Is Switchel the New Kombucha?

September 22, 2015

Popularity is a fickle thing—especially on the food scene. Just as soon as the cronut reaches its peak, a ramen burger dethrones it as the most lusted-after dish.

So it goes with beverages, too. Just as coconut water and probiotic-packed kombucha reach epic levels of adoration, a new drink with the potential to become the next big thing steals the spotlight. That drink? A summer farming drink called switchel.

While switchel’s popularity is a recent development, the drink itself is nothing new. Also known as “haymaker’s punch,” this beverage has a somewhat murky origin story. Depending on who you ask, it can be traced back to colonial days, the Amish, even to 17th century settlements in the Caribbean. Herman Melville even begrudgingly mentions the drink in I and My Chimney: “I will give a traveler a cup of switchel, if he want it; but am I bound to supply him with a sweet taste?”

Really, there’s not much to switchel: It’s is a simple mixture of apple cider vinegar, ginger, water, and a sweetener, often dark brown sugar, molasses, or maple syrup. It’s no surprise that the maple syrup variety is popular in Vermont, the nation’s leading producer of the sweet sap.

Much like artisanal sauerkraut and other hipster favorites, switchel is also widely touted for its taste and its health perks. Since this drink is full of apple cider vinegar—an ingredient well known for its digestive benefits—and soothing ginger, switchel is gentle on the stomach. Others say the maple syrup add some much needed vitamins and minerals to the drink, making it an all-natural sports drink.

Flavor wise, switchel is tart and a tad sweet. Its intense tang can make this beverage incredibly refreshing when served cold. If you’re a fan of kombucha (or, as one Thrive Market editor calls it, “vinegar soda”), you’ll probably also enjoy switchel.

Though we haven’t been able to find switchel on the shelves of the local grocery store quite yet, Thrive Market Food Editor Merce Muse has a remarkably similar recipe for an apple cider vinegar tonic.

Here’s her recipe for 4 servings:

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups filtered water

Whisk all the ingredients together and serve over ice for a refreshing drink.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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