The UME Product
What is UME?
UME is a delightfully tart and subtly sweet plum liqueur with a dazzling royal purple hue. UME is made with all-natural juices and extracts from plums, grapes, & black cherries, with hints of green apple and lemon. The fruits are added to UME’s base spirit, which is a 6-times distilled 100% Grain Neutral Spirit made from corn. UME's tartness is achieved with the addition of citric acid (from lemons), tartaric acid (from wine) and malic acid (from the green apples). UME is 17% ABV, naturally gluten free and has half the sugar of similar apéritifs. It is produced responsibly in California by Endless West.
UME may be consumed on its own or mixed with other spirits to form the ideal purple drink.
How was UME Developed?
Jenn and Katy first met UME’s production partner, Endless West, in October 2020 to discuss developing a unique plum liqueur inspired by traditional plum liqueurs of Japan and Eastern Europe. They provided Endless West with a collection of reference samples of their favorite plum-flavored liqueurs, sodas and other plum products.
Endless West analyzed which molecules were responsible for the desired characteristics of each reference: fruit flavor, tartness, sweetness, acidity, smell and mouthfeel. Using this information, a set of initial product specifications was created for UME and the molecules that would ultimately comprise UME were identified and sourced. In addition to the flavor profile, the product specifications that Jenn and Katy developed with Endless West included a precise alcohol content (17%), sugar content (115-125 g / L) and acidity levels.
The development of these specifications followed extensive market research by Jenn and Katy. For the alcohol content, feedback from the mixology community indicated that the ABV of certain plum liqueurs, like umeshu, can be too low to effectively mix in cocktails. Similarly, the sugar content of many traditional liqueurs, which ranges from 150-300+ g/L, is higher than today's consumers prefer. UME's alcohol content of 17% enables UME to strike a perfect balance between mixer and sipper. The sugar content is 30%-50% lower than comparable liqueurs, satisfying consumer demand for lower sugar drinks.
Unlike traditional spirits development, which can take years, Endless West's initial R&D process took roughly one month from idea to prototype. The precision of their molecular analysis results in the use and waste of fewer resources and time. By Thanksgiving 2020, less than six weeks after the initial meeting, Endless West had developed the first iteration of UME using Jenn and Katy's specifications.
The efficiency of the Endless West process enabled Jenn and Katy to host tastings of the prototype with industry leading mixologists as well as family and friends. Using feedback from these tastings, UME’s founders worked with Endless West to optimize the product by tweaking things like sugar content, acidity level and color. The development of UME was completed in February 2021 after a series of five product iterations that spanned a period of ~4 months - a rapid timeline unheard of in the notoriously slow world of spirits production. UME's scaled production runs can be completed by Endless West in less than one week.
Why is the Drink Purple?
UME wanted to avoid using a purely artificial coloring option. Instead, the purple color of UME is derived from anthocyanin, which is a natural pigment found in food and other plants. UME's anthocyanin comes from red cabbage (which is purple), but the compound can also be found in blueberries, cherries, lavender and Butterfly Pea Flower. Other options for a natural purple drink was using spirulina, which comes from green algae. Unfortunately spirulina changed the flavor of the UME drink.
Due to anthocyanin’s unstable pH, UME has a mesmerizing color-changing effect depending on the acidity or alkalinity of what it’s mixed with.