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Switchel: An Age-Old Drink Rediscovered

September 1, 2011

Credit: Catherine Boeckmann
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If you need a refreshing drink on a hot day—or something different for a summer party, you have to try switchel!

I just rediscovered this age-old drink and had to share my find! Switchel was how hardworking farmers in colonial days quenched their thirst out in the hot, sunbaked fields. That's enough of an endorsement for me.

Switchel, also called Haymaker's Punch, is made with just four ingredients. Here's the classic recipe:
Mix 1 quart water, 1/2 cup molasses, 1 teaspoon powdered ginger, and the juice of 1 lemon. Serve ice-cold.

However, I have a confession. I didn't make it!  I found the recipe in the Almanac archives and posted it on Facebook for my friends. Lo and behold, a neighbor actually made it and invited me over.  Now, that's a great ice-breaker.

Switchel is so refreshing 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!

Update: Dennis Miles, a full-time blacksmith and OFA Facebook fan, informed me that cider vinegar is a key ingredient. Here is his recipe—which he drinks from a mid-19th century haymmaker's jug!

  • 1 gal. water
  • 2 cups raw or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger

Thank you, Dennis!

For more about great summertime drinks, see this page on Almanac.com.

 


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!

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Comments

Switchel - Blackstrap Molasses

By crazywoman

sassygogo, I rather doubt that the Blackstrap is the problem. I think it is just a LOT of molasses. I would have a hard time drinking that (don't think I could choke it down, tho I'm like it sounds like you are, and hate to throw out! Hate waste!)with that much molasses in it.
But then, I'm not a huge molasses fan. When I do use molasses, I only use Blackstrap. At least there is quite a few nutrients for that many carbs.
Speaking of carbs, I also couldn't drink this as it is SO carby!!!
And I personally am not a ginger fan either. Especially powdered ginger.
But that is me! Everyone is different. We all have different tastes. Some people can also handle the carbs, I can't! All in all this just doesn't sound like my cup of tea.
Not putting the recipe down for everyone else, just not for me.

I am interested in trying out

By hazel king

I am interested in trying out both of the recipe suggestions. I'm like the first commenter...I LOVE blackstrap molasses. I even use a tablespoon in my one cup of decaf "cold" coffee each morning! I started out using it for the calcium, as I needed a LOT! now I'm hooked on the taste of the coffee with the blackstrap in it! not sure about the ginger though, but may try it anyway. thanks for the recipes! very interested in what farmers did years ago to "get by"!

Switchel

By sassygogo

uh all I had was Blackstrap Molasses.......my results, yuck. Maybe it needs to be colder or don't use Blackstrap. Regardless I will choke it down, can't see waisting good ingredients. Maybe ice cold will help. Wouldn't this drink work to keep you regular?? Maybe it should be drunk in moderation? I though molasses was a natural laxative?

switchel

By Gayle Costello

The recipe I have, passed down from my great aunt, does not call for mollasses but rather cidar vinegar.Tangy!

Switchel recipe

By Mary M Frost

Since I don't usually have fresh lemons on hand, can anyone tell me approximately how many tablespoons of juice 1 lemon produces?

switchel recipe

By maryeagee

My drink of choice is a package of lemonade drink mix, one qt. water, and an equal amount of brewed tea, and sugar to taste. VERY thirst-quenching.

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