Damson Gin Recipe


Submitted by Nicola

This recipe originates from the 'Drinking with Dickens' book, written by Cedric Dickens (great great grandson of Charles!, which includes all the recipes of drinks mentioned in all of  Dickens books. My grandfather was Cedric Dickens drinking partner in WWII, and the book was passed down to me.


  • 1 lb Damsons
  • 1lb sugar
  • 1 bottle of gin (750ml is you like it syrupy, 1 litre if you like less syrupy- both work ok).


  1. Prick damsons, put into a clean sterilised glass container that can be sealed. (Demi Johns are perfect)
  2. Add sugar and shake every day until the sugar is very pink.
  3. Add gin, shake and store in a dark place. Turn and swill fruit around once a day until sugar has dissolved then leave and shake occasionally.
  4. After 3 months, strain and bottle.
  5. Damsons usually ready in September which means gin is ready for bottling just before Christmas.

Top tips:

  1. Works well with Vodka or Bacardi also.
  2. Same recipe works well with sloeberries.
  3. Rather than pricking the damsons, freeze them and when you take them out of the freezer, they split naturally.

When fruit has been used, de-stone and dry on a low heat for a few hours in the oven. The fruit can be used for fruit cakes or christmas pudding (it really does make such a difference using the damsons!)

Comments on Damson Gin Recipe Leave a Comment

melanie @ 9:56 am #

My grandma used to make this years ago, coming up to September now so should be able to get some damsons soon. Cant wait to make this myself and see if it as good as I remember!!

Leone Evrenos @ 5:40 pm #

I have access to Sloes, can i substitute them in this recipe?

jan @ 4:58 pm #

We have a damson tree in our back garden, it is full of fruit this year. Can't wait to have a go at this. Could be a very merry merry christmas if its ready in time!

Sharon @ 9:47 am #

This sounds lovely! Made the damson jam from here last night and is such a gorgeous colour! Does the gin go the same colour too? Thanks Val for your lovely recipies I am going to get your book! x

Geraldine @ 12:21 pm #

How big a jar is required for the recipe? We have a 1.5 litre jar and worry it's too small

Nikki @ 9:20 pm #

I think you would struggle with a small jar. I usually do it a demi john- much easier. You do need room to swish it all around.

Mine goes a lovely deep plum colour- I leave the damsons to steep in the sugar until its all really pink and oozy. Vigourous shaking at the sugar stage will ensure the colour infuses. Friends have followed the recipe, but weren't as vigorous with shaking, didn't prick all of the damsons and couldn't wait until christmas to bottle! So it was a light pink clear colour- very nice still, less sweet and thinner in consistency.
And yes sloes do work well- not so sweet. But if the end result is too sweet or syrupy- just add more alcohol to thin it out and suit to taste!!

Sharon @ 12:41 pm #

Well I have the vodka ready to go but I am struggling to find a bottle to do it in. Wilkos have a 5 litre Demi john, but as stupid as it sounds I can't work out what is used as a lid/plug. I have looked in 2 different stores and I come away pretty clueless – Please help! thanks

Sarah @ 8:37 pm #

If you can't find demi-johns I use sweet jars available from the traditional sweet shops usually free. Also, when you decant the damsons they make a delicious adults pudding when coated with melted chocolate or eat with chocolate mousse for a dinner party. We also use these chocolate covered damsons for little boozy presents at Christmas which go down very well!

Sarah @ 8:38 pm #

Go to Boots chemists and you can buy large demijohn corks in the wine and beer making section.

Tractorfactorsteve @ 9:02 pm #

Think I'll try my big bag full of mirabelles from the freezer..anything to avoid having to take the stones out of the darned things!

Sharon @ 2:47 pm #

Can you use a plastic bottle? I'm just eyeing up a nearly empty 3ltr squash bottle that looks like it could be very handy!

cookingkate @ 3:37 pm #

My Damson vodka has developed some, what appears to be, mould on the surface of the liquid. My mother in law thinks that this is yeast, present in the damsons. Is she right? Do you think its safe to drink? I followed the recipe to the letter.


