They are produced throughout Japan, and the most popular of them is umeshu, the plum liqueur. But many other fruits can be used in their preparation, such as yuzu, apricot, peaches, mikan, etc ... Japanese fruit liqueurs are not liqueurs in a traditional sense, because they contain, on average, only 12% alcohol.
- The plums ume : They are small green acids plums, and are found only in East Asia. Their flesh is quite thick and hard. One can eat them with a bit of preparation. This plum is the base for producing umeshu.
- Apricot : Like all other varieties found in Europe, the japanese apricot actually originated from China. Quite early, it established itself in Japan where it has been grown for centuries as an ornament. Its fruits are not edible fresh, but are used for production of liqueurs called anzushu.
- Yuzu : A very popular citrus in Japan. Small, with an uneven surface, its color varies from green to yellow depending on maturity. It gives off a powerful and refreshing scent. The yuzu tree can stand temperatures up to -5°C.
- Mikan : The fruit of a mandarin tree which appeared in Japan in the middle of 15th century. Mikan is about the size of a tangerine, its skin is easy to peel and the fruit is sweet, slightly acidic, and usually seedless. Its bitterness is light. Mikan is very appreciated as it is, and is also used in the preparation of juice and liquor.
MAKING FRUIT LIQUEURS
Liqueurs are made by a maceration process of fresh fruits in neutral alcohol, shochu, or sake. Fruits are giving their flavors to the alcohol where they soak during three to six months. Then the mixture is filtered, or not (for liqueurs called "nigori"). The liquors are prepared by the addition of syrup, and sometimes fresh fruit or pulp.
HOW TO ENJOY JAPANESE FRUIT LIQUEURS
As an aperitif
Thanks to their low sugar content, and relatively low alcohol compared to Western liquors (between 10 and 20% alc., compared to 24-35% for European liqueurs), Japanese liqueurs are very pleasant as an aperitif.
During the meal
In the "Kaiseki" Japanese great cuisine, one can easily pair a liquor with a carefully chosen dish. The same kind of mariage is possible in our Western cuisine; for example, a plum liqueur will work well together with foie gras; a yuzu liquor with grilled fish.
As a digestive
A light digestive! Because they contain on average only 12% alcohol. The best way to end up a meal with a light touch of acidity or a slight bitterness, depending on the liqueur one considers. One who considers conventional digestives too strong, will be pleased with japanese fruit liqueurs.
In the prepatation of cocktails
These liqueurs are very rich in fruit flavors and represents an excellent cocktail base. You will find some examples here below.
Here are some original cocktail recepies.
- ANZUCHU OLD FASHIONED : 2 cl of Anzushu - 1 branche of fresh rosemarry - 1 splash of Angostura bitters - 1 splash of orange bitters - 5 cl of whisky Nikka From the barrel
- MIKANSHU SANGAREE : 4 cl of gin - 3 cl Red Porto - 2 cl mikanshu - 1 cl sugar canne
- YUZUSHU ROYAL : 3 cl of sochu - 2 cl of yuzushu - 1.5 cl of freshly squeezed lime - 1.5 cl of sugar canne - 12 leaves of fresh basil (or thai basil)
- UME-SHU NEGRONI : 2 cl Campari - 2 cl Red Vermouth - 2 cl gin - 2 cl umeshu