How to Make Umeshu!

by Danielle Markewicz

Making Umeshu 014Unlike some western countries, making your own homemade liquor is not only legal in Japan, but very easy and inexpensive! Once the initial pre-work has been finished, it only requires a little patience before you have your very own delicious drink!

Umeshu (梅酒) is usually translated as plum liqueur or plum wine, and is a sweet drink that even appeals to those who don’t normally like the taste of alcohol. It can be drunk straight, on the rocks, or mixed with soda or tea.


The basic ingredients of umeshu are green plums, white liqueur, and rock sugar. The green plums are seasonal, and are usually available in supermarkets from June to August. While seasonal, it’s easy to find the ingredients as they tend to be advertised together in the store. Look for a sign saying osake koonaa (お酒コーナー) or something similar.

Mmm, delicious ume.

Mmm, delicious ume.

Most stores keep all of your ingredients in one convenient location.

Most stores keep all of your ingredients in one convenient location.

I’ve taken the ingredients and instructions directly from the recipe provided with the jar and translated to English. Most of the ingredients come with the recipe on the label, and vary slightly from brand to brand. The exact amount isn’t important so long as the ratio is fairly accurate. Here is an easy chart to start you off:

Ingredient Ratios

Jar SizeGreen PlumWhite LiqueurRock Sugar
8 litre2 kg3,600 ml1,000 g
5 litre1.25 kg2,300 ml600 g
4 litre1.2kg2,000 ml550g
3 litre1 kg1,800 ml500g

 Here are the eight easy steps to making umeshu:

Umeshu in 8 Easy Steps

Carefully wipe down the jar and lids using either warm water or some of the white liqueur.
Remove the stem of the plums using a wooden skewer or fork.
Wash the plums in water. Dry the plums.
Layer the plums and rock sugar in the jar.
Add the white liqueur. It should cover all the plums and sugar.
Secure the lid and place the jar in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight. I use one of my closets.
After two days or so, softly agitate the settled rock sugar and plums by rocking the jar back and forth for a minute. Do this once a week for a few weeks to make sure the ingredients are properly mixed.
After three to six months, the umeshu will be ready to drink! Use a ladle to serve. You can leave the plums inside the jar for up to a year, but you can also remove and eat them, though the taste is not to everyone’s liking. The liqueur lasts for a long time, and you might find the taste changes after a year or two. Enjoy!

In addition to umeshu, it’s easy to make other fruit liqueurs! Here are some other common recipes. These fruits are naturally sweet enough that usually additional rock sugar is not needed. Please look up individual instructions as needed.

(Note: these are intended for use in a four litre jar, so adjust ingredient ratios as needed.)

 FruitPeelWhite LiqueurPreparation TimeSeason
Strawberry900 gn/a2,100 ml2 monthsMarch-May
Apple1,000 gn/a1,800 ml1 monthSeptember-November
Orange1,050 g150 g1,800 ml1 monthDecember-February
Lemon1,350 g150 g1,500 ml1 monthAll seasons
Apricot1,000 gn/a2,600 ml1 monthJune-August
This entry was posted in Lifestyle, Culture, Food, Japan and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.