Recipe: Homemade damson vodka

2013 has been a bumper year for damsons.

A hot summer, with just enough rain to swell the fruit is best for damsons and results in branches that are groaning under the weight of all that fruit

And while you can of course make damson jam, damson cheese, damson chutney and damson sauce, there is nothing quite like damson vodka.

Decanted into decorative bottles this rich, syrupy liquor makes a perfect Christmas gift – and if you hurry, you might just be in time for this year’s festivities. Give this a go, and we’re sure that your friends and family will be glad you did!

If you already have your damson harvest, great – if not, hopefully you will find some still on the trees. Failing that, try your local orchard or farm shop! So grab a bag and get picking.

And if you have room in the freezer, even better – freezing them will split the skins and add to the end result.

Strangely sweet and sour at the same time, the level of sugar required to match these oval fruits will depend on your particular batch, so make sure you taste a few as you go to ‘gage’ (haha!) their sweetness.

Bottoms up!

You will need

  • 1 clean, sterilised glass 1 gallon (4.5 litre) demijohn with cork (plastic or cork is fine)
  • 2 to 2.5kg damsons, washed
  • 400g granulated sugar (you can always add more later)
  • 3 x 75cl bottles vodka (we used Vladivar)


  1. If using fresh damsons, prick them with a skewer as you fill up your demijohn. If you have frozen them you don’t need to worry about this step.
  2. Fill your demijohn to just over half full of damsons (you can freeze any leftovers until next year or make another batch).
  3. Pour in the sugar.
  4. Top with the vodka.
  5. Now seal and store in a cool dark place, tipping up on its head every day for a week to disturb it until the sugar has dissolved.
  6. After one month taste a drop to see whether you think you need to add more sugar. Add more if required and disturb each day until dissolved again.
  7. This can be strained and bottled after 2–3 months to give as Christmas presents, but if you can resist it will be worth the wait if you save it until next year!

Some more ideas

  • You can also make this with gin, but we think the clean flavour of vodka allows the damsons to really shine.
  • It really is worth buying good vodka that you wouldn’t mind drinking with tonic.
  • Try adding sherry to the fruit once you have strained the vodka – but do leave for a couple of months to develop.
  • You can buy nice decorative bottles at most kitchen shops, or keep interesting bottles and reuse them (sterilised, of course). Finish off with some pretty ribbon around the neck for the perfect Christmas gift!

PS – ‘foodie hampers’ proved to be fantastic presents for friends and family last year, which included a bottle of this damson vodka, as well as some nice cheese, homemade chutney (great way to use up apples or leftover damsons) and some homemade biscuits.

Needless to say, they were very happy!

As ever, if you give any recipe a go, please do write back and tell us all about it.

By Ashridge Support

Ashridge Nurseries has been in the business of delivering plants since 1949.


  1. Alison Brown says:

    I’ve made fruit liqueurs this year from cherries, damsons, blackberries and raspberries, all delicious but the best in my opinion is the raspberry one. No need to make huge quantities—I find an excellent container to use is an Innocent fruit juice bottle, not so large as to cost a fortune in vodka and wide mouthed to put fruit and sugar in easily.Just fill up loosely with fruit and sugar to taste, fill to cover with vodka,screw on the top and invert every day until the sugar dissolves, It is usable quite soon, when the liquid is a good red colour and the raspberries are delicious with ice-cream or yoghurt.

  2. Dr Vijaya Joshi says:

    Just put pitted damsons in jar with coconut sugar and premium vodka – now wait for Christmas to get HIGH. I think I put more sugar but will see what
    happens- it is my first try

  3. Persephone Lewin says:

    Be grateful to hear whether you would use fresh damson and prick them or frozen ones which it is said don’t have to be pricked.
    Kind regards,

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Dear Persephone,
      According to our amateur chef friend, it shouldn’t make a noticeable difference. I think the best thing to do in this situation is try both, and get someone to set up a blind taste test for you. We use fresh ones because our freezer space is usually at a premium!
      Best regards,

  4. Ann says:

    What would be the alcohol % of 6 yrs old homemade damson vodka please …

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Hi Ann,

      The tool home brewers use to measure the % of alcohol is called a hydrometer, you can buy a serviceable one for under £40.

      Or give me a couple of swigs, and I’ll tell you anything you want to hear!

Leave a comment

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

Back to top