Apple Cider Vinegar Drink: It's Trending! | Popular Switchel Drink | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Apple Cider Vinegar Drink Recipe: All About Switchel


Apple cider vinegar can boost your electrolytes, energy, and hydration when served as the old-fashioned drink switchel.


Learn How to Make Your Own Switchel!

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This old-fashioned apple cider drink (known as Switchel) is a great hydrator in winter, boosts energy, and replaces electrolytes. (You could even consider it a healthy Gatorade!) Here's the recipe for our healthy apple cider drink.

My mom grew up on a big Vermont dairy farm, and every summer, they would haul endless gallons of something called switchel out to the field during haying season. 

The recipe for switchel is simple: apple cider vinegar sweetened with maple syrup (both made on the farm) and diluted with cold spring water. 

Yuck! We turned up our noses at the thought of drinking sweetened vinegar.

But guess what? Switchel, a drink that harkens back to Colonial haymakers, has become trendy. You’ll find references to it in upscale food magazines, and it's even being bottled. You know what they say... what's old is new again!

Historians say our Colonial ancestors may have adapted the drink from a Caribbean recipe since some versions of it contain ginger and molasses, neither produced in Colonial America nor imported as part of the infamous “triangle trade” of slaves, molasses, and rum.

Read more about the History of Switchel.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Hydration, Energy, and Electrolytes

Haying in the days before mechanical baling meant long days pitching hay into trailers in the hot sun. It certainly qualified in today’s sports-speak as a “grueling” workout.

The haying crews needed frequent hydration, quick energy, and electrolyte replacement. Homemade switchel probably did the trick, just like today’s sports drinks.

Although the combined electrolyte values of cider vinegar and maple syrup are relatively low, sipping the drink throughout the day will help replenish the minerals lost through sweat. You can better balance the electrolytes by adding a pinch of salt to your switchel, as many farm crews did without knowing it by munching on salty homemade dill pickles. You can also find out how to make dill pickles to serve with your switchel.

As an aside, in addition to the slow energy boost of pure maple syrup, University of Rhode Island researchers have identified 54 “bioactive” phyto-compounds in pure maple syrup believed to benefit human health.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Health

Of the many health claims made for apple cider vinegar, some have a research base to support them; others do not. If you’d like to explore them, go to Google and look for published research on your condition of interest rather than relying on popular articles and anecdotal reports alone.

I always keep a gallon or two on hand for household cleaning and disinfecting tasks. For years, I’ve used it as the rinse for my cheap, simple, safe hair-cleaning strategy: “Wash” by pouring a quarter-cup of plain borax mixed with a little warm water, rinse with cider vinegar, also mixed with warm water.

But when I’m adding it to a drink, a tincture, salad dressing, or anything else meant for swallowing, I’m fussy. I use unpasteurized, unfiltered, organic vinegar bottled in glass, with the “mother” still intact.

Mom's Switchel Recipe

  • 1 gallon plain, unchlorinated water (or use 1 or 2 quarts to make a switchel “base” suitable for diluting with seltzer, alcohol, or fruit juice)
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (or less; taste until you get the right blend of sweet and sour) pure maple syrup

Stir all ingredients together and chill.

Optional: Grate a knob of fresh ginger root into one cup of the water, bring to a boil, and let sit for an hour or more. Then strain, pressing to remove the ginger juice, and mix the juice with the other Switchel ingredients.

Here’s another classic Switchel recipe, which was unearthed from the archives of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Like many traditional recipes, it mixes molasses and ginger with apple cider vinegar. 

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

If you grow apples, you can easily make your own apple cider vinegar, too. Just don't toss those peels and cores! 

I like this recipe that uses apple peels and cores—a great use for what’s left when you make a big batch of applesauce or a bunch of pies for the holidays. (I’d use maple syrup or honey instead of cane sugar.)

Purchase Switchel

Finally, you can serve your purchased or homemade switchel cold or warm with a cinnamon stick or a bit of grated ginger. (The warm version tastes slightly like mulled cider, only better.) Some folks spike their switchel with beer or vodka; others get their buzz by adding plain or flavored seltzer to a concentrated switchel base.

Let us know how you make your switchel below!

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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