©Photo by iStock: manbo-photo

Recipe: Japanese Ume Plum Syrup Juice

A Summer Drink For The Whole Family

By Shelley Smith
July 1, 2022
Food & Drink

Take advantage of the umeshu-making sets at stores this season to make a tasty syrup that the whole family can enjoy.

Just before the rainy season kicked in you most likely saw your local supermarket fill up with umeshu (Japanese plum wine) making sets. A simple recipe that involves leaving fresh green Japanese ume plums in a jar with rock sugar and shochu (a distilled Japanese liquor) and sitting it to ferment for over a year.

Recipe: Japanese Ume Plum Syrup Juice© Photo by iStock: Stephanie Vargas

However, as wonderfully refreshing, tasty and popular as umeshu is, it’s not a drink for everyone. Using the same umeshu ingredients minus the alcohol, you can actually make a delicious alcohol-free syrup that you can mix with soda water to make a seasonal bubbly drink that both kids and adults can enjoy! The recipe is so easy it’s a great way to get the kids involved in the making process. And the best part is, unlike umeshu, you don’t have to wait a whole year to use it! 

Although ume (Japanese plums) are usually only available this time of year, unlike the ume you need to make umeshu or umeboshi (fermented sour plums), the ume to make this syrup can be frozen so you can bulk buy now and freeze your plums in a freezer-safe ziplock bag or container and make this recipe any time of the year. Just make sure you don’t let the ume defrost at any point!

Recipe: Japanese Ume Plum Syrup Juice© Photo by iStock: Jonathan Austin Daniels


Makes around 500 milliliters of ume plum syrup 

  • 500 grams Japanese ume plums (or frozen Japanese ume plums*)
  • 500 grams rock sugar (氷砂糖 korizato)
  • 2-liter glass jar with an airtight lid
  • Soda water
  • Ice


  1. Clean and air dry your glass jar and lid 
  2. Wash and clean the ume with water 
  3. Dry the ume with a paper towel thoroughly 
  4. Pick out any leftover stems** and cut off any black bruises
  5. Into the glass jar add a layer of rock sugar and then a layer of ume, then more rock sugar and ume on top. Repeat until the jar is filled. 
  6. Seal the lid and place it in your refrigerator and wait up to 10-15 days*** (every three days go into your refrigerator and shake up your jar to mix the syrup around)
  7. Pour the ume syrup into a pan and heat up at a low temperature until any leftover rock sugar is melted
  8. Clean and dry your glass jar and lid once again
  9. Strain the syrup away from the ume**** into your glass jar
  10. Let the syrup cool and then store in your fridge for up to a year
  11. Mix 1:3 syrup to soda water in a glass with ice to make a refreshing summer drink

*If you want to freeze your ume make sure to do steps 2-4 before you freeze them.

**Leaving the stems in could turn the syrup bitter. I recommend using a toothpick to pick them out.

***Make sure the majority of your rock sugar has melted into the ume and your syrup has a light gold color.

****The leftover ume can be used to make ume jam or a compote by boiling them up with some sugar and water 1:1:1. 

Recipe: Japanese Ume Plum Syrup Juice© Photo by iStock: Sinhyu

And there you have it! A super simple ume syrup juice perfect for the upcoming hot summer weather once all this rain clears. Although my favorite way to serve this syrup is in a glass full of ice mixed in with soda water, you can actually use the syrup as you would any other syrup; pour it over yogurt or ice cream, mix it into baked goods or even add it to a salad dressing. When the weather gets cooler, pour it into a mug with some hot water or warm milk. And for the adults who would really rather have an alcoholic drink, you can always add the syrup into a simple cocktail mix or just add a shot of shochu with the syrup and soda. Cheers!

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