The George pub in Frant, East Sussex will yet again host the Sloe Gin World Championships on Wednesday 10th December from 1.00pm onwards.
Craftsmen and women from all over the world will meet at The George to vie for the undoubted honour of being declared Sloe Ginster World Champion of 2014.
Christmas 2014 marks the sixth year of this highly successful event.
Why did it all start? Regulars in the pub had started to debate the best traditional sloe gin recipe.
The pub dates back to the early 1750s, and it’s still the quintessential traditional English pub with hand pulled beers and home cooked food.
So, for the uninitiated, what exactly is Sloe gin?
It is a gorgeously hued red liqueur flavoured with sloe (blackthorn) drupes. It’s related to the plum, though somewhat smaller in size.
Usually the alcohol content is roughly between 15% and 30%.
It’s normally produced by placing the drupes in ordinary gin and allowing the sloe juices to transmigrate into the gin.
Although commercially made sloe gins are available and taste pretty good, in general, you really can’t beat a good bit of hand crafted sloe gin.
Landlord of The George, Gary Elliot said: "Hand crafted sloe gins are generally superior to commercially produced sloe gin, as they are generally produced by flavouring cheaper neutral grain spirits, producing an inferior flavour, rather like a fruit cordial taste."
Sloe gin is made from ripe sloes, which traditionally must be picked only after the first of the winter frosts.
The drupes must be hand pricked with a thorn taken from the blackthorn bush on which it grew. Some purists argue that if a metal fork or pin is employed, then it must be only one made of real silver.
All proceeds of the event will be donated to the MS Society which supports people with Multiple Sclerosis www.mssociety.org.uk.
Local folks wanting tips on where the best places for foraging for wild sloes can visit the Moondown website www.moondown.co.uk. This East Sussex-based firm teaches traditional county crafts, such as making Christmas wreaths and hosts wild mushroom foraging courses.
How do I make Sloe Gin?
Fill a wide-necked jar half way with pricked drupes and add 4 ounces (110 g) of sugar for each 1 imperial pint (570 ml) of sloes.
Fill the jar with gin, seal and turn several times to mix, then stored in a cool, dark place.
Turn every day for the first two weeks, then weekly, for at least three months. The gin develops a deep ruby colour.
The liqueur is poured off and the drupes removed. Some sloe ginsters reuse the berries infused in white wine or cider, made into jam, as a basis for a chutney, or a filling for liqueur pudding or chocolates.
The liqueur is then filtered into clean bottle or and left to stand for another week. The sweetness can be adjusted to taste at the end of the process by addition of more sugar.
Allowing the drupes sufficient time to ensure full extraction, the gin develops an almond-like essence and aromatic flavour from the sloes' stones.
In some recipes, the process is accelerated with the inclusion a few drops of almond essence, cloves and a cinnamon stick of cinnamon.
The George Inn
36 High Street, Frant, Tunbridge Wells TN3 9DU
T: 01892 730350