Maybe it's a good toast to the cocktail culture of "Mad Men," returning March 25. Maybe it's a farewell toast to the English propriety of "Downton Abbey," already gone for the year.
Or maybe it's just a good way to greet spring. But I ended a successful grail quest last month. And that's a tale worth telling.
Like most people, I had bad memories of sloe gin. Too-sweet, too-red, too-girl drink. I had a brief splurge with it as a young person. Ruined a pair of white jeans in a tale that isn't worth telling, and never looked at the stuff again.
But a few years ago, New York Times writer Florence Fabricant noted that Plymouth, the gin distillery in England, was making a real sloe gin, from real sloe berries, that restored honor to the name sloe gin. I'm a big fan of Plymouth's regular gin, which makes fantastic gin and tonics and martinis. So I started searching for it.
And searching for it. And searching for it.
I probably could have gotten it in New York, but I never pay to check luggage, so I couldn't bring it back. Instead, I checked liquor stores from Charleston to West Palm Beach, whenever I was on the road. I even had friends look for it in England. They found Plymouth gin, but not sloe gin.
I had given up and decided it was a myth -- until one Saturday in February, when I was down at Frugal MacDoogal's in Fort Mill. I looked in the gin aisle, as usual, with no luck. Then I wandered over to the wall where they keep the fruit liqueurs. And look what I found, for $29.99 for a 750ml bottle.
I hurried home and had my house mixologist mix up a Sloe Gin Fizz. And I finally discovered what the drink is supposed to taste like: Fresh, fruity, just on the edge of tart. It's not fake-red, it's a slight reddish-purple. It's seriously refreshing and it screams out for a spring weekend like, well, how about this one?
Here's to you: Florence Fabricant, Don Draper and Lord Grantham.
Real Sloe Gin Fizz
From David Wondrich in Esquire. Cocktail expert Dale DeGroff suggests 1 ounce sloe gin and 1 ounce regular gin. This is a rare instance where I disagree with him: That might be necessary with fake American sloe gin. But if you have English sloe gin, why cut it?
2 ounces sloe gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar or simple syrup
Club soda (or plain seltzer, my preference)
Combine sloe gin, lemon juice and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and pour over ice in a Collins glass. Top with club soda or seltzer so it has a foamy cap. Serve immediately.