Easy Umeshu (Japanese Plum Wine) Recipe

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By Barbara Hodge • Last Updated: October 26, 2023
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Japanese Plum Wine Recipe

Sweet, tangy and refreshing – umeshu is delicious and super easy to make at home! Make Japan’s famous plum wine (umeshu) just like we do in Japan! Ready in 20 minutes!


Umeshu is Japanese plum wine. Ume means plum and shu is sake/alcohol in Japanese. The delicious tang of umeshu is extracted from the citric acid of the fruit. The colour and slightly sweet and tangy flavour are to die for, and perfect for almost any occasion.

Japanese plums blossom from February to March. It’s now the very best season for making plum wine at home!

I’ll show you how to make your very own authentic, delicious Japanese ume wine in just 20 minutes. You should let it develop for at least for 6 months for the ultimate result. So, with a bit of planning you can make the best Japanese plum wine at home! So easy, and so delicious. Find out this plum wine recipe. You won’t be disappointed!

Making umeshu at home is common in Japan. Along with umeshu, another one of the popular Japanese plum recipes is umeboshi. It’s Japan’s super food, pickled plums. My partner loves it and eats it almost everyday.

Bring joy to your life and share it with your loved ones! Read on!

Japanese Plum Wine making with a large airtight container

Why Make Japanese Plum Wine?

Homemade plum wine making is a simple seasonal delight! Umeshu is called plum wine, but is technically plum liqueur. This Japanese plum wine recipe (umeshu) follows the traditional Japanese method. It’s from my mother, who has also inherited from her mother. And it’s time to share it with you. You’ll love this umeshu plum wine recipe!

According to my mother, finding good quality plums and cleaning them properly with ‘affection’ are the keys to success in Japanese plum wine making. I will show you all the details step by step!

Homemade fruit liqueur is incredibly popular in Japan. My childhood neighbors in Japan just love my mother’s recipe. You are going to make the best plum wine from Japan at your home!

Of course, any good Japanese endeavor requires patience. So, you can make this plum wine today, wait for 6 months while it develops, and truly enjoy it

It may be your very first time for Japanese homemade fruit wine making. If so, you’re in for a treat. Discovering something new will bring you joy in your life!

Ingredients for the best plum wine

ingredients for homemade Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

For the best result, you need the right ingredients. And this plum wine recipe  only has three ingredients.

  • Plums
  • White liquor
  • Rock sugar

Where to find Japanese plums

I know Japanese plum (ume) is not a commonly find ingredient at many grocery stores, but it’s worth the effort! It’s only available in the short period of time around May or early June. So pay attention to the Japanese or Korean grocery stores during this time.

Plum: You need to get tangy, tart and unripe fresh Japanese green plums. Avoid plums with scratches. The unripe plums are not yet edible, but are transformed as they are processed and fermented naturally in the large glass jar.

Where to find the ‘White Liquor’

You can find the brand ‘White Liquor’ at the local Japanese grocery shop or online. It contains more than 35% alcohol. In Japan, using less than 20% alcohol for homemade fruit wine is illegal. If you cannot find Japanese White Liquor, vodka (more than 35% alcohol) can be used. But it’s worth making the effort to find Japanese White Liqueur.

I use a brand from Takara, a leading Japanese beverage producer because:

  • It’s a mild and transparent Japanese white liquor.
  • It does not affect the fragrance and flavor of the fruit.
  • It’s made with sugarcane and widely used for traditional homemade Japanese fruit liqueur.

Where to find Rock Sugar

Try to find it at a local Japanese shop or an Asian grocery store. I use beet rock sugar. You can also find it on Amazon.

Rock Sugar is indispensable for making sweet plum wine. Granulated or raw sugar does not work with this plum wine making.

Rock sugar dissolves gradually into liquid, and this is why it brings out the flavor and aromatic fragrance of plum. Regular or granulated sugar cannot replace to this magic.

Can you use granulated sugar?

Unfortunately no. There’s a science behind Japanese traditional homemade fruit liqueur making.

Rock sugar is used because it dissolves into alcohol gradually while granulated or raw sugar dissolves quickly.

