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Hawthorn Brandy
Hawthorn Brandy - The Idea

I had been idly wondering whether haws would be a suitable fruit for this kind of treatment - they do share many common attributes with sloes - being bitter, tannic, but fruity.

I looked in a few of my wild food books and the idea seems confirmed - Roger Phillips book Wild Food describes the liqueur as 'excellent' - so I think it's worth a try.

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November 2008 - Lots of people have reported a severe shortage of sloes this year - I managed to find enough to make one batch of sloe gin, but many have not been so lucky.

So let's try an alternative liqueur - hawthorn brandy.


This is an experiment, so I'm not going to commit a full bottle of brandy - only about 300ml or so, measured out into a small bottle (that I'll save for the finished product). To this, I'm adding about three tablespoons of soft brown sugar, a few handfuls of my frozen Rome and Cockspur haws, plus a good bunch of very ripe common haws

ingredients for hawthorn brandy
making hawthorn brandy

I washed the fresh haws and dropped them into a large bottle along with the sugar and the frozen fruits (you always need a larger bottle than the one the liquor came in - because of the added volume of fruit).

The brandy was poured in and the whole lot was gently swilled around to dissolve the sugar.

making hawthorn brandy

Weird. A couple of days later and the larger haws have turned from red to yellow - the colour has either been leached out into the spirit, or chemically altered somehow.

One thing I did realise - I haven't pricked the fruit like I would have done for sloes - I'll have to improvise with something long and pointy, I think.

making hawthorn brandy

Late December 2008 - the haws have been steeping in the liquor for about two months now - time to take them out.

I strained the liquor into the bottle, there was more liquid than I started with - presumably a combination of juice from the fruits, plus the volume of the added sugar. It's cloudy at the moment so I will leave it to settle before finally decanting just the clear liqueur.

That's It For Now

I'll update the page again when it's completely finished - I did taste a little at this stage though - and it's quite incredible! - the liqueur has an intense, fresh apple/marzipan flavour, with other fruity notes that are difficult to adequately describe - a bit like ripe banana, but different...

Update - February 2010

The bottle lurked forgotten at the back of my cupboard for a year and a half - during which time the mealy sediment has settled out of suspension, leaving a brilliant rich amber liqueur.

The flavour has mellowed to a velvety-smooth, yet complex and fruity, warm sweetness. Maybe I should have made more.

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