Plymouth Sloe Gin Makes a Sloe Return

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.

The world of spirits and cocktails is in a perennial state of flux. New products enter the market at a dizzying pace, typically presented in spangly packaging that can be easily identified by an inebriated patron in a crowded nightclub, and of a color several steps removed from anything found in the natural world.

Thankfully, a vast majority of these new products have a life span roughly equivalent to that of a Jägerbomb at a frat party, and within a year, whatever remains of these products will wash up on liquor store bargain tables, making way for the next round of gaudy replacements.

Fortunately, mixed in with these fly-by-night products are several that show true staying power. Many of these products aren't really new at all, but rather spirits and liqueurs that faded from popularity decades ago and are on the upswing again. Last year I mentioned that bartenders and home enthusiasts were eagerly awaiting the U.S. debut of Plymouth Sloe Gin, and in the late spring and early summer, this product finally hit the market, albeit in limited quantities.

While most consumers may have a queasy familiarity with sloe gin--created by consuming one too many Alabama Slammers (with Southern Comfort, lemon juice, and amaretto) or Sloe Comfortable Screws (with Southern Comfort, orange juice, and vodka) back in college, or whenever you partook of such things--a quality sloe gin has been absent from the domestic market for decades.

As I write in the November issue of Imbibe, the Plymouth Sloe Gin is considerably different from these mawkishly flavored bottom-shelf brands: made in the traditional manner by macerating sloes--a sort of wild plum that is breathtakingly astringent--in gin and then sweetening the mix, the Plymouth Sloe Gin has a sharp, sour taste of stone fruit, without the cloying sweetness or taste of artificial dreck found in cheaper brands. Since the liqueur has been on the market, bartenders have been breaking out classic (and new classic) sloe gin drinks, ranging from the Savoy Tango, a blend of sloe gin and apple brandy, to the Wibble, a contemporary classic that matches sloe gin's tartness with ingredients including grapefruit juice and crème de mure, a blackberry liqueur.

Although it debuted in the U.S. several months ago, supplies of Plymouth Sloe Gin are still very limited, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. Have you come across this product at your favorite bar, or grabbed a bottle for your liquor cabinet? How have you or your bartender been using it?