Translated by Allie
Izakaya Tips - Not Just Wine? Smooth Japanese Fruit Liqueurs
Written by Ai Yoneda
Various kinds of fruit liqueurs are produced in Japan such as Japanese plum liqueur, Yuzu liqueur and mandarin liqueur. There are various ways of drinking those liqueurs as well. This article will introduce Japanese fruit liqueurs and how to order them at
What kinds of alcohol spring to mind when you think of alcohol made from fruit? For most people, the first thing they think of is wine. In Japan, more so than wine, there are various fruit liqueurs available, such as those made from plums, yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) and tangerines.
Let's take a closer look at some fruit liqueurs that have gained popularity among women because of their smooth taste and sweetness, and how to order them at izakaya or Japanese taverns.
How do You Like Your Drinks?
There are four ways of drinking fruit liqueurs: with ice cubes ("on the Rocks"), with soda ("soda wari"), with cold water ("mizu wari") or straight ("sutorēto"). When you want to order a fruit liqueur at an izakaya, you'll need to tell them which style you'd prefer, so please try these Japanese phrases to help you get the drink you want.
The picture above shows a glass of umeshu (Japanese plum liqueur) with cold water. You can drink it with hot water in winter, or mixed with orange juice. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy umeshu too, like adding it to jellies and eating it for dessert.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy fruit liqueurs, not only at izakaya but at home as well.
The 3 Major Fruit Liqueurs in Japan
Here are three major fruit liqueurs in Japan found at most of the izakayas. All three of these liqueurs are standards and well-loved by everyone, so there's only a slim chance that you won't enjoy them too.
1. Umeshu 梅酒 - Japanese plum liqueur
Do you know any Japanese food made with plums?
Umeboshi 梅干し, Japanese salted plums, are the first ones that you might think of. Umeboshi are usually put on plain white rice or used as filling in onigiri (rice balls). They cause quite the impact when you first try them - they're incredibly sour. But, ume by themselves have been used as an ingredient in dressings and as a flavor for snacks for a long time in Japan.
Umeshu is a Japanese fruit liqueur made from ume soaked in a mixture of Japanese sake and sugar. Each product is aged for different lengths of time; usually for two or three years, but sometimes for up to 20 or even 30 years. It is said that the longer umeshu sits, the more mellow and better it will taste.
2. Yuzushu ゆず酒 - Japanese citrus liqueur
Have you ever heard of a fruit called yuzu? Yuzu is a citrus fruit which smells sweet and fresh and tastes quite sour.
Yuzu peel is mainly used in cooking to add color and lend its fresh smell to food. Sliced yuzu peel is often used as a decoration for traditional dishes and "yuzu koshō", a fermented paste made from chill peppers, yuzu peel and salt, is used as a spice in Japanese cuisine.
Yuzushu has also yuzu's fresh smell and sourness to it. It is a smooth liqueur that you won't regret trying.
3. Mikanshu ミカン酒 - Mandarin orange liqueur
The mikan is similar to a typical orange in all respects save for its size - they are one size smaller than regular oranges.
Mikanshu has more sweetness than yuzushu and tastes a bit like orange juice. If you don't like the taste of alcohol very much, this would be the one for you.
There are many other fruit liqueurs out there, those made from apricots, strawberries, blueberries, and even a few unusual ones, such as gōya (bitter melon) in Japan.
You might even find liqueurs made with your favorite fruit at an izakaya. Next time you're out for a drink, why not try some of the fruit liqueurs and different ways of enjoying them at an izakaya?