Cerri Gallagher @ 4:28 pm #

I am just about to bottle my gin – I got great bottles with an old fashioned stopper cheap from Jam Jar Shop – they are an unusual shape for presents and if they hand them back I'll fill them next year! Can't wait to try it.

Nick @ 8:58 pm #

The damson vodka has looked fantastic, and has been dutifully poured into presentation bottles for Xmas presents – we're feeling very pleased with ourselves!

I'd now like to try making chocolates with the left-over damsons, but removing the stones seems nigh-on impossible. All I'm left with is a squidgy mess. Any tips for removing the stones in a way that doesn't destroy the fruit? (I was going to put marzipan in the hole left by the stone before dipping in chocolate).

Roger @ 6:26 pm #

If using sloes, you need to double the amount of sugar.

Sue Mc @ 12:14 pm #

I use large coffee jars which I get from work (they'd be thrown out otherwise). Suggest you ask in local businesses if they have any. 2 big family sized jars will make a batch and use up 750ml of gin. I've used these for sloe gin, blackcurrant vodka (like grown up ribena) and am trying redcurrant vodka this year too. I just put some cling film under the plastic screw-on top to reduce leakage when swilling daily.

Christine @ 12:59 pm #

We have 3 jars of damsons stewing at the moment, 2 in gin and 1 in vodka. Made some last year, oh yes it was good!!. We just use the 1.5l kilner jars which you can quite cheap from a local hardware store.

I would like to use the damsons to make chocolates, would it be better to dry them out in the oven first and then try to take the stones out? And how do you store them until you use them?

If anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them.

Shaun @ 2:01 pm #

Made damson gin last year and used for Christmas presents… Let's just say it went down that well I'm now making three times the amount to keep up with demand!!

Sharon, no , no , to plastic bottles, it takes the smell , & I only tried it once , many years ago , when I first started to " experiment , re Liquers" & so , always use " Jam Jars " to start your liquer in , & just leave it , in a darkish place, Not anywhere warm!! then save your glass ketchup bottles etc , & put them thru the dishwasher a few times & the tops , you will be ready to GO after a few month's ( Taste it 1st!! ) maybe more sugar ??? ( sometimes , some liquers are too bitter ) & you can use any fruit & any alchohol, white rum is good & vodka also.

rachel thompson @ 9:52 pm #

Hi how long should it be left from bottling to drinking please.

Sarah @ 3:31 am #

I have been making sloe and damson gin for some time. I must confess that I just prick the fruit and then put all the ingredients in together and shake twice daily until the sugar has disolved, then just a couple of times a week. I use less sugar than most of the recipies state and then after a few months do a taste test and if it needs more then add it a bit at a time (you can add sugar but not take it out). Also I leave mine for a full 12 months before bottling and then drink at christmas but this is because this is the way my mother always did it.

As for bottling I get empty mini wine bottles (screw top) from my local pub, just wash well.

Mike Peck @ 11:44 am #

Hi I was intruced to Damson Gin some 30 years ago by an aged couple in Lincolnshire – they sliced the damsons and removed the stones before making the gin – they then strained of the gin and used some of the damson remains in the Christmas trifle – delicious and worth the effort – one year they discarded the damson remains under their hedge at night, came down the next morning to find 2 hedgehogs snoring near the spot obviously having eaten their fill and enjoyed the tipple!
It was the 1lb suger/1lb of Damsons to 1 bottle of gin – we still make it

Jen @ 1:34 pm #

I have loads of damsons and want to try making damson gin….can you tell me how many damsons etc. i would need to make it in a l ltr. Kilner jar please

janet bethel @ 4:51 pm #

Can anyone tell me, can you re-use the damsons to make jam? I made some damson gin seems a shame to not use the damsons.

