute. Its deep crimson shade makes it useful in a cranberry and sloe gin martini.
Sloe berry vodka is spicy and fruity with a tart undertone. At 21% alcohol by volume, this backup has a similar hit of alcohol.
If you enjoy vodka, other similar options include damson, rosehip, raspberry, or blackcurrant vodka. Also try Sliwkowa Plum Liqueur, a Polish blend of vodka, wheat, rye, and Soplica plums.
8. Homemade sloe gin
Making a batch of homemade sloe gin is easy, it just takes time. If you’re in no hurry, follow these steps for delicious affordable gin.
- 2 cups fresh sloes, rinsed
- 2 cups gin
- 1 cup sugar
- Place the sloes in the freezer overnight so that the skins slit, which helps with macerating. If you want to get started straight away, you can prick each berry with a skewer instead.
- Mix sugar and gin in a large jar then add the berries and seal the lid.
- Store the jar in a cool, dry place for two months. Make sure it is kept away from heat sources like the oven or sunlight.
- Strain the liquid into a container and reserve the leftover fruit for other recipes. If needed, strain the liqueur a second time through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove any leftover solids.
- Taste test and if needed, add extra simple syrup. Store in a clean bottle or jar in the pantry or refrigerator.
Commonly asked questions
What gin is best for making sloe gin?
If you’re going to make sloe gin, then Boodles, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Plymouth, or Sipsmith gin are all good options.
What is the difference between sloe gin and regular gin?
Gin is a clear distilled spirit derived from the juniper berry while sloe gin is a red liqueur made by steeping sloe berries in gin. You’ll find sloe gin is sweeter and less fruity than sloe gin.
What can I make with sloe gin?
Some good cocktails for sloe gin are mulled sloe gin, blood orange and sloe G&T, sloe gin and elderflower Collins, sloe gin hot chocolate, and limoncello sloe gin sparkler. You can also drink it neat or on the rocks.
Related reading: What is a good St Germain substitute?
- A sloe is a drupe from the Prunus spinosa plant, part of the plum family.
- The alcohol content of sloe gin ranges from 15-30% ABV.
- Regular gin has a higher alcohol content than sloe gin.
- The sloe grows wild in England and tastes like a plum when infused with liquor.
- The Brits have been sipping this digestif for centuries - it was traditionally a drink for cold nights.
- The liqueur is now a popular addition to cocktails in the United States.
Sloe gin is a different beast to gin, so forget about using them interchangeably. To substitute sloe gin use damson gin or plum brandy.
If you want to cut the alcohol, then use grenadine or sloe berry syrup if you can find it.
Making your own sloe berry gin is the only way to get the same flavor you’d get from a store-bought bottle.