Umeshu is a Japanese delicacy similar to Mochi, that has become insanely popular through social media in recent times, and we keep seeing cooking channels making authentic Umeshu from scrumptious looking fruits. But what is the best Umeshu in Japan?
Here are 7 best Umeshu in Japan that you must try:
- Choya Ume Blanc
- Takara Koshu Plum
- Gekkeikan Sake Plum Wine
- Fu-ki Plum Wine
- Kikkoman Plum Wine
- Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu
- Miyazaki Plum Wine
For starters, Umeshu is a Japanese plum wine, made from green plums which cannot be eaten in its raw form. They are sour and contain a little amount of toxin. Yet, they can be made into wine when soaked into white liquor. Surprising, right? Let’s know more about this amazing drink of Japan in the next sections.
Where Does Umeshu Come From?
In a nutshell, Umeshu is made from steeping Ume, or green plum fruits, in alcohol. The base alcohol can white liquor, but for the classic kind, shochu is used. The flavor of Umeshu is very different from traditional grape wines. You can drink it straight, on the rocks, or even mix it up with soda.
Umeshu comes from the very ancient history of Japan, where the references of the sweet wine go back to 1697. A culinary book called Honcho Shokkan refers to the wine in vivid detail.
The earliest references go back to the Edo period. Umeshu has shaped the food and beverage culture of Japan in many ways. It is drunk as an appetizer which helps with digestion.
People even make their version of Umeshu wine at home. We cannot promise they will meet your taste and standards just like the ones you find in the restaurants. But they will still have the vintage edge that has made homemade Umeshu all the rage.
Many supermarkets and stores also sell kits that you can use to make Umeshu at home. You can find these kits in the supermarket around June, which is the Ume harvesting time.
What Are The Benefits Of Umeshu?
There are many benefits of Umeshu. It has 15 times the citric acid than what can be found in garden variety lemons. The Ume fruits are also packed with essential minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Besides, they are a gold mine of antioxidants that will keep you in the best health for a very long time.
By drinking Umeshu regularly, you can boost up your nutrient requirements and stay healthy at the same time.
With a history as rich as this one, you must be excited to find out where you can try it out, or buy a bottle of your own. Read on to find out about the best restaurants to go for an authentic Umeshu dining experience and the best brands from Japan.
How Do You Drink Umeshu?
If you have bought a bottle already, and don’t know what to do with it, here are a few recipes you can try. The Umeshu differs from normal wines because they can be taken drunk at different temperatures.
You can drink them with ice, or use them at normal temperature. You can even warm them up if you want to drink it in the winter months.
- On the rocks
The wine is excellent with a couple of ice cubes in a wine glass.
To make Umeshu sour, mix it with shochu (preferably Ume flavored), and some soda water.
The wine pairs unconventionally well with tonic water. You can mix a third of wine in a portion of tonic water and enjoy your homemade cocktail.
Go half and half with soda water, and you have a chilled, relaxing drink.
This is a Japanese specialty that is enjoyed best in winter months. Mix warm water with Umeshu in the ratio of 1:1 and you have a handy, delicious drink to sip by the fireplace.
One of the more exotic cocktails is the Ochawari, where you can pair up wine and tea. Black or green, hot or cold, it does not matter. Make your delicious concoction by pairing up two of the best drinks of all time.
How Is Umeshu Made?
The process of Umeshu making is fascinating. It is made from tart green plums plucked right from the tree. You can get many other types of plums in any of the specialty stores, but the traditional Umeshu is made with Ume, hence the name.
You might not find the plums in convenience stores throughout the year. The harvesting season of the fruit is June, so start keeping an eye out from May.
Don’t try to eat the plums raw. They have a tiny amount of toxin that will give you stomach pain if you have eaten too many. That is if you can get past the bitter taste.
How does the weird-smelling taste of the fruit into something so delicious?
The raw plums are marinated and fermented in sugar and salt to dissolve the bitter taste. This extracts the rich Ume flavor of the plum out.
You can enhance the flavor of Ume by substituting white rock sugar or any type of candy instead of plain sugar. The rock sugar does not dissolve as easily as the plain sugar, which means it has a lot of time to soak through the smell and taste of the plum slowly for days or weeks.
You can get plums easily from any of the convenience store, or any of the e-commerce retailers if your local stores don’t carry the sugar. If you can find some, stock up on it because once you make Umeshu, you will want to try it again. And white rock sugar can be used like normal sugar in any other recipes to get a rich taste.
The next thing you need is a white liquor. This has to be neutral and white because the liquor will soak in the subtle flavor of the Umeshu. You can use shochu or vodka, whichever is convenient to find.
