Wild Damson Vodka

Wild Irish damsons, picked by the riverside

Wild damsons - ripe for the picking

When we bought the cottage we were lucky enough to acquire an old damson tree. The trunk and branches were mossy and gnarled and, come autumn, it turned out that the fruit wasn’t great either. I never quite got Nigel Slater’s ongoing obsession with it! Still, we got some batches of jam and one memorable bottle of Damson Gin out of that tree (very good with Tea Brack) before we had to move it to make a new entrance. It was too old for that kind of treatment.

Since then, I’ve had the best intentions of acquiring another damson tree to join the variety of cherry, plum, quince, hazelnut, eating, cooking and crab apple trees that we have planted behind the cottage. It just hasn’t quite happened yet.

This year, however, we made a Discovery. On one of our Sunday walks by the nearby river, just 10 minutes away, across a couple of fields, I discovered a small tree, heavily laden with those distinctive round, purple fruit. Last Sunday, a week ago, we went down there with a basket and came home with enough for this year’s jam, with a portion set aside for Damson Vodka.

It’s now sitting in the pantry, getting its daily shake to dissolve the sugar. Roll on Christmas 2012!

Damson Vodka
These damsons were very sweet and all but irresistible – Little Missy kept coming back to the basket for more – so I’ve kept the sugar:fruit:spirit ratio low. Like my Sloe Gin, I like to taste the actual fruit rather than it being too syrupy. When you strain and bottle it, have a taste and add a little more sugar if you feel that it is too sharp.

Damsons – 450g
Granulated sugar – 125g
Vodka – 75cl bottle

Wash the damsons, pick off all the stems and discard any bad fruit. Prick several times with a fork and place in a 1 litre Kilner jar that has been rinsed out with boiling water.

Add the sugar and vodka. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved.

Keep in a cool, dark place for at least three months before straining and bottling. It’s definitely worth letting this mature for at least 12 months as the flavour seems to improve with age.


Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Karen says:

    I’m seeing a lot of gorgeous fruit flavoured spirits and cocktails popping up – FIY (Forage It Yourself) I guess :). Hope you and bump are keeping well!

  2. Arlyta says:

    We have these “plum” trees which seem to grow like crazy here in the Northwest United States. Not sure what they call them, but they look almost exactly like the fruit you have pictured here – and they are absolutely delicious. I have a sack of them from the end of summer in the freezer (I couldn’t stand to see them go to waste!). Now they are going be reincarnated as infused vodka. Thanks for the idea and the recipe!

    • Caroline says:

      Glad to be able to give you some ideas! As well as using the damsons for vodka, I also froze a stash and made some fantastic damson jam a couple of weeks ago. Well worth a try as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *