A tipple that is often created at home is sloe gin. I used to think it sounded complex until I discovered that you don’t create it from scratch but buy the gin in and simply infuse it with other flavours. That sounded much simpler but I was still thwarted because I haven’t identified a local source of sloes. Then, reading Mark Diacono’s A Taste of the Unexpected, I spotted that he used a fruit called the autumn olive. I don’t have a source of those either but I did have several bushes of Myrtus communis (Myrtle) covered with plump and edible berries that I was already familiar with using as a stand in for juniper berries in hearty stews.
Back in January, I picked a quantity of these and combined them in a bottle with sugar, gin and some aromatics (cinnamon and cloves). The recommended proportion of gin to sugar and fruit was 7:4:4 although I don’t think I was too exact about this. Bottled up, it looked unpromising at first, with the sugar forming a distinct sludge and the berries all floating together. However I persisted, keeping it under a paper bag in the kitchen and shaking each day for a week and it began to show signs of change.
The frequency of shaking the bottle dropped to once or twice a week and this past weekend I judged that it looked ready for the next stage and so transferred the liquid into a smaller bottle I had waiting. There was a small amount left over, which was very promising, a sweet, fiery, purple liqueur. Now I need to leave it in a dark place to mature. Six months is recommended; appreciative as I am of the present signs of spring, this leaves me rather looking forward to the encroaching darkness of the next late autumn when this myrtle gin should make a warming tipple.