The organisers say artisan sloe gin makers from across the world will gather at the village pub on the Kent/Sussex border near Tunbridge Wells, to vie for the ‘Sloe Ginster World Champion’ title for 2014.
This Christmas will mark the 6th year of the annual event that began when pub locals began arguing over the perfect sloe gin recipe. Dating back to around 1750, the George, a traditional country pub, is said to make an ideal setting to judge the most traditional of Christmas liqueurs.
Sloe gin is a red liqueur flavoured with sloe (blackthorn) drupes, a smaller relative of the plum, normally made with an alcohol content between 15 and 30% abv.
Traditionally it is made by infusing gin with the bitter-tasting drupes using sugar to extract the sloe juices that are extracted from the fruit.
“Hand crafted sloe gins are generally superior to commercially produced branded sloe gin liqueurs which are made by flavouring cheaper neutral grain spirits, producing an inferior flavour akin to a fruit cordial taste,” said pub landlord Greg Elliot.
Sloe gin is made from ripe sloes that, by tradition, are picked after the first frost of winter. Each drupe should be hand picked with a thorn taken from the blackthorn bush on which it grew. Apparently sloe gin connoisseurs say that the drupes may only be pricked with a metal fork or pin if is made of silver.
The organisers say some modern makers pick the sloes earlier and freeze them, claiming that this not only splits the drupes and replace the pricking stage, but by analogy to ice wine, the freezing changes the flavour of the drupes.
All proceeds of the event are donated to the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society which supports people with Multiple Sclerosis - www.mssociety.org.uk.