Umeshu, or Japanese plum wine, is a sweet liquor made from fermented plums, sugar and grain alcohol. While there are a few cocktails that can be created with plum wine, the beverage shines brightest when simplified. Here are our favorite ways to enjoy this summer sipper.
On the Rocks
One of the many ways to order umeshu is simply on the rocks or 梅酒ロック(umeshu rokku). An umeshu on the rocks is umeshu in its simplest form, a glass filled with ice and a long pour of plum wine. This izakaya staple is best drunk with a higher quality plum wine such as a Yamazaki, Choya black or any of the Choya aged bottles.
Umeshu soda or 梅酒ソーダ割り(umeshu so-da wari), is a combination of – you guessed it – soda and umeshu. This carbonated beverage makes a perfect beer alternative for those with a bit of a sweet tooth. The vibrance of the soda mixed with the sweet tartness of umeshu creates a refreshing well-rounded drink for anyone looking to cool off during those hot summer months. Unlike umeshu on the rocks, any umeshu works well when mixed with soda, making this drink kinder on the wallet.
Umeshu with Water
Umeshu with water, 梅酒水割り(umeshu mizu wari) might sound like a watered-down combination, but the paring of sweet umeshu with ice water is the ultimate break from the summer heat. For those of you who aren’t fans of carbonated drinks, this simple mix of umeshu and ice water will quench your thirst and your umeshu cravings. A winner for any summer heatwave.
For those of you who have already sampled the three basic forms of umeshu and, most likely, have chosen on the rocks as your favorite, I present to you one more style of umeshu forgotten by most: 梅酒お湯割 (umeshu oyuwari). Umeshu and hot water is a staple for any cold winter night, and a perfect substitute for those who find warm sake to be a little too much. Warm umeshu is almost akin to drinking a soothing plum tea and, although deliciously smooth, this warm cup of joy still packs the same punch as an umeshu on the rocks – so be warned.
A favorite of any izakaya regular, the slightly sharp plum wine goes down a treat in any form at any time of the year. However, for those who really want to impress their barman, here are a few umeshu alternatives one can order next time they visit their local izakaya.
In flavor, 杏酒 (anzushu) is the closest on this list to umeshu. Made from apricots, the liquor is more well-rounded than umeshu and can be drunk on the rocks, with water or soda. The differences in anzushu and umeshu all lie in the sweetness of the two. While umeshu can have a sharp finish when drunk on the rocks or with soda, anzushu is much sweeter and shines brightest when mixed with soda.
The smooth sharp taste of plum wine can be a little too much for some, thus the sweeter, more rounded taste of 桃酒 (momoshu) may be more to your liking. Momoshu is a sweet peach liquor smoother than both plum and apricot wine. Although thicker than the alternatives, peach wine is delicious when diluted with soda or, for lovers of peach, poured straight over ice. While momoshu is a little thicker and sweeter than anzushu or umeshu it has less of an alcoholic taste and is closer to pure peach juice in its flavor – the perfect drink for peach lovers everywhere.
Those who lack a substantial sweet tooth may find the taste of peach, apricot or even plum wine to be a little overwhelming and thus the sharp citrus twang of 柚酒 (yuzushu) may be exactly the break you need. Yuzushu is a fruit wine made from the Japanese citrus fruit, yuzu. The mysterious fruit has a strange flavor somewhere between a lemon and an orange but has been a staple fruit in Japan for generations. Famous in Kochi where tons of the fruit are grown each year, this secret izakaya drink is worth its weight in gold, so if you’re feeling adventurous why not try this Kochi staple on your next visit to your local izakaya.