Choya Umeshu is a fruit liqueur made from a fruit called Ume, which is a little like a lemon. Choya use the unripe fruit, seep it in Shochu (a little like a delicious Japanese vodka) and sugar to create a beautifully smooth, sweet-and-sour and unmistakeably distinctive, alcoholic drink. Sometimes called 'plum wine' with its 15% alcohol volume, it does not have the fermentation used to make wine, nor is it made with plums, so in Japanese is known as Umeshu or fruit liqueur.
I was fortunate enough to be invited along to an event hosted by Choya at the Birds Nest Restaurant in South Brisbane to sample some Choya Umeshu and other Choya-based cocktails. Canapés were prepared by the chefs at the Yakatori restaurant to complement the amazing drinks.
The versatility of Choya Umeshu became quickly apparent as different styles and varieties of cocktails were presented to us. The fruit liqueur itself is delicious but when combined as a base to create re-imagined versions of well-loved cocktails, it becomes extraordinary. And very, very moreish.
Choya Umeshu can be served by itself or with a little lime or soda water for those hot and humid Japanese summer days. Our first drink was Choya Umeshu Classic served with a little ice followed by an Umeshu Margarita with a heavy rim of salt around the top of a short shot glass. The salty taste of the margarita (or should i say Choya-garita) was balanced perfectly with the lightly acidic and very slightly sweet and sour drink.
Next came a Choya-gria - similar to a sangria with ice and fruit such as blueberries, strawberries and apple and topped with a little sake for good measure. Around our table it was compared with a Pims - but while it would be perfect for a warm summers day (tennis anyone?), it was much, much better. And possibly stronger in its alcohol content.
The next drink was a Choya-martini. It was maple-infused, sweet and absolutely deliciously served with a perfect curl of orange in the glass to give it a strong, sweet, citrus flavour. Another brilliant combination. Last was a Plum-gatto. Like an affogatto, the sweet, brown liqueur was poured over ice cream to create a delicious dessert. It was again sweet, but had a hint of a brown rum flavour.
Obviously I can't do the versatility and deliciousness of Choya Umeshu justice, without urging you to experiment for yourself. I would imagine, apart from the salt, citrus, fruit or rum combinations, Choya Umeshu would lend itself to a variety of other flavours. Or just enjoy it on its own with a little ice.
Choya Umeshu Classic is available at selected restaurants and good bottle shops, such as Dan Murphy's where you can purchase a 650 mL bottle for around $35 (and less if you buy a case of six bottles). The classic flavour is available now and it also comes in Honey and Assisi flavours. We are hoping very much they hit Australian shelves soon.