The plum’s components  are released into the alcohol slowly and surely. If the sugar dissolves rapidly before the plum absorbs the alcohol, the components of the fruit are not released but only the fragrance. (reference)

How to Make Plum Wine

1. Clean a large airtight glass jar

It’s very important to clean the airtight container completely. Japanese plum wine last for years if prepared properly. The more it develops the more flavour it has. So, here’s how to clean it properly:

  • Prepare a clean kitchen cloth, detergent and warm water. You need to wash the airtight glass jar thoroughly with warm water to make sure all of the detergent is removed.
  • Air dry the jar. Then spray alcohol around the inside of the lid and the jar. You can also soak a clean cotton cloth with alcohol, and wipe it around the lid and the inside of the jar. I use the ‘White Liquor’ for the alcohol, and I prefer to spray it. This step ensures that no mould develops.

2. Clean the plums

cleaning plums with water for Japanese Plum Wine making
removing stems with a tooth pick for Japanese Plum Wine making
cleaning plums for homemade Japanese plum wines wit kitchen paper
  • Wash plums thoroughly with water and dry them with kitchen paper. No need to soak them as they do not have bitterness.
  • Carefully remove the stem ends with a tooth pick. This should be done after washing the plum with water.
  • Clean and wipe the plum with a clean cotton cloth carefully.My mother says to do this affection, and it will make the umeshu super delicious.

3. Make the layers

plums and rock ices for Japanese plum wine making

This is the great fun part of the Japanese plum wine making!

  1. Place the ⅓ of plums on the bottom and then ⅓ of the rock sugar on top.
  2. Repeat this another two times
  3. Carefully pour the ‘White Liquor’ and put the lid on tight.

That’s it! Store it in a dark, cool place for 6 months!

Tips for Best Japanese plum wine

How long can you save plum liqueur

You can save it for many years, although I always finish it well within a year or two years. The most important thing to remember is to ensure you clean the glass jar properly, and wipe it with alcohol before making. Then the homemade plum wine can last longer.

How to drink umeshu

Japanese plum wine (Umeshu) is enjoyed in various ways. In Japan, it’s served as an aperitif (shokuzenshu). My favourite is to add ice and drink it in the heat of summer.

Japanese Plum Wine Recipe

Japanese Plum Wine Recipe

Barbara Hodge
Sweet, tangy and refreshing – Japanese plum wine (umeshu) is delicious and super easy to make at home! Make Japan’s famous plum wine just like we do in Japan! Ready in 20 minutes!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 1 container


  • 1 kg ume plum (1.2lb)
  • 800 g rock sugar* (1.76lb)
  • 1.8 l White Liquor* (60oz)


Clean the air tight glass jar

  • The airtight glass jar needs to be completely cleaned with a clean kitchen cloth, detergent and warm water. Wash it with warm water to make sure all of the detergent is removed. Air dry the jar. Then spray alcohol around the inside of the lid and the jar. I use the White Liquor – see the note. Or soak a cotton cloth with alcohol, and wipe it around the lid and the inside of the jar.

Clean the plums

  • Use water, clean plums and dry them with kitchen paper. Then carefully remove the stem ends with a tooth pick. Leave the skin on.
  • Use a clean kitchen cotton cloth and dry each plum carefully on the surface with some affection (this my mother’s tip for extra-delicious umeshu!)

Place the ingredients

  • Make the layer of the ingredients in the clean jar. This is the fun part in making homemade plum wine. Place plum fruit first on the bottom of the glass jar. Next layer rock sugar. Repeat this next two times. Then gradually pour in White Liquor or your favorite liquor. Put the lid on tight. It's ready after 6 months.
    That's it! Store it in a dark, cool place for 6 months!


How to find plum
Use unripe and fresh Japanese green plums which are available in Japanese or Korean grocery shops in May or very early June. Avoid plums which have lots of scratches. The unripe plums need to be processed and fermented with natural chemical effect in the large glass jar, and are not edible raw.
White Liquor
I use the brand called White Liquor from Takara, a leading beverage producer in Japan, which contains 35% alcohol. It is the brand people use for homemade fruit making in Japan. It’s now widely available outside Japan. You can find it at Japanese grocery store or online. Vodka will work although I have not tried it yet. 
Rock Sugar
Unfortunately granulated sugar or raw sugar cannot be replaced to rock sugar. Plum fruit component is dissolved into alcohol slowly. Sugar needs to dissolve slowly for this reason, and rock sugar does too. Rock sugar is easily available at Japanese or Asian grocery shops or online.

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