Cooking With The Old Farmer's Almanac

Switchel: An Age-Old Drink Rediscovered

Catherine Boeckmann

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Switchel: An Age-Old Drink Rediscovered
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Catherine Boeckmann

Switchel was how colonial 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—including cider vinegar, ginger, and a sweetener.

Switchel is not only hydrating, but also energizing.  Think of it as “Nature’s Gatorade.” It will give you that electrolyte boost better than any pricey energy drink or soda. It’s known as a health tonic that boosts the immune system, too (but don’t tell the kids it’s ‘healthy”).

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 ½ cups molasses
⅓ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (ground)

We like molasses, however, you could replace it with maple syrup, honey, or another sweetener. You could cut back the sweetener, too. Find the right balance for you. Remember to start with less—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 switchel recipe from Dennis Miles, an Almanac Facebook fan and full-time blacksmith. He drinks his switchel from a mid-19th century haymaker’s jug.

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

Serve in mason jars.

The Verdict

My friend, Wendy, and I decided to make a pitcher one summer’s day, using our Almanac recipe.

Mmmm! Switchel is so refreshing and delicious!  It tastes pleasantly tart and—surprisingly not too sweet.

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.


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Hi - this drink is almost identical to a summer refresher used in Iran as a desert. The ginger is a nice addition. Another use for this: slowly reduce the mixture to a thin syrup and use it to dip fresh lettuce leaves in as a desert!


I recently read that ginger affects over 300 body functions, it must be very nutritious.

This is a surprisingly

This is a surprisingly refreshing drink! I thought that the molasses and dark brown sugar would overpower, but the flavors are wonderfully balanced. It is tart and sweet and with the addition of carbonated water it is better than a soft drink! Yum!

Made a batch of this today

Made a batch of this today and it's delicious! I used a microplane to grind up a tablespoon of fresh ginger and used a little less than a half cup of molasses and about a half cup of honey for sweetener. I didn't want it real sweet or have too much of a molasses taste. It turned out great!

This sounds absolutely

This sounds absolutely wonderful I can't wait to try it thanks so much for sharing...

Does anyone think Stevia

Does anyone think Stevia could be used in place of all the sugary ideas? I limit my sugar because it causes too much inflamation in my arthritic joints

Sure, you'd have to try it

Sure, you'd have to try it and see how it tastes. Let us know if you do!

Yes, that's what I use.

Yes, that's what I use.

Switchel with Stevia

You absolutely can use 100% organic stevia in Switchel instead of the calorie sweeteners! It is fantastic and that's the way I drink mine....

You should really state fresh

You should really state fresh ginger in the ingredient list if that is what you are calling for. I made it with ground, YUK! Will have to try again with fresh.

The recipe was tested with

The recipe was tested with fresh ginger. We never tried ground ginger and didn't know how it would turn out. We apologize that you were the tester here, unbeknownst to you! We will state "fresh" ginger above.

It does say fresh!

It does say fresh!

For those NOT out in the hay

For those NOT out in the hay fields, I've found this drink to be particularly refreshing. 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, and fill the blender up with watermelon, seedless, cut into cubes, and frozen solid (about 4 cups). Using the 'crushed ice' setting, chop/crush until slushy, adding water thru the top to make a slurry. Then add 8 cups of water, blend until well-mixed. This also makes a great mixer! ;)

Thanks for the posts.Going to

Thanks for the posts.Going to try this one.

How much powdered ginger do i

How much powdered ginger do i use. i have NO juicer and no way to make powder ginger

when you freeze your ginger

when you freeze your ginger root and then shave it with a cheese / choclate grater or micro food planer, will get a fine ginger powder. the root keeps for ever if sealed in plasic and freezer bag...i just peel a bit of the root and use in my marinades as well

Ginger is strong so you can

Ginger is strong so you can muddle raw ginger in the drink for flavor and strain it out... Im a bartender and thats what i would do anyway ;)

When I made it the first time

When I made it the first time I found the fresh grated ginger was too much after a few hours. When I made it a second time I peeled the fresh ginger and cut it into chunks that I could fish out when I felt the ginger flavor was strong enough. Worked well!

Hi folks, For those who find

Hi folks, For those who find the Switchel too sugary, you could replace the sugar and molasses with a few tablespoons of maple syrup. Just find the right balanace of sweetness for you. Also, we like to add some zing with a couple tablespoons of lime juice.

Ginger heats your body,

Ginger heats your body, that's why it's used for menstrual cramps....wonder why they used it in a Summer cooler???

it is because raising your

it is because raising your body heat makes the outside feel cooler to you. This is why you should drink hot beverages and soup in the summer, not ice cold drinks. Cools down your body

Because if you raise your

Because if you raise your body temperature on a hot day you feel cooler. Same idea as drinking a hot drink on a hot day makes you feel cooler

It doesn't say what type of

It doesn't say what type of ginger was called for. Powdered or grated fresh? What did the recipe tester use?

This recipe calls for fresh

This recipe calls for fresh ginger. One teaspoon grated fresh ginger equals 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. The fresher ingredients, the better, but not everyone can get fresh ginger. Not sure how ground would turn out.

What do u think they used

What do u think they used back then??

Hello! Should the ginger be

Hello! Should the ginger be fresh? And if so, how prepared? What is the original recipe? Would love to see it.

Thank you in advance!

Definitely use fresh ginger

Definitely use fresh ginger if you have it. This recipe is all about freshness and the best ingredients. (There aren't many of them.) This recipe calls for grating it. Or, perhaps you could try putting it through a juicer?

Switchel - Blackstrap Molasses

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

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"!


uh all I had was Blackstrap 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?


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

I would love you're recipe

I would love you're recipe with the Cider vinegar please!!!

Switchel recipe

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

One lemon equals about 4T

One lemon equals about 4T juice, or 1/4 cup

switchel recipe

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.