When the blossom casts its beautiful cape across Japan, everyone feels that spring has truly arrived. What better way to celebrate than with a glass of Umeshu, a refreshing drink made of ume fruit that has been steeped in alcohol and sugar.
The ume fruit arrived in Japan some 1000 years ago from China and are beloved for their beautiful pink blossoms. Whilst a close relative of the plum, it comes from the Prunus Mume tree, also akin to apricot. Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made by steeping ume fruits in alcohol.
Originally, when alcohol laws were a lot stricter in Japan, it was consumed as a medicine to relieve sore throats. However, when the laws relaxed, people started to make their own umeshu at home. Its sweet and sour taste, combined with its floral hints and relatively low alcohol content made it a popular drink, both on its own and as a mixer.
As it’s quite syrupy in texture, it’s best diluted. It can be served ‘on the rocks’ over ice, with water, as a topping for ice cream, with soda, in tea or as a cocktail ingredient. There are numerous different brands and producers are now coming up with different blends to increase the market, including sparkling umeshu.
So why not track a bottle down – it’s a great alterative to sake when serving Japanese food and something a little different for people to try.