Leone Evrenos @ 12:01 am #

I want to make liqueur chocs from the sloes that will be strained off the vodka this year. However I can't find a recipe on how to do this. I was informed when asking about a chocolate mould that it was a complicated business as the alcohol stopped the chocolate from setting! has anyone made these before? I want to use plain choc.

As I am ready to put the damson gin into the small gin bottles in which I had bought the gin. Are there any ways in which to use the damsons? It seems such a shame to throw them away. I wondered if jam could be an option?

DG @ 8:27 am #

I'm just about to place the sugared damsons into a 5ltr demijohn with 750ml of gin and am worried that the abundance of empty space (air) in the jar will have a negative effect (like wine going off due to too much of the surface area being exposed) – will it?

Sue Tatlow @ 6:42 pm #

I had my first go at Damson Gin in September 2010. It is really good! I made a fruit crumble with the damsons left from the Gin and I have never tasted fruit crumble quite like it – delicous! I froze some damsons at the time and have just got another jar on the go but this time made it with muscavado sugar. Not sure how it will turn out but it is good to experiment.

trevor yeadon @ 10:18 pm #

I have made sloe and damson gin several times and find the glass sweet jars are ideal with their easy access and screw tops. Pour in one and a half litres of gin (even the cheapest will suffice), add sloes or damsons until they reach the level of the liquid surface (prick each one several times), add one kilo bag of cane sugar and swirl the jar each day for one month or until dissolved. I would suggest leaving to stand for a further 2 months, swirling now and then, before transfering into the final containers i.e clean screw-top plain glass wine bottles. Tasting the gin will let your tastebuds decide if you need to add even more sugar. Now dont be tempted to drink the liqueur let it stand for a few months and it will taste better for it – it is like when you make homemade wine – you must be patient and let its flavour develop over a period of time.

Catherine Porter @ 2:45 pm #

Hi, My Mum and I made damson gin many years ago, or at least that is to say we left damsons to soak in big jars for several years. We forgot about them during that time and this summer have finally decided to turn them into gin…however (!) we can't find the recipe we were using and all recipes on the internet say you add the sugar and gin at the same time rather than adding a syrup after the gin and damsons have soaked together. Can you help us finish what we started please? I don't know how much fruit we have but I would guess we have about 210cl of gin (I presume the ratio between gin and fruit is fairly standard in all damson gin recipes). Thank you for any help you can give,

trevor yeadon @ 10:23 pm #

@ICatherine Porter: It doesnt really matter at what stage you add the sugar. I would suggest you rack the gin off the plums, add 1lb of cane sugar, swirl it around until disolved (may take a day or two)-taste, and add more sugar if necessary. Then let it stand to clear for a week or two. You should then have a lovely tasting liqueur. Good luck!!

Catherine Porter @ 2:08 pm #

Thank you! Catherine

mouse44 @ 9:56 pm #

Hi Sharon IKEA have preserving jars with sealed lids that can be used time and again of all different sizes and cheap just ask for SLOM preserving jars

Liz @ 8:08 am #

Just made this wonderful recipe having found some damsons in a local village store last weekend. It's looking lovely and I can't wait to taste it this Christmas

Charles Cotton @ 1:46 pm #

Used damsons can also be coated in melted chocolate and eaten in bed on Christmas morning before the smoked salmon and champagne breakfast. Who cares how the turkey turns out!

Charles Cotton

Jill @ 12:21 pm #

I use plastic Water bottles – the huge ones – cheap in Lidl's.

Carole @ 7:48 pm #

Ok, I have my demijohn, many many damsons and much gin at the ready. I'm just a little puzzled at the straining process. 1) if i pop the damsons through the neck of the demi john, how till they come out?? Do they shrink up? and 2) what do you strain it with to bottle it, do you use a seive?

