At first glance, you may mistake this sake for a natty orange wine with sediment, but swirl it around and you’ll see ume pulp clinging to the sides of the glass, and then notice an intoxicating bouquet of dried apricot and figs. The texture is thick and chewy, but it’s surprisingly not as sweet as you may think. The tartness of this umeshu is reminiscent of INNA Jam’s Quince Shrub – one of Yoko's favorite shrubs.
President Toshimitsu Saga says, “the plums soaked in sake are pulled out after three months, strained, and finally blended back into the sake-based umeshu.” A hearty profile allows you to pair this sake on-the-rocks with heavier dishes such as BBQ ribs and kung pao chicken. Or, as Saga suggests, “pour it over ice cream!”
Umeshu is composed of two words, ume (often referred to as Japanese plum, but it is arguably closer to an apricot) and shu (the Japanese word for alcohol). Umeshu is often translated as “plum wine,” which is a bit of a misnomer since it’s not fermented – it is a maceration of ume and sugar in alcohol. Although most commonly soaked in shochu, umeshu can also be made with sake, whisky, and vodka.
The first mention of umeshu was documented in 1695 in the Japanese culinary bible Honcho-shokkan. It’s unclear if the objective was to preserve the plums or end up with the liqueur that resulted from the process. Whatever the initial intention, it has evolved to become a drink that almost every household in Japan makes. Each family seems to have a different recipe consisting of three ingredients: ume, sugar, and alcohol, with varying techniques involving ume preparation (to remove the heta stem or not to?) and how long the umeshu infuses.
- Umeshu made with sake
- 10-11% ALC/VOL
- Distilled in Wakayama, Japan by Kokonoe Saika
- 24 fl oz (720ml)