Sue Telford: The kitchen gin-ventor

Sue Telford

Sue Telford - Credit: Archant

Sue Telford has taken her passion for the nation’s current favourite spirit to another level


Sloejito - Credit: Archant

Sue Telford knows a thing or two about gin. It's fair to say that she genuinely loves it.

"I'm not a lush though!" she exclaims in the neat kitchen of her Acle home. "I have just always drunk gin, even when I was going out in the 90s with friends and they were drinking violently-coloured alcopops."

Then, Sue happily enjoyed the standards of the gin world, like Gordon's, Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater but a decade ago the gin world exploded when craft distiller Sipsmith took on the big guns and the law was changed, allowing small players to acquire the base spirits and equipment needed to join the party on a micro scale.

And so Sue decided to join in as well - not as a commercial player, but just for the fun of it. She bought herself a small still, some botanicals and started experimenting in the kitchen.

Finding a recipe that she liked wasn't an overnight affair. "It took me 30 goes to get a recipe that I was happy with, a gin that I could give to people and not feel embarrassed about," she says.

Her top creation includes 12 botanicals, one of which is frankincense, from the Sudan. "It's very perfumed; my gin is quite feminine. I do like floral gins, slightly perfumed, as well as the more gutsy ones."

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Through experimentation and acquisition she has around 50 gins, of which a dozen are favourites and fit for any mood.

Despite the phenomenal rise in popularity of craft gins Sue thinks people are actually drinking less and enjoying more. "We should be drinking smarter and appreciate the flavour in that glass at that moment. I never get drunk and stay well below my unit limit every week because I simply do it for the flavour."

Sue's passion has led her to create her own gin lovers' website, where she blogs about gin, reviews gin and creates gin cocktails. The cocktails are beautifully photographed by Sue, not in a well-lit studio but in her partner's draughty old garage, using a home-made lighting rig and cardboard reflector lined with tinfoil and painted plywood.

She has also written books on it and her latest, How to Drink Gin, has just been published. And the single mum has done all this while working full-time in social services - and surviving breast cancer and life-threatening sepsis.

She discovered she had the disease three days before Christmas 2014. "I pretty much wrote off 2015," she says. "It was a year of treatment and recovery." Despite that, Sue has a totally positive outlook on life.

"I'm lucky to be alive and I know that. People think 'what the heck is a middle-aged woman doing creating cocktails and distilling gin?' and I just think well, why shouldn't I?"

The Sloejito

One of Sue's favourite cocktail recipes is the sloejito, an obvious winter winner but, says Sue, "refreshingly good at any time of the year and a fabulous sundowner."

Glass: Highball or Collins


45 ml/1.5 oz homemade

sloe gin

30 ml/1 oz freshly squeezed

lime juice

1 bar spoon demerara sugar

(you can leave this out if your homemade sloe gin is particularly sweet)

6 mint leaves

Soda water


- Muddle the mint with the sugar and lime juice in a shaker.

- Add the sloe gin and some ice.

- Shake vigorously until cold beads of condensation form on the outside of the shaker.

- Fine strain to catch any bits of mint into a highball filled with crushed ice.

- Top with soda water.

Garnish: Mint and a paper straw

You can find more of Sue's recipes, her blog and details of how to buy her books at

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