Umeshu Variations Recipe

Umeshu Variations

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Basic Umeshu


  • 1kg Green Ume
  • 300g Rock Sugar
  • 2L White Spirit

黒糖梅酒 - Black Sugar Plum Wine


  • 1kg Green Ume
  • 150g Rock Sugar
  • 150g Black Sugar
  • 2L White Spirit

金橘と蜂蜜梅酒 - Cumquat and Honey Plum Wine


  • 1kg Ume Plums
  • 200g Honey
  • 150g Rock Sugar
  • 2L White Spirit
  • 500mL Cumquat Liqueur (from Chinese groceries)

How to make Umeshu Variations

The area under my kitchen bench is slowly filling with homemade pickles, jams and various other kitchen concoctions.  One of my favourites is Umeshu. 

Umeshu is often called "Plum Wine" in English, but in truth ume are not actually plums and the resulting liquor is more like an infused spirit (like a flavoured vodka or spiced rum) than a fermented wine.

Ume are a Japanese fruit more similar to an apricot than a plum.  It's two main uses are as a salted and dried condiment (umeboshi), or steeped in alcohol to make the popular umeshu. Around the umeshu bottling season, ume and the other ingredients are readily available all around Japan.  Unfortunately, I think those of you in other countries might struggle a little to find what you need. If you can get ume, make sure to use the unripe green fruit, not the yellow fruit which is more commonly used for umeboshi.

The basic method for umeshu is very simple.  You need the ingredients listed and a large glass container of around 5L in capacity.  Again, in Japan umeshu jars are readily available but if you can't find them a very large pickling jar would be fine.

The sugar should be rock sugar (or 'ice sugar' in Japan). It looks like solid white crystals the size of a coin.  Normal sugar will not do, although as you see in the variations you can add a number of different sweeteners together with the rock sugar.

The spirit used also varies greatly.  In Japan, people will use shochu or the commercial 'White Spirit' sold in liquor stores at around 35% alcohol by volume.  Brandy and vodka are also relatively popular.  I will definitely make this with rum one day (whether rum alone or blended with other spirits).

  1. Wash the ume and leave in a colander to air dry.  Do the same with your jar.
  2. Using a skewer, remove the stems from the ume.  These should come out quite easily.
  3. Layer the sugar and ume in the jar (there is no need to prick the ume, although some recipes do call for this) in alternating layers and then cover with the spirit until fully submerged.
  4. Leave in a cool, dark place for at least 3 months, but it is better after 6 or more.  You can swirl the container every week or so for the first few months if you like, but this is also not important.

It really is that simple.  I usually drunk this over ice or mixed with soda water for a very sweet and refreshing apertif or digestive.

I made the Cumquat and Honey version in 2007 and I am enjoying it immensely now, and the Black Sugar version last season in 2008.  The Black Sugar version took a little longer to mellow in flavour, but after about 12 months was aged nicely. 

This year I was unfortuantely out of the country for much of ume season so there is no 2009 vintage resting under my bench, but thankfully this infusion method works for all kinds fruits.  I am still on the lookout for what try for 2009.  The current front runners are strawberry and pepper, or lemon and red shiso, but I haven't quite decided yet. 

  • muttoneer
    muttoneer says

    So impressive. At a party last night, a friend of mine tried to eat one of the ume out of the bottom of the bottle. Based on her expression and the ume on the floor, I take it that's not recommended?

  • theory
    theory says

    Oh yeah, I should add that eating the ume is not recommended, although I do know a few people who like to nibble on it. Some recipes call for the ume to be removed after 12 months. It's not necessary and I don't usually do it, but it's not such a bad idea to bottle your umeshu after a year (discarding the ume) and free up your 5L container for a new batch for the coming year.

  • Woodchuck
    Woodchuck says

    I like ths sound of your Kumquat Umeshu. I usually make Umeshu (tho didnt mangage to get round to it this year). One variation that i enjoy is an Ume rum, made with dark rum. I will have to wait unitl next year to give ur recipe a try!

  • theory
    theory says

    A man after my own heart. I'm a huge fan of rum and would live to make a nice spiced rum with ume as a base.

  • allinclark
    allinclark says

    nice taste.....

  • saintisaac
    saintisaac says

    I made with regular sugar and it worked with any problem. And made already with rum (very good) and cachaça (Brazilian sugar-cane spirit, not so good -

  • NinaLaurence
    NinaLaurence says

    Sounds like an interesting thing to try. Has anyone ever made their own Kambucha?

  • jamescoley2
    jamescoley2 says

    Really very informative and interesting site.its really good teste

  • laryhanis
    laryhanis says

    Yaaaa,its a very nice article.

  • laryhanis
    laryhanis says

    I'm dying to try another version of my favorite Morcon? Anyone have any ideas?

  • jolie
    jolie says

    In response to NinaLaurence: My boyfriend used to make his own Kombucha all the time. He made it at work though so he could use a nice 12 or 22 quart cambro. You just need to obtain the culture for it, you can probably find it online. Then I think you add around 8% of a sugar/water syrup to your tea with the culture & wait a few months. That's it in a nut shell, but I'm sure you could figure it out.

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