🌸🥃 Japanese Plum Wine or Liqueur / Umeshu offers delightful sweet and tangy flavors with the fruity fragrance of ume plums. Not only can you drink the wine, but you can also eat the plums, use them as a garnish or even part of desserts! Requiring only 3 ingredients, this drink is very easy to make. It's perfect for parties and as a homemade gift for your loved ones! 🌸🥃
What Is Japanese Plum Wine or Liqueur (Umeshu)?
Umeshu is a Japanese plum wine or liqueur made by steeping green ume (Japanese plums) in white liquor and rock sugar. When I first saw fresh, unripe ume plums in a store, it was 55 baht a kg which was not bad at all. I immediately thought about making this Japanese plum liquor because this drink had been popular among Thai people for quite some time.
I’d never really understood what the craze was all about until I finally opened my first bottle of CHOYA Umeshu. Since then I’ve been making the drink most times the plums are in season. Boy...when you miss a little, you miss a lot!
What Does Umeshu Taste Like?
While umeshu is generally referred to as Japanese plum wine in English, I wouldn't say it tastes like wine at all. It’s got a bit of tartness in it from the unripe plums, but overall it’s on the sweeter side of things. In my opinion, it's actually more like a liqueur than a wine. Although you can enjoy umeshu on its own with ice, it's also great with soda water and when used to as part of other drinks or cocktails. As much as this might shock the whole Japanese population, I sometimes enjoy mine with Sprite or Lipton lemon iced tea.
Call me weird all you want. 😁
Can You Eat The Plums In The Plum Wine?
Of course, you can! And by the time your drink is ready, the plums won't be sour anymore because they've been steeped in liquid with sugar for so long. They actually taste quite good and make for a great garnish as well. If you fancy, you can also use them to make jam or in desserts.
This recipe makes about 60 fluid ounces or 1.8 liters. What you will need are:
- 2.2 pounds or 1 kilogram of unripe Japanese ume plums
- 1.1 pounds or 500 grams of rock sugar
- 60 fluid ounces or 1.8 liters of shochu (not to be confused with the Korean soju!) or a white liquor like a flavorless vodka
Notes About The Alcoholic Beverage
When it comes to your choice of an alcoholic beverage, ideally, you want to use shochu (a Japanese distilled beverage). However, if you can’t find it, you can use a white liquor like flavorless vodka. I’ve tried making umeshu with vodka before and it was great. Though in the pictures in this post, I used a Thai rice whiskey (Lao Khao or เหล้าขาว) which, similar to shochu, is a rice distilled beverage. There are many brands of Thai rice whiskey but most of them are easy to find and inexpensive - SO MUCH cheaper than vodka. But whatever white liquor you choose to go with, make sure that it’s 35%-40% alcohol.
Where Can I Find Ume Plums?
I can probably only speak for Thailand since it's where I live. Here, ume is grown up in the mountains in the Northern part of the country where it's cooler. The plums are in season in March-April. You can normally find these Japanese green plums at the Royal Project stores. But if you're anything like me now, you make friends with some hill tribe people and order these Japanese green plums straight from their farm to your house! The season of this fruit seems to vary in different places, though. In Japan, it's said to be June-July, while in California, it's May-June. If you love or are interested in making Japanese plum wine, you'll need to see if you can find the plums and when their season is in your part of the world.
Why Use Rock Sugar?
Rock sugar takes longer than the normal granulated sugar to dissolve, which means it helps to slowly extract the flavors and fragrance of the plums. In a nutshell, it will give your drink a fruitier aroma and a stronger taste of the ume plums than other types of sugar. If you can't find this in your local store, you can get rock sugar on Amazon.
Making this Japanese plum wine is a piece of cake. You don’t need to have a lot of skills, just three ingredients, which are green ume plums, rock sugar, and shochu. Along with those you want to have a large glass jar with a lid that can be closed tightly. And more importantly, some patience…because you have to wait for at least 6 months for this drink to be ready. Good things take time!
So here's the method:
1. Rinse the plums and soak in clean water for 2 hours.
2. Thoroughly dry the plums with a towel and pick out the stems with a toothpick.
3. In a large glass jar, place a layer of the plums and cover them with a layer of rock sugar. Repeat the process with the remaining plums and sugar. You can use more than one jar, but make sure the sugar is half the weight of the plums in each jar.
4. Pour the liquor into the jar. You want the liquid to be a little bit above the plums.
5. Close the lid tightly and store the jar in a cool and dark place for at least 6 months. After 6 months, your umeshu is ready to drink!
Storing Opened Plum Wine
What's so good about this Japanese plum liqueur is that it doesn't really expire! Not only can you steep the plums for however longer than 6 months you want before you open it, but you can also keep the drink on your shelf and take as much time as you need to enjoy it. As we're using a beverage that is 40% ABV to soak the plums, this will help prevent them from rotting.
They also say the longer you steep the plums, the better the umeshu tastes. I've tried 2 years and it was AMAZING. If you make many batches at a time, it's easier to try soaking the plums for longer and see the difference in the taste. 🙂
Occasions This Drink Is Great For
You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but the Japanese plum wine is so great for parties! New Year’s, birthday, housewarming – you name it! It’s good for all. Since the ume season isn't that long, you can make large batches each time so it lasts you a while. And if you know anyone who likes this drink, you can also give it to them as a gift when it's ready. They’re going to LOVE the homemade version!
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy:
- Raspberry Lime Vodka Cocktail
- Butterfly Pea Milk
- Fresh Peach Lemonade
- Nom Yen (Thai Pink Milk)
- Mixed Berry Smoothie
- Cha Yen (Thai Iced Tea)
- Butterfly Pea Tea (Blue Tea)
Plum Wine or Liqueur (Umeshu) Recipe
- 2.2 pounds unripe Japanese ume plums
- 1.1 pounds rock sugar
- 60 fluid ounces shochu not to be confused with the Korean soju! or a white liquor like a flavorless vodka
- Rinse the plums and soak in clean water for 2 hours.
- Thoroughly dry the plums with a towel and pick out the stems with a toothpick.
- In a large glass jar, place a layer of the plums and cover them with a layer of rock sugar. Repeat the process with the remaining plums and sugar. You can use more than one jar, but make sure the sugar is half the weight of the plums in each jar.
- Pour the liquor into the jar. You want the liquid to be a little bit above the plums.
- Close the lid tightly and store the jar in a cool and dark place for at least 6 months. After 6 months, your umeshu is ready to drink!