"Making Japanese Plum Syrup and Umeshu (Plum Liqueur)"
By Cornelia and Lesley Takeda [10 June 2007]

Why make plum syrup? Well, it's incredibly easy. Think of it as similar to a raspberry cordial but with a completely different and unique flavor. It is sweet, yet refreshing, when it is mixed together with ice cold water, or club soda, or even shochu (a white grain alcohol), to make a light beverage good for hot and humid weather. It is considered a healthy drink by the Japanese!

Stores in Japan carry the paraphernalia for making plum syrup from about the end of May to the middle of June. It is made by boiling down the juice extracted from plums and sugar. But it is possible to skip the boiling part, if you can't be bothered.


  • Green (unripe) ume plums 1kg
  • Sugar 1kg
  • Sterile glass container
  • fork or toothpick
  • Rock sugar, crystaline sugar or your favorite sugar. (In my case, the cheapest one!)

Wash plums gently in water. Immerse in water for 6 - 8 hours to remove Aku (bitterness), a step that I have skipped more than once. Drain well and gently remove the stem, using the bamboo skewer (or fork or even toothpick). Using the same skewer to poke holes in the plums all the way around about every centimeter.

In the sterile bottle, place the sugar and plums alternately with the top layer being sugar. Place in a cool dark place where the bottle won't be knocked over.

Stir every day! At least once, but even twice a day is good. Do this by shaking the bottle which mixes the plums and the sugar. (This is another step that I've skipped more than once, inadvertantly.) The goal in making the plum syrup is to extract the plum juice and to get the sugar to dissolve as quickly as possible. If it takes a long time to dissolve the sugar, the liquid starts to ferment. After about 10 days, when the plums become wrinkled, remove the plums.

The final steps:
Put the strained plum juice into a saucepan and heat on low. Scoop off the white scum and simmer. When the white scum has stopped forming, remove from heat. Cool overnight. Filter through gauze (or a piece of clean old t-shirt or even a clean cotton sock) and then put in bottles.

* Because the extract will ferment a little, loosen the cover occasionally, to reduce the air pressure. (Another step that I've completely omitted, and, no, the jar did not explode.)
* From 1kg of Ume plums expect to make approximately 800 cc of plum syrup.
* Use the wrinkled plums for making plum jam! Some people like to eat them just the way they are. One can be left in the bottom of the drink.
* If you do what I did, put the sugar on, tightened the lid, and let it sit for a year, you may still get a very nice result. My extract was quite syrupy without boiling! And I did produce a low alcohol level of maybe 1%. [Cornelia]

The Strong Stuff:
To make the Umeshu, translated as Plum Liqueur, which is not too strong actually, generally no more than 14% alcohol), you simply add a bunch of Shochu to the mixture of unripe plums and sugar. They sell a special one for the purpose. There's usually a little recipe printed on the tetra-pak (in Japanese of course). In some recipes it says to wait 15 days (turning the jar over every day) and some say 16 days, etc. As with the syrup extract, the important thing is for all the sugar to be dissolved. In my case, I take the fruit out when I get around to it! An extra week or so doesn't seem to change anything. Some commercial brands even have some fruit purposely included in the bottle.

Choya Brand sells an Umeshu. Their label has written in English "Traditional Japanese Fruit Liqueur", and it is 14% alcohol.

Lesley Takeda, homemaker, English teacher, mother of three, and long time resident of Tokyo, hails from Australia. She has a lot of Japanese under her belt, and helped with research! Mail for Lesley received via the JWK contact form will be forwarded to her.

Related Discussions and Links:
A history of Umeshu in English.
About the Ume fruit
General Discussions: Cooking / Baking: Japanese food
Shopping in Japan: Foods
Consumer Reports: Food Additives

Do you know anything that should be added to this page? Please tell us.

Are you experienced in surviving in Japan? Please write a feature for all of us to enjoy! It's the perfect way to showcase your talent and help other parents at the same time! If interested, please contact us by filling out our feedback form.

Keyword Search:
This page last updated: 10 June 2007 Please Read our Disclaimer
Copyright 2007 Japan With Kids