Snowy @ 3:05 pm #

Personally I have always used plastic 'jerry cans' to infuse the gin in, I then strain into the empty gin bottles through a kitchen sieve lined with a folded muslin cloth or very clean cotton rag. Mine has never taken on the smell of plastic and I have only ever received positive feedback. Plus they have the added bonus of having a build in handle so you can shake it around as vigourously as you like without the risk of it slipping through your fingers and re-decorating the kitchen!

Frank Mulholland @ 10:00 am #

Try the quick method of making Damson Gin. Put the damsons and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan and simmer until all if the fruit and sugar have come together, pass the resulting gloop through a seive and allow to cool before adding to your chosen recepticle. Add the gin, shake and store in a dark place shaking once a day for the first week. Shake once every three days for the second week then leave for the third week. Strain the mixture into bottles and leave as long as you can. It is actually ready in 3 weeks (delicious).

lucy worthington @ 2:23 pm #

I have a damson tree in my garden and it produces lots of fruit each year. I usually freeze and use when needed for desserts and this year I'm having a go at making my own jam. Can't wait to try this recipe – most of the damsons are ready to pick, so I'm going to make a start this weekend. Thanks!

Cindarella @ 9:34 pm #

Me and my friend have just made some damson gin, and frozen the left over fruit for when we have more gin!!! Cannot wait for christmas!!!!

Linda Reed @ 8:53 am #

Good to read the recipe and particularly to see that your Grandfather was a drinking friend of Cedric Dickens. My "father" was a great drinking buddy of Cedric Dickens also … Mike Reed, deceased in 1985, who was the publican of The Lion Hotel, Farningham, Kent. I am Lnda, his daughter, sister of three brothers – Roddy, Jimmy and Micky. Perhaps you know the Reed family? Linda

Vanessa @ 7:26 pm #

Well here goes, got Damsons, sugar, gin (plus some vodka) the demijohns are sterilising…..read all the above so wish me luck

Small concern as the lady in the shop said the hole would be too small to get the fruit in the bottle and she sells the Kilner jars but the few I have offered up look ok. Will have a go at freezing the big ones and see if the kilner jars are ok method… not very big!!!!

If it is successfull I am eyeballing all soft fruit with some alchoholic experiments in mind.

Lily @ 10:49 pm #

As I have two bottles of sherry in the cupboard can I use these instead of gin or or vodka and make damson sherry. I am going to try the damson vodka as well

nick McGrath @ 7:44 pm #

Try putting a shot of cointreau in when bottling sloes and drambuie in damsons it adds a nice kick.

Jennie Gaywood @ 4:49 pm #

@Linda Reed:
We are just about to make Damson Gin and on the offchance read your comment.
I remember the Read family well, especially your father Mike. My mum and dad (Alec and Cath Moran) used to frequent The Lion and indeed drink with Cedric Dickens and your mum and dad. I aso have memories of Maurice (who used to make lovely nibbles!) and Dot?
After my father died my mother lived in Spain and we used to visit your father in Nerja (in the early 1980's)

Lisa @ 5:13 pm #

Can you use this recipe but with vodka instead??

Sean McKiernan @ 12:07 pm #

Made made damson gin and vodka this morning. Unfortunately, I did not read the instructions properly – I have added the gin to the damsons and sugar straight away. Oops! I'll let you know in December.

Andy Stephens @ 5:54 pm #

Tried all three last year vodka, gin and white rum (only using the cheap super market brands), worked really well. Forgot to label the bottles, however it made dinner parties soooo much fun – hick hick – Damsons in freezer for the 2011 vintage. Enjoy and be merry peps

Gill Lacey @ 3:45 pm #

I have got 2ltr jars will these jars be to big for the receipe of 1lb damsons to 1ltr of gin

Andy Mitchell @ 12:49 pm #

I made damson and sloe gin years ago. I now live in The Netherlands, so I'm going to use Dutch jenever instead of British gin. It should come out great, as jenever is drier and less perfumed. It should let the fruit flavours really develop. I'll keep you all posted.

