What is Umeshu and Where Can You Get It?
Have you ever tried umeshu (梅酒)? Also known as plum wine, this is a sweet and refreshing drink often served on-the-rocks or mixed with soda water. Its fruity taste makes for easy sipping, and is one of my favorite summer beverages!
You can find umeshu pretty much everywhere: izakayas, bars, grocery stores, and convenis.
While it’s very easy to purchase, many people in Japan actually make their own! The ingredients and materials are super accessible and the process is surprisingly simple. (The hardest part is waiting!)
Umeshu season rolls around in the middle of May, and you’ll know it has arrived once you see large glass containers, packs of sugar, and bright green plums hit grocery stores.
Making umeshu is a fun (and foolproof?) project that yields a wonderful beverage that you can share with guests and friends throughout the year.
While the classic recipe calls for just plums, sugar, and alcohol, umeshu can be made in a wide variety of flavors. Cafe Relair in Fukuoka specializes in umeshu, and has over 25 different flavors to sample! Read more about Cafe Relair here.
Making Umeshu: Ingredients and Materials
The ingredients and materials needed to make umeshu are few and straightforward. The ratio I used is (1kg plums : 800g rock sugar : 1.8L liquor). Since the recipe is so simple and flexible, after mastering it, many brewers flex their creativity to experiment with new flavors and mixtures.
(It might be a good idea to take notes if you choose to experiment so you can remember your winning recipe for the next year!)
Ingredients (to make in a 4L jar) :
- Plums (1kg) – the plums you want to use are unripe, green, and hard. Prices can vary between ¥200-¥900. (Don’t eat these plums as you might get a stomach ache!)
- Rock Sugar (500-800g) – You can adjust the sweetness of your wine with the amount of sugar used. 500-650g (semi sweet), 650-800g (standard), 800+g if you are looking for something really sweet. I’ve heard of people using black rock sugar instead for a different taste.
- Alcohol (1.8L) – it is recommended to use a distilled spirit/ liquor that is clear, tasteless and neutral like shochu (焼酎). But again, there is a lot of room to experiment. I know of people who have made umeshu with whiskey, vodka, etc…. Most importantly, make sure the alcohol you choose is over 35% ABV so your wine doesn’t go bad. This carton was sold along with the other umeshu ingredients in the grocery store so I decided to use it for my first time.
- Large glass container (4L) – These come in a variety of sizes, but for the quantities above I used the 4L size. There is a screw on lid and a built-in pour spout.
- Toothpick – use to remove the stems from the plums.
Making Umeshu: Process
Thoroughly wash and dry the glass container and lid. (Some people mention using boiling water to disinfect, but this is not recommended since the glass can shatter if introduced to extreme temperatures.)
Instead, after air drying, dampen a clean towel with your choice of liquor, and wipe the inside of the jar.
Rinse the plums and dry
Use the toothpick to remove the stems. This is quite easy, they just pop off!
Fill your container with alternating layers of plums and sugar.
Pour in the alcohol.
Seal, date, and wait! It is recommended to wait at least 6 months, (1 year is better) before consuming. Store in a cool, dark place.
…after waiting, enjoy with friends and family! Umeshu is great by itself, on-the-rocks, mixed with soda, used in cocktails… your creativity is the only limitation 🙂
Umeshu Waiting Progress Photos
Here are a few photos since making my first batch! The sugar is slowing dissolving, the liquid is turning caramel brown, and the plums are getting wrinkly….they look like little brains ?.
Other Things You Can Make with Plums
If you are on an ume roll, you can also try making ume syrup or pickled plums (umeboshi, 梅干し)! I haven’t attempted these myself yet, but they are also common to make! Maybe next year ?.
After gathering all the materials and ingredients, it was fun and very straightforward to make the umeshu. I am eagerly waiting for mine to become ready, hopefully it turns out well!
Have you ever made umeshu? If so, I’d love to hear how you did it!
Are you a fan of Japanese food and cooking? If you are, check out these other blog posts for more!
- Umeshu ?? (Plum Wine) Cafe | Fukuoka – Cafe Relair, a place you can visit and try many types of umeshu!
- Shabu Shabu Hot Pot for One: Cooking with the Itaki Shabuki Pot – Trying out a cool hotpot gadget. It’s perfect for cooking in a small Japanese apartment!
- The Best Tonkatsu I’ve Eaten: Berkshire Kurobuta | Kumamoto – Delicious black pork tonkatsu in Kumamoto!
- Karato Seafood Market & Fugu: the Deadly Delicacy | Shimonoseki – A great day trip from Fukuoka, Karato Market has loads of unique and yummy seafood to try.