The weather gods have been cruel to me. As some of you may know, I spent the last two weeks in New York and Boston; expecting normal late spring temperatures, I packed summer clothes and sandals, only to freeze the entire time. On the last day, as I rode the train to JFK for my flight out, the mercury shot up to 70s. Such is my luck as a traveler.
Of course, I returned to China, where the May forecast anywhere along the coast is best described as "sauna-like." As though on cue, my hair became as frizzy as tumbleweed. I blasted the fan and ransacked the fridge for anything cold and sugary.
No ice cream surfaced, but I did find a bottle of umeshu, Japanese plum wine, bought with brilliant foresight a few months ago. Now, I know the Japanese fruit ume is technically not the same as a Western plum, but "plum" is the closest possible English equivalent, and is the norm on most English menus I've seen. (A close second is "apricot".) Umeshu, made by fermenting the little green ume in shochu and adding a bit of rock sugar, has enough to sweetness to cut through the mild sour edge. I love that certain brands like Choya offer single or double serving pop-top bottles, with green plums floating inside.
Because of my dislike for most Chinese alcohol, I have been drinking more and more plum wine when I go out in Shanghai, thanks to handful of Japanese-owned bars. You can get umeshu straight up, on the rocks, mixed with sake and triple sec, or in the winter, added to hot green tea. My favorite umeshu drink, however, is just with some club soda and a twist of lemon. Here's my formula: 1 umeshu + 1 part soda + juice from 1 lemon wedge. Use cold umeshu and soda so you need little or no ice; too much ice can water down the drink. Feel free to try Sprite or ginger ale in lieu of club soda.
Do you have a favorite umeshu drink? Or a way to tame humidity-frazzled hair?
More hot weather drinks: