What to Drink This Weekend – Choya Umeshu Plum Liqueur

On a day like today, you can either be the Italians (whose fans greeted their defeat with typical loyalty):

Or, you can be the Japanese:

Today the Japan squad put together an altogether solid defeat of the villainous Danes, who many consider to be a pleasant and inconspicuous global leader in wind power generation; however, we in Canada know them as they truly are — sneaky Arctic Island thieves who would soon steal the entirety of Newfoundland out from under us, should we ever let our vigilance slip for even a moment.

Do you ever wonder what happens to all the snow at the end of winter?  Thought it melted, did you?  No no, my friends:  DANES.  I have said enough.

Fortunately, the Japanese were there today with two really exciting free kick goals (and then another one, I guess) to push the Denmark out of the tournament, and ensure their own progress into the Round of 16.  With play that was described in such spine-tingling terms as “consistent” and “reliable”, they systematically pushed through their heavily-favored rival.

That kind of thing, done with that level of cool unruffled professionalism, calls for just the right kind of drink to toast it.  Is anyone thinking… sake?

Well, stop.  Sake may be in the process of supplanting tequila as the go-to trendy top-shelf club sipping liqueur, but that doesn’t mean we at Choosy Beggars are going along for the ride.  There is a time and a place for delicious, smooth and silky sake, but isn’t it time to branch out into something different?  A little more relaxing?

Presenting Choya Umeshu, a modestly-strong liqueur flavored with the ume fruit.  Sweet, tart and eminently sippable, it is exactly the kind of Japanese beverage to break out when you wish to try something interesting, flavorful and entirely civilized.

Produced from alcohol distilled from sugar cane, umeshu is at its heart a form of fruit infusion.  Imagine the processes that produce white rum, combined with the subsequent steps to result in sloe gin, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of umeshu.  But where young rum is a bit peppery, and where even sloe gin tends towards the herbal, umeshu manages an interesting balance.

At once it is both sour and near-candy sweet, but without straying into being cloying.  This is largely because of the ume fruit itself, which is considerably more acidic than other varieties of plum — anywhere from twice to four times as much citric acid, bringing some tropical zing into the equation.  Along with the sugar, it also brings quite a bit of versatility.

Upon tasting, there are a few things that will really stand out about umeshu:

  1. For a liquor with 26.3% alcohol by volume on the label, you sure can’t detect it in either the aroma or the flavor.
  2. The flavor comes across as smooth and with almost no weight in the finish.
  3. You can taste rather a hell of a lot of it before you realize that yes you are drinking a strong drink hey did you hear Japan won at soccer that’s just so great isn’t it great

And most importantly, you will notice Choya’s bottle itself.  Not just the full actual no-kidding for-real ume fruit floating around in the bottom, but the incredibly neat screw-top lid that allows you to actually pour them out and EAT THEM.

Yes, that’s two to three pieces of booze-soaked fruit per purchase, just waiting for you.  It’s like a little added bonus for drinking a great deal! You don’t dare resist — the disappointment of not tasting wee little sour plums soaked extensively in cane liqueur may actually be fatal.

And even if it’s not, isn’t this a whole lot more more interesting than plain old sake?  Tart and fruity, umeshu can be enjoyed on its own in a chilled glass, or in any number of combinations:  with sparkling white wine, in a Japanese Kir Royale; with two parts mixed into a lager, as a fun twist on a Snakebite; or even mulled a cup of warm red wine with cinnamon.

There’s lots to explore with umeshu, and Choya’s varieties are both well-made and easily available to the enterprising.  There are few more civilized ways to toast Japan’s success, and launch yourself on a whole new taste adventure.


  • cayenne

    I love umeboshi & this sounds like it would make a fun version of a sloe gin fizz. I just did a product search & 2 of my local LCBOs have it – detour planned en route home tonight!

  • tsarstepan

    Did you read the label wrong or does Choya Umeshu from say Japan for Japanese consumption as opposed to the what they import to the US have a different alcohol rating. My bottle doesn’t say 26.3% but 14.6% which is still strong for wine (that I’ve noticed).

    • Gaea Redwood

      same here, maybe we should look for the liquor ? at least we get more than a couple of plums in the 14.5% wine 1