Autumn is the season of wild crafting. In the Irish countryside it is second nature to pull on a pair of wellies and a warm woolly jumper, not forgetting to bring a basket to harvest the bounty of wild edibles growing in the hedges tucked away deep into verdant green Irish fields. Sloes grow on the branches of the Black Hawthorn tree. They look a bit like a blueberry, but can be slightly more oblong in shape.
Unlike their close relative, the damson or wild plum, you’d be best advised not to eat them raw as they are extremely bitter and can make your mouth quite dry. In Ireland, they are ripe in the month of October to early November. Sloes seem to be most useful when steeped in alcohol.
The process of making sloe gin in Ireland and the UK has been going strong since the 1800’s and the odd bit of Irish folklore has it that sloes should only be pricked with the thorn from the branch itself and never a metal fork, unless it is silver. A hedgerow martini is basically a combination of fruits and berries picked from the hedge, but the star of the cocktail is sloe gin (or vodka), which is poured in, and then shaken, not stirred.
An Irish Hedgerow Martini
- One handful of blackberries
- One handful of elderberries
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ cup of sloe gin (to taste and comfort level)(in the USA Plymouth Sloe Gin would be the best equivalent)
- ½ cup ice cubes
- 1 jam jar
Puree blackberries and elderberries with sugar in a food processer. Push mixture through sieve to remove seeds. Pour into bottom of a jam jar, cover with ice and then sloe gin, then shake and pour into glass of your choosing. Garnish with elderberries and blackberries.
Sip and savour.
You could use any foraged fruits or herbs from your area for this cocktail.