30 June 2023

Taste the Essence of Summer: Making Umeshu (Plum Wine) and Plum Syrup

In Japan, there are some "Ume" (Japanese plum) drinks that are made during the rainy season. It is considered a summer tradition to drink them when they are ready.

What kind of impression do you have? Sour? Not very familiar?

Ume juice provides a refreshing sensation when consumed as the weather gets hotter, and surprisingly, it is quite simple to make. It can be easily made into an alcoholic beverage, so both adults and children can enjoy it.


Minako Yamada

Writer and Editor
Owner of a cultural space in Tokyo with the theme of "Literature, Vintage Clothing, and Café." She has a strong interest in primitive art, contemporary art, philosophy, cultural anthropology, and discourse studies.


  • My Childhood Memories
  • Let's Make It!
  • Fun Together as a Group

My Childhood Memories

Since moving out of my parents' house and living alone, I have had fewer opportunities to drink ume juice. Even now, when summer comes, I occasionally come across menus offering "homemade ume juice" in cozy restaurants.

It reminds me of the intense summer sunlight, the sound of a fan running at full speed, and the chorus of insects singing outside.

I must have been around 10 years old. It was during the summer vacation of elementary school when I had already been to the pool multiple times, spent tremendous time with friends and even enjoyed hand-held fireworks. It was fun. However, amidst the seemingly never-ending days that felt repetitive, I started to grow tired of the long-awaited break during my school days. I would lie lazily, complaining about the heat, and that's when my mother offered me a refreshing glass of ume juice.

The taste of the plum juice is a nostalgic family flavor for me.

When the topic of Japanese plum preparation ("Ume-shigoto") came up in our office, that childhood memory naturally came to my mind, and I also felt a desire to make it by myself.

Let's Make It!

This time, my office colleagues and I made plum juice and "Umeshu" (Plum wine) together. It's a unique joy to work together with a few people, sharing our memories and chatting.

Now, let's start making them!

First, here are the things we used. 

1 kg / 35 oz of plums 
1 kg / 35 oz of rock sugar
(For plum wine: 1.8L / 60 us fl oz of white liquor)
A large glass container 

Let's remove the stems using a toothpick.
Lightly insert it into the center of the stem, tilt it sideways, and gently pull it out. It's satisfying to see it come off cleanly. It is indeed addictive...

Go to the kitchen and rinse the plums with water.

Thoroughly pat them dry with a cloth. Also, make sure to wipe the area where the stem was removed. Avoiding moisture is important to prevent mold growth. 

Sterilize the container with alcohol. If the bottle is heat-resistant, you can also boil it. This step is necessary to make a delicious and safe plum syrup.

In the container, alternate layers of plums and rock sugar. Shake the bottle to fill any gaps as much as possible. Having gaps can make it difficult for the sugar to dissolve.

The non-alcoholic plum syrup is completed at this point.

For plum juice, remove the plums from the mixture after soaking for about 10 days. The wrinkling of the plums is the criterion for determining when to take them out.

If you want to make Umeshu, pour white liquor into the container from the top.

For the wine, remove the plums after approximately three months, and it will be ready to enjoy.

Store it in a cool, dark place and gently move the bottle a few times a day to dissolve the crystal sugar. If the plums start to rot, fermentation will begin.

Fun Together as a Group

I recalled the time when I first made Umeshu by myself during my university days and had a fun gathering with friends in the dormitory.

It may seem initially tedious to clean each plum individually, but when done with a group of people, friends, or family members, it becomes a enjoyable and speedy task. Working together in a circle, engaging in conversations, creates memorable moments.

Personally, as I removed the stems and wiped away the moisture one by one, I couldn't help but find each plum adorable…! Touching the fine fuzz of the plums feels pleasant, and the round shape is cute and rollable. The hands-on experience of making it ourselves adds a sense of attachment.

I'm excited to see how the plum syrup changes every day.
Don't forget to check the final outcome as well!