Japanese umeshu (梅酒, pronounced u-may-shu) is a delicious, aromatic, wonderful alcohol drink from Japan that you have to try. It’s hands-down my favorite drink from Japan. Umeshu is often mischaracterized as “Japanese plum wine”, but is closer to a fruit cordial or fruit liqueur. It’s made from allowing green unripe Japanese ume plums and rock sugar steep in a clear distilled alcohol called shochu (焼酎) for several months. Shochu itself is an incredibly popular drink in Japan (and South Korea), which the Japanese drink WAY more than the traditional sake (pronounced sa-keh, not sa-ki).
Umeshu is typically 15%-20% alcohol and can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or mixed with carbonated water.
It is a common tradition for Japanese people to make their own umeshu during the summer and I did the same. I was thrilled when I was able to make it this past summer in the United States as well. I’ll explain how and tell you where to look for ingredients and what substitutes can work.
For those who have never tried it or don’t want to make it, Choya and other brands of umeshu (pictured to the right), can be found at good and larger alcohol retailers in the U.S. Especially look for alcohol retailers in areas with a high Asian populations. The picture to the right is a 750ml bottle of Choya that I used to buy at the local grocery store in Japan for 900 yen. It’s more than double that ($20) here in the U.S.