Father's Day is June 16

I've been really excited to see the umeshu (Japanese plum infused in shochu) popping up on cocktail menus in non-Japanese restaurants. My most recent experience of having an umeshu cocktail in an unexpected place was at Al's Place in San Francisco. Their approach was very creative in that they had to come up with a cocktail menu with just a beer and wine license, so most of the cocktails incorporated vermouths, amaros and umeshu. I hope that more bars with a limited license will consider making low alcohol cocktails with umeshu.

When I asked the bartender what kind of umeshu they used, he said they make their own in the basement. I was curious because I also make my own. The bartender was kind enough to let me try theirs straight. It was sweeter than the one I make and they cut their umes in half. The one I tried at Al's place was from May of last year.

Here's the umeshu at Al's Place. Notice the umes cut in half.

I typically like to infuse mine for at least 3 years, and I make a new batch every year. Back in 2009, when I still lived in Japan, I wrote about how to make umeshu. Here's a shot of my jar from 2013, infused with Yokaichi rice shochu. It is till going strong (and getting better year after year). 

But you don't have to make your own to enjoy the recipe I am introducing today: the Umeshu Highball. You can find umeshu at most Japanese, Korean, or Chinese supermarkets. The most popular umeshu is made by Choya. You will recognize their umeshu because they come in an iconic cylindrical glass bottle with a wide, white plastic top. In addition to the umeshu, you will need sparkling water and ice. That's it! 

We made this recipe using a 1:3 ratio - that's 1 part umeshu (2 ounces) to 3 parts soda (approx. 6 ounces).

Umeshu Highball

2 oz umeshu
6 oz sparkling water

Highball glass
Umami Mart jigger


1. Measure out 2 oz of umeshu.

2. Pour into highball glass.

3. Add 4-5 ice cubes.

4. Fill the glass with 6 oz of sparkling water.

5. Garnish with an ume from the bottom of the umeshu bottle.

Umeshu Highball

So tart and refreshing! Kanpai.

Column: Japanify


  • I just bought a bottle of Choya umeshu and was looking for a recipe—I think I’ve found it! Thank you, can’t wait to try this!

    donna mikasa on

  • I love umeshu and I made some when I lived in Japan and I’d like to make some ??? shu with some different summer fruits. Do you have any suggestions on where I can can rock sugar?

    Elisa on

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