Need a cool drink on a hot day? You should try making switchel, a refreshing drink from the colonial era and early American farming days.
Switchel was how hardworking farmers quenched their thirst out in the hot, sunbaked fields. That's enough of an endorsement for me!
This drink is also called Haymaker's Punch (because it was drunk while haying fields) and it's easy to make with just a few ingredients. Cider vinegar is the main ingredient—which many folks find has added health benefits.
Switchel is not only hydrating, but also energizing. It will give you that electrolyte boost better than any pricey energy drink or soda. It's basically a health tonic (but don't tell your children).
Switchel Recipe from the Almanac Archives
Here's a classic recipe from the 1930's which was unearthed from the archives of The Old Farmer's Almanac.
1 gallon water
1 1/2 cups molasses
1/3 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (ground)
If you want to cut the molasses, that's fine. You can use a few tablespoons of maple syrup, honey, or just find the balance that suits you. Remember to start with less sugar—as you can always add more. Switchel shouldn't coat your mouth; it should taste refreshing. Another idea is to add a teaspoon of fresh lemon or lime juice for zing.
Switchel Drink Recipe from an Almanac Reader
Here's another switch recipe from Dennis Miles, an Almanac Facebook fan and full-time blacksmith. He drinks his switchel from a mid-19th century haymaker's jug. (Dennis, send us a photo!)
- 1 gal. water
- 2 cups raw or dark brown sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ginger (fresh)
Serve in mason jars.
My friend, Wendy, and I decided to make a pitcher one summer's day.
Mmmm! Switchel is so refreshing and pleasantly tart. And, boy, is it drinkable—much more so than plain water. I'll say that it did quench my thirst for water, but not for switchel. We drank half the pitcher and felt quite, ah, saturated!
You can make the switchel last longer or less sweet by adding more water or a bubbly seltzer. (My guess is it could turn into a cocktail drink, too.)
Drink from a mason jar or jug if you have one!
Find more summertime drink recipes to cool off.
Catherine, our New Media Editor, joined The Old Farmer's Almanac in 2008. She edits content on both this Web site, Almanac.com, and the companion site to The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids publication, Almanac4kids.com. She also pens the Almanac Companion enewsletters and keeps up with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!