The Beginner’s Guide to Umeshu

Often mistakenly called plum wine in the West, umeshu is actually made from ume, which enjoys an important role in both Japanese and Chinese culture and cuisine and is even believed to have medicinal qualities. Ume, otherwise known as Japanese apricots of Japanese plums, are in the same family as the plums commonly consumed in the West, but unlike their distant cousins, they are extremely sour and cannot be consumed raw. Like the importance of the more famous cherry blossoms in Japanese culture, plum blossoms mark an important event in the Japanese calendar and their blossoming in February and March heralds in the start of spring. Ume is prepared in various ways to make it edible; it can be made into a jam, turned to vinegar to make umezu, dried out to make umeboshi, or steeped in sake or shochu to create umeshu.

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What Is Umeshu?

Umeshu can be enjoyed in a range of different ways, and due to its sweetly unique and complex flavor, it’s also used in cocktails. Examples include umeshu sours (mixed with ume flavor shochu and soda water), umeshu tonic, (mixed with tonic water) and umeshu soda (mixed with carbonated water). While umeshu can be enjoyed neat, some may find the taste a little too tart. In that case, it can be served on the rocks. Like sake, it can be served at different temperatures: chilled, on the rocks, room temperature, and even hot during the winter. It is also sometimes mixed with green tea or warm water, like shochu, for a more warming experience. If you want to experiment with umeshu, take a look at these recipe suggestions below:

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How to Enjoy Umeshu

Umeshu can be enjoyed in a range of different ways, and due to its sweetly unique and complex flavor, it’s also used in cocktails. Examples include umeshu sours (mixed with ume flavor shochu and soda water), umeshu tonic, (mixed with tonic water) and umeshu soda (mixed with carbonated water). While umeshu can be enjoyed neat, some may find the taste a little too tart. In that case, it can be served on the rocks. Like sake, it can be served at different temperatures: chilled, on the rocks, room temperature, and even hot during the winter. It is also sometimes mixed with green tea or warm water, like shochu, for a more warming experience. If you want to experiment with umeshu, take a look at these recipe suggestions below:

  • Umeshu On the Rocks: Put a large ice cube in a glass and pour over the umeshu.
  • Umeshu Sour: Mix the umeshu with ume-flavor shochu and soda water.
  • Umeshu Tonic: Mix one part umeshu with three parts tonic water.
  • Umeshu Soda: Mix one part umsehu with one part carbonated water.
  • Umeshu Oyuwari: Mix one part umeshu with one part warm water.
  • Umeshu Ochawari: Mixed one part umeshu with one part hot or cold black or green tea.

If you’ve not tried umeshu before, you can’t go wrong with the Hakutsuru umeshu or the Choya kokutou umeshu. If you wanted an umeshu that contained ume, another Choya umeshu includes whole fruits. For those looking for something a little different, then the cloudy Ozeki nigori umeshu and the Nakano honey and green tea umeshu come highly recommended. Be sure to explore the wide range of umeshu available on Ippin.