YOU SAY UMESHU

If you like your drinks like your fe­male co­me­di­ans - dry, tart and slightly sweet – you’ll love umeshu

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

Move over sake, meet our new go-to Ja­panese tip­ple.

IN CASE YOU NEEDED AN­OTHER REA­SON TO LOVE JA­PAN (other than matcha Kitkats and truly ex­cel­lent drug­store sun­screen), here it is: umeshu. Say it with me: ooh-mesh-ooh. If you’ve ever tried sake and found it a lit­tle harsh, umeshu is the an­swer. If you’ve ever had a bit too much wine in the af­ter­noon and found your­self in bed by 6pm, umeshu is the an­swer.

A primer: umeshu is a Ja­panese liqueur made by steep­ing un­ripe ume fruits (sim­i­lar to apri­cots) in sake (and some­times shochu, sake’s cooler cousin) and sugar. The re­sult is a slightly sweet, slightly sour, mostly dry drink that’s per­fect for sip­ping but also very ver­sa­tile. Have it on ice, with a spritz of soda, in a cock­tail or on its own. Like sake, you can drink it cold in sum­mer and warmed in win­ter. It can also be low in al­co­hol – start­ing at around 5 per cent as op­posed to white wine’s 11 per cent, so you can sip it all af­ter­noon long and not want to take off your heels for the walk home.

When he co-founded Black Mar­ket Sake eight years ago, Matt Young ad­mits umeshu wasn’t on his radar. “But a friend and I took a trip to Ky­oto about two years after we started the com­pany, and he con­vinced me to give this par­tic­u­lar va­ri­ety a go. It blew me away – it was re­ally tart and acidic and crisp, not sweet. I fell in love with it.”

Lou Dowling is the co-owner of nat­u­ral wine store P&V Wine And Liquor and a mas­sive umeshu fan. She says it’s def­i­nitely grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity here, as we get more fa­mil­iar with sake and shochu, and want to move on to other Ja­panese drinks. Her cur­rent favourite is Heiwa Shuzo Tsuru-ume Nig­ori Umeshu. “It’s got this very lively acid­ity, which makes it per­fect for drink­ing on its own, or as a spritz,” she says.

Young and Dowling agree that nav­i­gat­ing the umeshu aisle isn’t as sim­ple as choos­ing a shi­raz to go with din­ner. “Un­less you read Ja­panese, it’s go­ing to be hard to fig­ure out which umeshu to choose,” says Young. “But talk to the sales­per­son and ex­plain what you like in a wine – some­thing dry, full-bod­ied, fruity – and they can steer you from there.” Like any­thing, he adds, the more you spend, the bet­ter the qual­ity of umeshu. “Umeshu used to be thought of as a drink for peo­ple who didn’t like drink­ing, be­cause it was sweet and didn’t have a high al­co­hol con­tent,” he says. “But to­day’s umeshu pro­duc­ers are mak­ing liqueurs that are lay­ered and com­plex and most of all, re­ally fuck­ing good.” Kan­pai!

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