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Ume-shu: The Delightful Japanese Plum Wine

Hello, fellow sake enthusiasts! Today, we’re going to explore the world of Ume-shu, a delightful Japanese plum wine that’s as rich in history as it is in flavor. But before we dive in, let me take you back to my days as a sake advisor in a bustling restaurant in Carmel, CA.

Picture this: a quaint restaurant nestled in the heart of Carmel, known far and wide for its extensive sake and wine list. As the resident sake advisor, I was the go-to person for everything sake-related. From ordering the finest sakes to recommending the perfect bottle for a customer’s palate, my days were filled with the delightful hustle and bustle of the restaurant life. And among the many sakes I had the pleasure of serving, Ume-shu held a special place. But why, you ask? Well, let’s find out!

What is Ume-shu?

Ume-shu, often referred to as plum wine or plum liqueur in English, is a traditional Japanese liqueur made from ume plums, sugar, and alcohol, typically shochu or sake. Despite its common English name, Ume-shu is technically a liqueur and not a wine. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this delightful drink!

The history of Ume-shu dates back centuries, with its origins deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It’s not just a drink, but a symbol of Japanese tradition and craftsmanship. And the best part? You can make it at home! But more on that later.

How is Ume-shu Made?

Making Ume-shu involves steeping unripe ume plums in alcohol and sugar. The plums impart a unique flavor to the alcohol, resulting in a sweet, tangy, and slightly bitter liqueur that’s absolutely delightful.

Commercial Ume-shu is made by professionals who’ve mastered the art of Ume-shu production. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at making your own! In fact, making homemade Ume-shu is a popular pastime in Japan, with many families having their own secret recipes passed down through generations.

Different Varieties of Ume-shu

Just like sake, Ume-shu comes in a variety of flavors and styles. Some brands offer a sweeter Ume-shu, while others might have a more pronounced plum flavor. There’s an Ume-shu for every palate!

How to Enjoy Ume-shu

Ume-shu is incredibly versatile. You can enjoy it straight, on the rocks, or as part of a cocktail. It also pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods, making it a great addition to any meal. For some delicious Ume-shu cocktails, check out our sake cocktail recipes.

Health Benefits of Ume-shu

Apart from being delicious, Ume-shu also boasts several health benefits. The ume plums used in Ume-shu are rich in citric acid, which can help improve digestion and metabolism. However, remember to enjoy Ume-shu in moderation!

Making Ume-shu at Home

Are you ready to embark on a flavorful journey of making your own Ume-shu at home? Let’s dive right in!

Step-by-step guide to making homemade Ume-shu


  • 1 kg of unripe ume plums
  • 1 kg of rock sugar
  • 1.8 liters of white liquor or shochu


  1. Preparation: Begin by washing the ume plums thoroughly. Remove the stems using a toothpick or a skewer. Make sure to handle the plums gently to avoid bruising them.
  2. Sterilization: Sterilize a large glass jar by washing it with soap and rinsing it with boiling water. Let it dry completely.
  3. Layering: Place a layer of plums in the jar, followed by a layer of rock sugar. Repeat this process until all the plums and sugar are in the jar.
  4. Pouring the alcohol: Pour the white liquor or shochu into the jar, making sure all the plums are submerged.
  5. Sealing and storing: Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place.
  6. Waiting: Now comes the hardest part – waiting! Let the Ume-shu mature for at least six months. The longer you wait, the better the flavor.
  7. Enjoying: After six months (or more), your homemade Ume-shu is ready to enjoy! Strain the liqueur to remove the plums and pour it into a bottle for easier serving.

Tips and tricks for the best results

  1. Quality of ingredients: The quality of your ingredients will greatly affect the final product. Try to source fresh, high-quality ume plums and good-quality alcohol.
  2. Patience is key: Ume-shu gets better with age. While it’s tempting to taste your Ume-shu early, try to wait at least six months to allow the flavors to fully develop.
  3. Experiment: Feel free to experiment with different types of sugar or alcohol to create your own unique Ume-shu.
  4. Don’t waste the plums: After straining the Ume-shu, don’t throw away the plums! They’re full of flavor and can be used in cooking or even eaten as a boozy treat.

And there you have it – your very own homemade Ume-shu! Remember, the joy of making Ume-shu lies not just in the final product, but in the process itself. So, take your time, enjoy the process, and most importantly, savor every sip of your homemade Ume-shu. Cheers!

Frequently Asked Questions about Ume-shu

Is plum wine and plum liqueur the same?

Yes and no. While both are made from plums, plum wine is typically fermented from plum juice, while plum liqueur, like Ume-shu, is made by steeping plums in alcohol.

What does umeshu mean in Japanese?

Umeshu (梅酒) translates to “plum alcohol” in Japanese. “Ume” means plum, and “shu” is a general term for alcohol.

Is Japanese plum wine good for you?

Ume-shu, like other alcoholic beverages, should be consumed in moderation. However, it does contain ume plums, which are rich in antioxidants and known for their health benefits.

What is the alcohol content of Japanese plum wine?

The alcohol content of Ume-shu can vary, but it typically ranges from 10% to 15%.


Ume-shu is more than just a drink; it’s a celebration of Japanese tradition and craftsmanship. Whether you’re sipping on a glass of commercial Ume-shu or enjoying your homemade brew, every sip is a testament to the rich history of this delightful liqueur.

So, why not give Ume-shu a try? Whether you’re a seasoned sake enthusiast or a curious newcomer, Ume-shu is sure to delight your palate. And who knows? You might just find your new favorite drink!

Remember, the world of sake is vast and full of flavors waiting to be explored. So, keep exploring, keep tasting, and most importantly, keep enjoying sake!






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