Andy Mitchell @ 4:18 pm #

@Gill Lacey: They are the perfect size. I made a litre of Damson Gin this afternoon. I used a litre of Dutch jonge jenever, (Dutch young gin) as I live in The Netherlands and it is cheaper than British gin. It all fitted nicely in a 2 litre mason jar.

Joyce Johnson @ 8:55 am #

I split my damsons open after using them for damson gin and dried them in a slow oven. I then used them in fruit cakes or nibbled on them.

Tom @ 7:38 pm #

@Gill Lacey:
Hi Gill just made sloe gin today and the 2 lt jars held 1lb of sloes and 1lt of gin with 150 grms of castor sugar no problem, enough space at top of jar for shaking it all up.



Pat @ 8:59 am #

I have a damson tree in my garden so I am having a bash at this recipe. I used kilner jars and popped the fruit & sugar in 10 days ago, before going on leave.

I came home this morning to find a lovely gooey liquid on top of the sugar which I have now stirred up and will work for a day or so before adding the Gin.

It looks and tastes good


gillian dyson @ 10:32 pm #

Hi Vernon, just made my second demi john of damson gin/rum. Was surprised to find that some recipes have different amounts of sugar. If it makes it too sweet I will just have to put more alcohol in it.
merry christmas 2012.@

Annie @ 12:38 pm #

@janet bethel:
I used the damsons after straining to make Delia's Spiced Damson Chutney – it really had an extra kick. You can also make a really wicked Damson Crumble.

Have just bottled my damson gin and would like to know if and how I can use the gin soaked fruit in any way?

sue @ 3:05 pm #

I always use well washed out plastic milk bottles, the 2 litre ones so plenty of sloshing around room. ENJOY

June Buchan @ 5:24 pm #

Is it really too late to make some for Christmas? What would it be like after only a month? Any views welcome and thanks.

Lorraine @ 12:31 pm #

Do I need to sterilise new, shop bought bottles before I decant my damson/sloe gin into them? If so, do I need to let them cool down before I do this?

Carol @ 9:50 pm #

First time I've ever had a go at this, wow really good, a little too sweet for us though so I diluted it down with more Gin and left it one more week before I strained it, will be making more next year :)

Andy Mitchell @ 12:48 am #

Update on the batch I made in September using Dutch Gin, (jenver). It is fantastic! Proost, prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar.

Jen Smiles @ 12:44 am #

@Leone Evrenos: Hi Leone, where did you get your sloeberries, I have never seen them over here.

Cheers Jen

Jen Smiles @ 12:46 am #

@Sharon: Hi Sharon, have you tried bin inn for your demi johns.

cheers Jen

Heather March @ 4:03 am #

I have just been out tasting my damsons to see if they're ripe [I'm in New Zealand] and they are, so this recipe arrived in the nick of time. Thanks, and all the comments are very interesting. Cheers, Heather

sandie fletcher @ 12:17 am #

Ha..I've just been round at a friends picking Damsons..thought about jam..but thinking gin sounds much more fun! Thanks for the recipe..Sandie – also in New Zealand

Doreen @ 10:02 pm #

Use the Damsons to make a fruit pie our family love this.

Susi G @ 9:55 am #

Just been out to damson tree – fruit still a bit hard

Is it ok to pick for gin or should I wait????? 11/9/15

Robin @ 12:13 pm #

@Christine: I tend to destone them after I've bottled the damson gin wrap each individual damson in marzipan then dipped in dark chocolate (with a light dusting of icing sugar). Another thing you can do which I picked up from my sister in law is after decanting the gin leave the damsons in the bottle and fill it with a pale sherry and leave for several months (I've only just decanted mine so I can start my next lot of gin!)

Hannah @ 8:10 pm #

I really want to make damson gin for my wedding which will be in 2/3 years. Our tree is over flowing with damsons and wonder if I make it this year will it keep for 2-3 years?

Leave a Comment

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.