By Jo Phillips

It’s the weekend! Maybe it’s time to switch up your G&T this weekend. What about a Japanese drink called Umeshu, a traditional fruit drink liqueur which is vegan-friendly, and made with all-natural ingredients? Enjoy it hot or cold, as an aperitif, a digestif or as part of a cocktail

One of Japan’s most popular alcoholic drinks is called Umeshu. The brand Choya was founded but the Kondo family in 1914 and first focused on viticulture.

After realising that the Japanese wine market could not compete with European wines the company decided to focus on beverages that could only be produced in Japan. It is now the 7th largest liqueur producer in the world.

In 1959 the company started production of umeshu which at that time was produced individually by each family. Today Choya is responsible for the development of umeshu into a commercially viable product. It is a brand with countrywide recognition, available across the whole of Japan and exported to over 60 countries worldwide.

So what exactly is this liqueur? Well it’s made in a very similar way to good old British Gin, using only the highest quality fruit. The combination of umeshu liquid, extracted from the ume fruit, sugar, and alcohol results in a light, fruity flavour, that is both sweet and tart with notes of almond.

As a cold drink it’s best to serve it chilled either straight, on the rocks or as a base for cocktails. Choya Umeshu as a hot drink is best enjoyed by adding boiling hot water to 60 ml Choya.

And so what is Ume fruit? Well, it made its way over to Japan from China and is often known as Japanse Plum, but actually is more of an apricot. The brilliant green fruits range in colour from green to yellowish-green and once they ripen, you’ll see a flush of peach colour. A note of warning never eat ume raw they are somewhat astringent, 

The fruit does actually taste delicious and also has a number of health benefits being rich in potassium, magnesium and fibre. The ume fruit has an acid content of 4-5%, much higher than that found in a plum.

As the ume fruit ripens, the level of citrus acid in the fruit overtakes that of organic acids. The flesh and skin from the ume fruit also contain the antioxidant polyphenol and this also increases as the fruit matures. In addition, the fruit contains multiple amino acids and other organic acids such as citric acid.

Umeshu is made from unripened Japanese ume fruit. Choya Umeshu uses traditional harvesting methods with the ume harvested during the summer months and carefully

The unripe ume plums are soaked in sugar and shochu (Japanese clear distilled spirit) which contains about 35 % alcohol. The plums are aged with their stone intact as this adds to the flavour which also comes from the skin and flesh.

Making umeshu takes at least six months before the final product is ready for consumption. Experts recommend ageing past nine months for optimal flavour and Choya Umeshu is aged for a minimum of twelve months. The final product will have moderate acidity and a faint aroma from the fruit. The sugar and ageing from the alcohol provide a pleasant sweetness sometimes compared to almonds or marzipan. 

Choya’s Umeshu comes in several flavours including

Choya Extra Years Aged Umeshu is a premium Umeshu made with the finest grade Nanko-ume fruit, harvested in the Wakayama region of Japan. This fruit liqueur is well-balanced, sweet and slightly viscous. so try it as an alternative Martini

The Classic Choya Martini 65 ml Choya Umeshu Extra Years | 10 ml dry vermouth | dash of fresh lemon juice

Choya Royal Honey Umeshu is Choya Umemshu Extra Years can be made with Royal Honey which imparts additional sweetness and a darker vanilla colour which is completely natural. It is perfectly enjoyed on the rocks or with soda to release the honey flavour.

Perfect Serve – Choya Royal Honey with Soda 1 part Choya Royal Honey | 2 parts soda

Or even

Choya Ume Salut Sparkling Wine is a crisp and refreshing blend of Italian wine blended with Choya’s exotic sparkling plum wine. A wonderful marriage of Japanese and Italian wines, best enjoyed chilled as an aperitif or with your favourite food.

Lastly, why not try the Choya Umeshu Miniature Tasting Pack 3x5cl

Choya is available at Masters of Malt and Amazon

If you enjoyed reading Choya why not read Racy and Relaxing here

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