The alcohol needs to have at least 35% ABV. That sounds very high, but do not worry. The alcohol will be distilled and diluted with the sugar and plum mixture. This will also reduce the level of alcohol in the drink to a normal amount.
If you think shochu or vodka is not giving you the right results, you should try to find what is known as ‘white liquor’ in Japan. This is used widely in Umeshu making and will give you the best flavor of the plums. Shochu will also give you great results, as it has a very high alcohol percentage at 45%.
If you want to make your own Umeshu at home, this DIY recipe will help:
Best Umeshu in Japan
So, are you looking for the best Umeshu in Japan? Here, we have assimilated the best tasting bottles that you can find in big convenience or liquor stores. Shugar Market carries all of these varieties, so, you can head off to Shibuya station, Hachiko exit, and get a bottle you like.
If you don’t want to travel, you can go to one of the nearest liquor stores or wine stores, and you will be able to find any of these. Additionally, you can also order these Umeshu types online.
1. Choya Ume Blanc
This brand comes from the Chayo Company that focuses on the Ume flavor of the Umeshu. The company goes back to 1914 in the wine-making industry. Their first Umeshu wine was introduced in 1956. Being one of the reputed companies in the world of Umeshu wines, it specializes in wine made from completely natural ingredients.
As for the Umeshu, it has a very subtle and sweet taste of the wine with very little acidic taste. The drink is also sulfite-free and has extremely high-quality Ume.
The best way to drink Choya Ume Blanc is as a dessert wine with some ice, and completely chilled.
2. Takara Koshu Plum
The Takara group was founded near the end of Edo period in 1842. It became one of the biggest brands in Japan in the last half-century.
The brand provides a different spin on the traditional Umeshu with the addition of a subtle addition of almond and cherry. The wine is sweet but still has some of the tangy flavors of the Ume. This is delicious and fresh.
You can drink it without mixing anything because it tastes so unique. But if you like your wine chilled, you can pair it with some ice. The alcohol content of the drink is quite high at 12%, so keep that in mind when you start a bottle.
You can serve it straight on the rocks to have the best experience.
3. Gekkeikan Sake Plum Wine
Gekkeikan is symbolic of the word victory in the English dictionary, and the company Gekkeikan is one of the biggest makers of sake and plum wine. Their Umeshu is divine and is highly sought after in Japan.
The specialty of this wine is that it doesn’t use conventional green plum. The fruit is harvested when the palm has the sour taste but also has a hint of sweet. You can smell the plum in this wine vividly, but it also smells like white rice, which enhances the Ume flavor and gives you quite a ride.
It has 13% alcohol content and pairs very well with any kind of food. You can drink this during meals and use them to marinade veggies and meat for grilling and cooking.
4. Fu-ki Plum Wine
The wine is an offering from a well-known Japanese company, the Godo Sushei company ltd. They have been making Umeshu since 1924. The word Fu-ki literally translates to rich and noble, which describes the experience of the wine.
The recipe for this type of Umeshu has been a traditional secret in Japan for over 100 years. It is best paired with dinner and is considered a dessert white wine. The flavor of the Ume is rich and dark. The plums are picked early in the morning and processed the same day to keep their freshness and flavor.
Depending on the variety of the wine you are buying, you can get other flavors like sake, rice, or grape as well. You can drink it with pudding, or any kind of other dessert sweets.
5. Kikkoman Plum Wine
Kikkoman takes pride in making the full flavor plum wine which has been fermented in 100% plum juice. If you like your wine strong and sweet, the Umeshu has a fruity flavor with 12% alcohol content to give you the punch. You can use this wine to drink in the winter months with warm water or even drink it cool without diluting it too much. It looks like a much richer version of the rose and is a bright shade of red. The aftertaste is smooth and pleasant.
6. Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu
This Umeshu comes from Nakano, established in 1958, which is a little later than the other players in this list. But they have conquered the market with the authentic balance they have stricken between natural flavors.
The Umeshu is known for being combined with Yuzu. Yuzu has become popular in the social influencer market for being a special citrus fruit which is packed with nutritious benefits.
It is something like a lime and a mandarin and gives you the perfect combination of sweet and sour. The best way to drink this wine is by chilling it in the fridge before drinking it, so you don’t have to dilute it like on the rocks.
7. Miyazaki Plum Wine
Tamitsu co. ltd, the company behind Miyazaki plum wine, has a long history in winemaking and has specialized its Umeshu flavor with different variations.
