Umeshu is an alcoholic beverage in which Japanese plums are macerated(soaked) for a long time. It’s very common in Japan.
Umeshu, a Japanese plum Wine
The umeshu is an alcoholic drink made from Neutral Alcohol, shochu or sake in which Japanese plums, ume are soaked for a very long time. It is served in a glass, or with ice cubes, and is often diluted with water, or mixed with soda.
Umeshu is a popular drink and can be enjoyed as an aperitif, along with a dessert,or as a light digestive. It is very popular, especially with women, because its flavor is sweet and fruity.
The taste of the umeshu is refreshing and sweet
The alcohol content of umeshu is quite low, between 10% and 20%, which is why this alcohol is pleasant as an aperitif.
You can amaze your guests by combining umeshu wine with foie gras or other appetizer food. In addition, umeshu is a very fresh alcohol and very fruity tasting, so it will make an excellent base for cocktails too.
In Japan, it is a fruit liqueur that is normally used in the summer, because its flavor is refreshing and sweet. The production of umeshu traditionally starts in June and the plum fruits will be macerated for about 6 months to 1 year.
Before bottling, the plums are either removed, or left whole and sometimes transformed into purée, which will then be reintroduced into the liqueur, and this will make a liqueur called “nigori” which means “unfiltered”.
Many Japanese make their own umeshu at home. This allows you to choose the maceration time yourself, because the longer the maceration time, the more fruity the drink will, get. For a light taste, some will open their liqueur bottles only 3 months after bottling.
So, you could try to make one yourself also.
The higher the fruit content used and the longer the maceration the darker the alcohol gets at the end.
You will probably notice the different shades of alcohol you see in the grocery store. This does not mean that the dark umeshu are very strong. They’re just more fruity.
Diluted, dry or with ice, umeshu owes its success to its refreshing virtues. Despite its low 10 to 15° of alcohol, it remains indeed a very sweet and invigorating aperitif! Experts even claim that it is a healthy drink, because the citric acid and other beneficial compounds contained in umeshu and extracted into the liqueur would improve blood circulation.
Umeshu can easily be kept for 5 to 10 years, but should preferably be used right away while it’s still fresh after opening.
Note: It’s known that alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, so consume with moderation.
Where to find umeshu in Japan?
In wedtern countries and in US you can easily find them in Japanese restaurants or in Asian grocery stores. In Japan, summer is the best season to taste it in izakaya (Japanese bars), in Japanese restaurants, or in kawayuka terraces on stilts in Kyoto.
You will find umeshu at quite cheap price in asian supermarkets, but for a quality alcohol, you should prefer purchase thru internet that will allow you to order the best bottles imported from Japan. Otherwise, many Japanese restaurants offer umeshu in their drinks menu, so feel free to ask them for advice to enjoy the full flavor of the Japanese “plum wine”.
You can even visit the Asahara fruit liqueurs distillery in Okumusashi, Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. It is located near the mountains of Chichibu, where the climate and vegetation are perfect for harvesting fruit. They produce mainly unfiltered “nigori” fruit liqueurs.
You can then taste these umeshu in the famous Chawan Japanese bowls (best known in the west as used in ceremonial Matcha tea preparation) with so particular charm in a most relaxing setting.