Sloe gin has a lousy reputation. Red, sugary, and fruity, it is a hallmark of sweet, pink, “girlie” Spring Break drinks with lurid and lascivious names.

When I was in high school (this was some time back, you understand), it was one of the faddish amusements of the senior girls, at least some of the ones I hung around with. It has become, with time, something of a déclassé laughingstock, another of those bottom-shelf, sugared vodka spirits made with laboratory flavorings and dyes.

I assume there is “real” sloe gin in other parts of the world, but it has a long way to go if it wants to be respectable again in the US.

Fortunately, it has made a start in the form of Plymouth Sloe Gin. I have no idea what was on Plymouth’s corporate mind when they decided to bring their excellent sloe gin into this market, given the category’s overall lack of respectability.

Plymouth’s sloe gin is a different liqueur altogether. Made with real gin and real sloe, it has good, round herbal and fruit flavors—none of that flat, metallic laboratory flavoring. It is a very pleasant liqueur with only a modest sweetness—something you might actually drink—and it makes classic sloe cocktails interesting again.

And my favorite right now is the Savoy Tango:

The Savoy Tango Cocktail, photo © Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Savoy Tango Cocktail

The Savoy Tango was invented at the American Bar in Paris’s Savoy Hotel; it first appeared in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. It is about as easy to make as a cocktail can be—two ingredients in equal parts:

The Savoy Tango Cocktail

  • 1½ oz sloe gin (Plymouth Sloe Gin)
  • 1½ oz apple brandy (Calvados Coquerel VSOP)

Stir both ingredients with ice until cold; strain into chilled cocktail stem. No garnish.

I have heard that there is at least one other quality sloe gin in the US market, but Plymouth’s is the only one available in my region right now, and I can recommend it.

Plymouth Sloe Gin (detail), photo © 2013 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.The Calvados Coquerel VSOP brandy worked very nicely in Savoy Tango. I suspect that Laird’s apple brandy (not the applejack) also would make a flavorful, and not very expensive, Savoy Tango, and I look forward to trying that sometime.