Come September damsons will be ripe and ready. They make a delicious base for a vodka-based tipple. So here's a recipe.

While we are fans and we’ve written sloe gin recipes before, we’re also partial to damson vodka from time to time.

It’s a delicious, rich and sweet drink and if you make some in early September when damsons are ripe, it will be ready in time for Christmas. We’re sure you can think of a fellow shooter who’d welcome a bottle of homemade damson vodka during the festive season.

Damson vodka recipe

Damsons can be found in hedgerows in early September

How to pick and spot damsons

Damsons are often found in hedgerows – if you get there first – and they’re usually the descendents of domestic garden plums. The trick is to keep your eye out early, from mid-August onwards –  before somebody else spots a tree laden with the luscious purple fruits. And that can include pests such as wasps and birds, which are very partial to these delectable wild plums. Best to keep a bag handy in your pocket when you’re out walking so you can seize the opportunity and a stick by your side so you can pull down laden boughs. (Keep an eye out for sleepy wasps lurking on the fruit too.)

Making damson vodka is straightforward and you only need damsons, sugar and, of course, vodka. Oh, and a sterilised Kilner or other preserving jar; maybe a glass bottle with a wide mouth big enough for each fruit or other glass container with a lid (the dishwasher makes a good steriliser by the way). A good tight lid is particularly important.

Damson vodka recipe (makes 1.5 litres)

You will need: 

  • 1kg washed damsons
  • 500g sugar
  • 1 litre vodka
  • Clean muslin square
  • A sterilised Kilner jar, preserving jar or a glass container with a tight-fitting lid
  • Clean glass bottles with lids for the finished product
  • A large pouring bowl (like a batter jug)
  • Plastic funnel


Sit down comfortably at the kitchen table and prick each damson a few times with a needle (as you do if you’ve ever made sloe gin). It’s a good job to carry out while listening to the radio or when a friend is round for coffee because they can muck in and help.

Put each fruit into the sterilised glass container as you do this. When the whole lot is inside, add the sugar, pour in the vodka and put the lid on the container tightly.

Then tuck the container away in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight – like the back of a cupboard or the larder. Make a note to turn the jar upside down every week or so (this is why the lid needs to be on firmly) so that the fruit gets moved evenly about in the vodka solution and absorbs it thoroughly. Wait four months.

Four months later

(Although six months or longer is better if you can resist) you can bottle the damson vodka mixture up.

Take the clean muslin and large bowl and place the muslin over it. A batter jug bowl would be particularly handy here. Pour the liquid into the muslin, gathering up the sides of the fabric as you do so, to strain it.

Then pour the strained liquid into your bottles (this is where the plastic funnel will come into its own so none of the lovely damson vodka gets wasted).

Put the lid on the bottles and label. Store in a cool, dry place.

This makes a fabulous gift to your shoot host or as a Christmas present.