Chilli Sloe Gin

Rob Houghton

I try to source ingredients as locally as possible, so sloes are collected from the former Podmore estate on the Staffordshire/Cheshire border and chilli from a farm in Shropshire.

■ 0.5kg (1lb 2oz) sloes
■ 300g (11oz) sugar
■ 70cl (11⁄4 pints) gin
■ 1 bird’s-eye chilli

I don’t necessarily hold with pricking each individual sloe, as is traditional.

For this brew I simply froze the sloes and defrosted with a quick blast of scalding water from the kettle, which splits the skins.

The chilli is added whole and unpricked. The key is to filter the liquor as you bottle it. I left this in the attic for about two-and-a-half months and then spent an hour or two filtering it through coffee papers to make sure it was as clear as possible.

The result should be a red that is darker than a rosé but lighter than a bordeaux (around pinot noir, say) and it shouldn’t be too thick or sweet.

The chilli adds warmth to the drink without overpowering the gin or the sloes.

It makes an excellent winter warmer for the hip-flask or, served in moderation, can be drunk after dinner.

Winner – Traditional: Raspberry Gin

Winner – Off-piste: Beetroot and horseradish vodka

Highly Commended – Off-piste: Toffee vodka

Highly Commended – Traditional: Chilli Sloe Gin

Highly Commended – Traditional: Quardrum Plum Vodka

Highly Commended – Traditional: Gooseberry Gin