If you’re wondering what Umeshu is…
Or if you’ve wondering why it’s called “Umeshu Plum wine”… and if it’s really wine or not…
With this Umeshu Guide, you will discover…
1. What is Umeshu?
Even though it’s known as Umeshu plum wine…
Umeshu is not actually wine.
But first, let’s first look at the word, Umeshu (梅酒).
Ume (梅) means plum and shu (酒) means alcohol/sake. Umeshu is a fruit liqueur made by soaking unripe plums (also known as aoume (青梅)) into a base liquor with crystal or rock sugar, and allowing it to mature. So, no wine-making going on here. Umeshu has a unique fruity aroma and acidity.
Umeshu is a liqueur representative of Japan, and has long been a popular remedy for the summer heat as it relieves fatigue. The alcohol content ranges around 8 to 15%.
Not only does Umeshu have a variety of flavors, but there are also a variety of ways to consume. Not to worry, we will touch on the various ways to enjoy Umeshu later in this article!
2. History of Umeshu
There is no written record as to when Ume (梅 / plum) became the now popular Umeshu liqueur. However, there is a description of how to make “plum wine” in a document called “Honcho Kagami”, a document written in the Edo period about 300 years ago.
Since sugar was thought to be a valuable commodity at the time, it is thought that only a limited number of people could enjoy this drink, rather than it being for the common people. However, since the revision of the Liquor Tax Law in 1962 – a law stating that the making of alcoholic beverages within the household was illegal – it has become common for ordinary households to make it.
Anyway, this “plum wine” is said to have been used as a medicinal herb that combines the effects of herbal medicine and alcohol back in the Edo period. In order to make this “plum wine”, the use of the plum fruit would be necessary. The plum fruit itself is said to have detoxifying and antibacterial effects, and thus once made into a drink, it has the ability to calm chronic coughs and regulate the gastrointestinal tract. There are added effects such as increasing appetite, promoting blood circulation, and general relaxing effects.
3. When & How It’s Served
When should you drink Umeshu plum wine?
There is no particular occasion or ceremony that Umeshu is served, and in fact it can be considered a daily drink.
In general, Umeshu is said to be very popular among young females, as it has a rather sweet and fruity flavor, which may be more accustomed to females’ liking.
The season for picking plums is usually in the month of June. As summer arrives, schools close, and everyone has a little more time to enjoy for themselves. With this bit of extra time, it would be nice to experience plum-picking and even making some Umeshu for your friends and family. If you happen to have some extra plums for Umeshu-making, how about you try out this simple recipe below!
By the way, you can get some non-alcohol choya umeshu on Amazon (click link).
4. How to Make Umeshu
So, if you want to learn how to make Umeshu plum wine yourself, check out this guide.
First, the ingredients for plum wine are:
- Aoume/ Unripe Plums: 1 kg
- Rock sugar: 700g – 1kg
- White liqueur or shochu: 1.8 liters
- Make sure you are using hard, unripe plums.
- The basic ratio is 1 kg of green plums : 1 kg of rock sugar : 1.8 liters of sake.
- If you would like to make adjustments such as reducing the sweetness, you can reduce the rock sugar to about 700 g.
Before washing the plums, prepare them by removing the black stems one by one. After removing all the stems, transfer the plums to a bowl to wash. Drain well, and gently dry them with a clean cloth to ensure there is no remaining moisture.
The sterilization of storage bottles is essential step for long-term storage. After having selected your storage bottles, wash the jars thoroughly,and sterilize them with hot/boiling water. Again, ensure the storage bottles are dried well.
Now you are ready for the assembly process. Place the plums and crystal sugar alternately in the previously prepared storage jar. Once you have filled your jars to your desired amount, pour your choice of white liquor or shochu.
Seal it (if you want to leave a note about the date it was made or the name of the shochu, etc.), and store it in a cool, dark place out of the sun.
Umeshu can be left to age for at least 3 months, after which it can be stored for years.
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to enjoy Umeshu. Let’s look at just a few!
Rokku / On the Rock
The go-to method if you are wanting to enjoy the original taste of Umeshu.
Enjoy the gradual change in taste that occurs as the ice melts.
How to make a delicious Rokku:
- Chill a rocks glass / whiskey glass.
- Place a large ice cube in the glass.
- Pour your desired amount of Umeshu over the ice cube.
Soda Wari allows you to enjoy more particularly the sweetness of the Umeshu, while enjoying the refreshing and frizzy feeling of a carbonated drink. It is usually a 1:1 ratio
- Pour your Umeshu into your glass.
- Gently pour in the soda.
- Stir slowly, 2-3 times, to ensure the carbonation does not escape.
Kurasshu Rokku / Crushed Rock
Very similar to the first ‘Rokku’ drink, but we will be using crushed ice for this method. Also, you may add more Umeshu for this method of consumption.
- Fill your glass of choice with finely crushed ice
- Slowly pour in your Umeshu.
- You may garnish your drink with mint leaves.
- Enjoy the refreshing taste!
Kōcha Wari / Tea split
Add your favorite tea such as black tea to the glass filled with plum wine.
You can enjoy it hot or iced. Recommended for those who want a refreshing taste of plum wine.
With Ice Cream
You can also enjoy vanilla ice cream with a small amount of plum wine.
Your usual Vanilla ice cream will be changed to even more yummy with the flavor of plum wine!
Now you know a bit about Umeshu… which is often wrongly referred to as Umeshu plum wine. And it’s not wine.
Have you had this drink?
Leave a comment!