The Umeshu gives the traditional Ume a kick with a wheaty taste. This is because the wine is brewed with wheat and takes the aroma and flavor of the rice grain. The fruity and sour lemon taste is best with your meal if you are eating meat or fish. The wine has all the good minerals and vitamins and antioxidants that come with the Japanese plum delicacy.
The alcohol content of the wine is also quite high at 12% and you can drink it down with ice. The drink should be consumed moderately and is known to improve heart health. A 4-ounce serving of the wine has around 160 calories. So, you should not overdo it even if you are drinking it occasionally, because that could lead to weight gain or any other kind of health issues.
Where Can You Get the Best Umeshu in Japan?
Shugar Market near Shibuya station – Umeshu and Fruit Liquors
If you visit the Hachiko exit, named after the famed, loyal dog Hachiko who waited for a decade for his dead master to return, you will find the Shugar market. This is a store that carries a lot of different varieties of local liquors that can be found in Japan. So, there is a very high chance you can get some shochu here.
Besides, there are also 100 different types of Umeshu and other different fruit liquors. You can get different mixers, chasers, and cocktail makers at this place too. So, whether you are making homemade Umeshu from scratch, or want a bottle of your own, you will find something to fit your taste.
Sai Shibuya Store – Choose Your Umeshu
If you are not satisfied with the offering in the Shugar market, you can take a walk for just 5 minutes to get to this store. This is a specialty store where you can find both shochu and Umeshu. This place serves food and has many Japanese dishes you can pair up with Umeshu.
The spare ribs are even stewed in Umeshu, which means you get Umeshu through food or beverage if you want. There are over 100 varieties of Umeshu to choose from at this store.
If you have trouble choosing between all the different brands, you can try the tasting set in the shop. They will give you 3 brands you have selected in tiny tasting glasses. It is priced at 1000 Yen which is a pretty great deal.
Address: 30-5, Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0042
Myojyo Shop – Drink All You Want Umeshu
The Myojo shop is located near Iidabashi station. This is not a wine shop, but a restaurant. However, don’t think that will limit your drinking experience. You can get 150 different types in this place, with other types of liquors too. You can get the signature shabu-shabu dish in this restaurant to pair up with your Umeshu.
But the best part of the Myojo experience for Umeshu lovers is their drink-all-you-can offer for 1500 Yen, and it lasts for a whole 100 minutes. In this time, you can have your fill of Umeshu drinks and decide which one suits your taste best, so you can buy your bottle later on.
Address: 2-27 Agebacho, Iidabashi
揚場町2-27 MIT飯田橋ビル3F, 東京都 〒162-0824
Tokyo Umeshu Bar MATERIAL – Vintage Craft Umeshu
Not only this bar has a staggering number of 100 varieties of Umeshu, but they also make their vintage craft wine. This is made with shochu as a base but combined with a lot of different ingredients like coffee, hot pepper or mint.
You might think these are some weird combinations to try out with plum wine, but trust us, you will give your taste buds a kick and have the time of your life. Additionally, there are different levels of spiciness of the wine that you can try if you are feeling adventurous.
You can get 3 kinds of Umeshu which will cost 1200 Yen. If you are not sure what Umeshu to try or select, you can speak to the wait staff and they will recommend something for you. Plus, you get really good food here.
Address: 2 Chome-9-10 Shibuya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan
Daichi no Okurimono Restaurant – 2-Hour Unlimited Umeshu Drinking
This restaurant is pretty close to Ueno station. You might not have heard of this place for Umeshu experience, primarily because they are a buffet restaurant. But they are really heavy on serving healthy food, so if you enjoy vegetarian food, you can get lots of veggie dishes.
When you enter the restaurant, you get a 2-hour timer. Within this time, you can consume all the food you want. But the best part is you can add the Umeshu to your buffet and you will get to drink all the Umeshu you want for 2 hours. This is not very expensive and can be added to the soft drink plan for only 500 Yen.
Address: 1-20-11 Ueno Suzunoya Honten Bldg. 4F, Ueno, Taito 110-0005 Tokyo Prefecture
Tetsugen Nikusho Restaurant – A Must-Have Umeshu Experience
This restaurant is a must go for meat lovers. Their specialty is exotic meat. If you are in a mood for adventure, try out the board, deer, or frog meat in the heart of Tokyo city.
While you are at it, their beverage selection is to die for. And you will find several sake and Umeshu wines, many kinds of fruit wines, and even several varieties of the traditional shochu drink. The beverages are also made with a signature touch with a hint of special spices like sesame, chestnut, and other ingredients. Break out from your boring old Umeshu tour, and taste the heritage of Japan in this restaurant with your friends and family.
Address: 1F La Collina Shibuya, 1-5-6 Shibuya-ky, Tokyo