Sloe snaps


Two glasses of sloe snaps together with bottles being made
The snaps bottles shown are one day, one week and one year old.

Slånbärssnaps (sloe snaps) is a popular type of snaps that Swedes like to make at home in the autumn, so that it is ready for Christmas. Indeed, such is the popularity of homemade slånbärssnaps that it is seldom sold in the Systembolaget (the state run off-licence).

Ripe sloes on a tree in later October

Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, one of the very first bushes to flower in the spring. They are a cousin of the cherry and they taste rather like damsons, to which they are also related. They are extremely tart when they first ripen in October, but winter frosts mellow their taste to give them a rich almondy sourness. Traditionally therefore, sloes were not picked until after the first heavy frost of the autumn. However, most people now pick them at the end of October and pop them into a freezer for a couple of days instead.

Slånbärssnaps is a beautiful deep red colour. It has a rich fruity flavour with hints of cherry, vanilla and almond. It makes a wonderful aperitif.

Unlike many other snaps flavourings, the sloes can be left in the bottle and in time the almond flavour from the stones will penetrate the drink and make it even better, but most people drink it before that happens.

A bottle of brännvin

In Sweden slånbärssnaps is usually made using unflavoured brännvin, which is rather like vodka but with a slightly lower alcohol level. Outside of Scandinavia brännvin is hard to buy, so I recommend using vodka instead. John Duxbury


Recipe summary sloe snaps


• Make sure the sloes are ripe. They should give slightly if squeezed.
• Make the snaps in a bottle or jar with a wide neck or the sloes will get stuck in the bottle.
• Serve slånbärssnaps at room temperature and remember to keep your bottle tightly closed and in a dark place before and between servings.


½ bottle ripe sloes
2 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
1 bottle unflavoured vokda or brännvin


1. Pick over the sloes and remove all stems. (If they need rinsing, leave them to dry in the shade on paper towels.)

2. Freeze them for at least two days.

3. Add the sugar to a sterilised glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid and then half fill with frozen sloes.

Sloe snaps in a jar after three days

On the left above, a jar of sloe snaps after three days and, in the centre, the final glass of last year's sloe snaps!

4. Fill up the bottle or jar with clear, unflavoured vodka or brännvin.

5. Lay the bottle on its side in a dark place at room temperature, turning it through 180°C every couple of days for at least 4 weeks, preferably 8 weeks. (You can shake the bottles every two days if you prefer.)

6. Have a taste and look at the bottle to decide on what to do next. There are three possibilities:

A bottle of sloe snaps after maturing for 12 months

a) It may be perfect as it is, in which you can leave it with the sloes in the bottle for the flavours to mature. (I like to keep them in the bottle for 12 months as shown above for a really deep ruby colour and a rich flavour.)
b) If it is cloudy or has sediment then filter it through muslin or coffee filter papers into a new sterilised bottle. (It may need filtering more than once.)
c) It may need sweetening, in which case heat equal quantities of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Leave the sugar solution to cool and then add it a teaspoon at a time to the slånbärssnaps until it is sweet enough.

7. Store in the dark at room temperature until required.


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