How To Make Plum Wine

If you know how to make plum wine or "umeshu", chances are you are either Japanese or know someone who is. This popular drink is made in June when the ume plums are still on the tree. Plum wine is easy to make but since you can use vodka or Japanese shochu to help ferment the fruit, this drink packs a serious wallop. No wonder mom always looks so serene.

To make plum wine, you will need:

  • Two pounds of green, unripe ume plums
  • Wooden skewers or toothpicks
  • A two liter bottle of Japanese shochu or any kind of vodka – go for 80 proof
  • Two pounds of rock sugar
  • Glass jar
  1. Awareness. Ume plums are for sale in summer months at Japanese groceries stores. You have to be quick because Japanese transplants often buy all the green ones. You do not actually need to use rock sugar, but it is the old fashioned way. Granulated sugar works fine but rock sugar is believed to break down slower during the aging process. Shochu is distilled Japanese liquor and is sometimes confused with sake. While it is more traditional to use shochu, vodka works great.
  2. Preparations. Wash your plums and remove the stems. Use your skewer to pick clean the tops and bottoms of the plum of any tree debris. Now clean your jar and sterilize it for five minutes in boiling water. Do not forget to sterilize the lid too.
  3. Assembly. In order to make plum wine, we will need to kick start the fermentation process. Put all your washed and cleaned plums in your sterilized jar. Cover the plums with the sugar and add the shochu or vodka. Seal the jar and put it away in a dark, cool spot for at least four months. It is best to wait a year to allow the flavors to fully develop.



  • If you are lucky enough to have plum trees around, you can keep a rotating supply of plum wine. Just remember to label the jars with the date you made them.
  • Do not drink if the batch is contaminated with mold.
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