By the time I got into cocktails the sloe gin fizz was long out of fashion, at least in my part of the country. And with good reason: the long-ignored bottles you see on the bottom shelf at the liquor store are reportedly some sickly sweet stuff.
That’s finally changing. A few years ago Plymouth gin (my home bar standard) dusted off its 1883 recipe. It’s made by infusing sugar and fresh sloe berries (the sour fruit of the blackthorne tree) into still-strength gin. After a few months the liquor is sweet, sour, fruity, and complex, with a hint of nuttiness from the pits. At its final 52 proof strength it’s enjoyable on its own, but most famously combined with lemon, soda, and simple syrup in a sloe gin fizz.
This year Plymouth finally exported its sloe gin to the US. It’s available in limited quantities and runs a little over $40 a bottle in DC (Central Liquors and Sherry’s are both carrying it). Anticipating its arrival, Washington Post spirits columnist Jason Wilson challenged area bartenders to reinterpret sloe gin standards with the new, good stuff. Though I’m no longer working at a bar where I can feature it, I’m happy with this variation on the sloe gin fizz. The Hothouse Fizz cuts the sweetness and adds a little cucumber to the mix for a refreshing, summery treat:
1.5 oz. Plymouth gin
1.5 oz. Plymouth sloe gin
.5 oz. lemon juice
.25 oz. simple syrup
2 wheels cucumber
Muddle the cucumber with the simple syrup, then shake over ice with the gins and lemon juice. Strain over ice, and a bit of soda, and float a cucumber garnish to complete the drink. The cucumber adds a really nice vegetal element to the drink; just don’t use too much or it will overpower the other flavors. It’s tempting to use Hendricks here, but sticking with Plymouth and using a hothouse cucumber keeps the British theme going.
Update 8/19/09: I tinkered with the recipe a bit when putting it on the menu at Carlyle. Here’s how I’ve been making it there:
1.25 oz Plymouth sloe gin
1 oz Plymouth gin
.5 oz lemon
muddled slice cucumber