Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
Ever heard of switchel? It is a fermented beverage that hasn’t seemed to gain the popularity of kombucha … yet (though I suspect it will soon!). It relies on pre-fermented apple cider vinegar and does not have a long fermentation process like kombucha or kefir do, making it a great first drink for anyone new to fermenting.
What is Switchel?
Switchel has quite a few nicknames including Haymaker’s Punch, Ginger-Water, and Swizzy. It is a fermented drink that originated in the Caribbean and that often contains apple cider vinegar, water, a natural sweetener, and a flavoring, like ginger root.
It is an inexpensive and electrolyte-filled way to get the benefits of apple cider vinegar and is much more tasty than undiluted vinegar! While it isn’t as popular as kombucha yet, I recently saw a switchel-based cocktail on the menu in a restaurant, making me wonder if its return to popularity has begun.
History of Switchel
Sources disagree about when switchel officially made its way to the United States, but agree that it has been here for well over 100 years. I remember a mention of it in one of my favorite childhood books, The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot.
Sources also disagree about the “right” way to make switchel, the sweetener that should be used, and the proportions. Like most recipes, the trick seems to be finding a recipe that you love.
Benefits of Switchel
Like other fermented foods and drinks, switchel has its share of benefits, depending on the ingredients. There are endless ways to make this tasty drink and all of the ingredients offer their own benefits. In my favorite recipe, I use:
- Apple cider vinegar: A great natural source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as beneficial bacteria and acids. While many people don’t love the strong flavor of vinegar by itself, it is perfect in this recipe when balanced with ginger, honey, and lime. I get mine here.
- Honey: A versatile natural remedy in our house that I use as a face wash, to help speed healing of cuts and burns, and even as a natural sleep aid. Raw honey is a source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that makes it a nutrient powerhouse with antiviral and antibacterial properties. It is often recommended for digestive health and there is some evidence that it may benefit the skin when taken internally.
- Ginger: A powerful natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant due to the presence of an oil called gingerol. It has a long history of use as a remedy for digestive problems, nausea, and illness. In this recipe, it adds both flavor and a slight spicy balance to the sweetness of the honey. Ginger root is found in most grocery stores and its skin can be peeled off easily with the edge of a spoon.
- Lime: I add some fresh lime juice purely for flavor but it is also a good source of vitamin C.
Switchel Variations to Try
- With molasses: Blackstrap molasses is good for skin and hair. It is a great natural source of iron, B6, potassium, selenium, and copper, and often helpful for people who suffer from anemia and have trouble absorbing other sources of iron. It is considered diabetes friendly and unlike refined sweeteners it maintains many of the nutrients of sugar cane. Especially during pregnancy, I switch out the honey in this recipe for some organic blackstrap molasses for the extra nutrients and iron. This is also the lowest glycemic option for a sweetener.
- With maple syrup: A good source of antioxidants, manganese, and zinc, use maple syrup in place of honey.
- Using lemon or herbs: For flavor, you can use lemon in place of the lime or omit completely. I also love adding other herbs besides just ginger and muddling the fresh leaves for flavor. Some favorite herbs to add are basil, lemon thyme, and rosemary.
- With seltzer water: Though regular water is traditionally used in this recipe, seltzer water can give it natural fizz and make it even more refreshing. Since it is typically “aged” overnight in the refrigerator, I recommend using regular water in the recipe, but only using half as much and then adding the additional as seltzer water when serving.
- With cinnamon: If you prefer more of an apple-cider flavor, add a few cinnamon sticks to the overnight soak in the refrigerator in place of the ginger.
Just talking about it makes me want to get up and go start a batch!
How to Make Switchel
Now for the fun part! No need for a scoby or kefir grains (though I always have those in my kitchen as well). In fact, you likely already have the ingredients for this delicious drink in your kitchen.
Here’s how to make ginger switchel:
Ginger Honey Switchel Recipe
- 2 TBSP unfiltered apple cider vinegar with "the mother"
- 3 TBSP raw honey or blackstrap molasses
- 2- inch piece of fresh ginger root peeled and finely minced
- 4 cups water
- ½ of a fresh lime juiced and zested
- Mix all ingredients in a large jar, cover, and shake well.
- Place in the refrigerator overnight.
- To serve, pour over ice or add seltzer water if desired.
Ever heard of switchel? Ready to try it with your family?
Discussion (131 Comments)
I’ve made Switchel for years! Our whole family loves it. We’ve been War of 1812 re-enactors for nearly 11 years now and I bring a batch of it along to every event and it’s always a hit with the men; just like in Little House, it’s great to drink your fill when you’re working hard in the sun all day 🙂
Wouldn’t the antibacterial properties of the honey kill the beneficial bacteria in the vinegar? I know you can’t use honey in water kefir because of this…. ?
If you want a truly fermented, fizzy, slightly sweet drink, try water kefir. I make mine with plain water and sugar or herbal tea and sugar. Sometimes I do a secondary ferment with a dried apricot or adding sour cherry juice (this is supposed to make it fizzier but doesn’t always work). Sometimes I add ginger. It’s never the same thing twice! It is shocking how different batches can be (which some people may not like). Switchel and milk kefir and kombucha turn out pretty much the same way every time….sure, the longer you let it go, the sourer it gets. But if you like variety and having no control over the final result, try water kefir! 😉
Great post! Will have to try this. Does the ACV continue to ferment? It would be nice to have it develop its own bubbles like the kombucha. Regardless sounds healthy and refreshing.
I’m not sure as mine has never lasted more than a couple of days in the fridge, but it does seem to get more tangy/bubbly after the first 12 hours or so, so it might
Do you have to drink the full four cups in one day for the full benefit? If not, how much?
Oh my goodness, my grandmother used to make switchel for my grandfather when he was coming down with a cold. I’ve been asking for years but no-one in the family had the recipe or remembered it.
Thank-you so much! I am so looking forward to the taste and the smell of scwitchel (she was from a German background and pronounced it schwizzle).
Love this idea, thanks for sharing!
Just to clarify, when using acv with the mother, do you add the mother to this mix as well? Or just use acv that has the mother in it?
Thanks in advance. Sorry if it seems a stupid question x
Just an ACV that has the mother in it, because this means it is a living culture.
I woud think that by keeping it in the fridge the ‘fermented’ part is only as a result of the ACV, since it is raw and fermented.
I wonder what would happen if this were to be left on the counter for a few days, as you would when using a gingerbug, kefir grains or scoby? Actually, that gets me to thinking! I want to try this USING my gingerbug rather than the minced ginger, along with the other ingredients, and leaving it out a few days to see if I can get a good natural ferment carbonation going!
I will mix this up today and report back, because my ginger bug is going strong right now. 🙂
I would be interested to hear how that goes!
I mixed this up in a canning jar yesterday morning, and I left it to sit on the counter all day, then when I was prepping dinner I put it on the warm stovetop in amongst the soup and cheese pot. 🙂 I had hoped the extra warmth would speed things along.
I did take a little taste before bed and it was really nice tasting, but no bubbles yet. So I left it (sealed securely with a canning jar lid) on the floor by a heating vent which is where I second ferment my kombucha for the night, and I’ll give it all of today there and see if there seems to be any action. I think if I could get this to ferment to bubbly it would be a big hit with my boys, and while it was quite sweet with that amount of honey last night, as it ferments, a bit of that sweetness would be taken off, leaving a really nice bubbly drink!
I am so glad I popped over to your blog and saw this! I will do my own post on my blog and link to yours for the original recipe, and then post it the way I have made it (if this works out like I am hoping it will!).
On day two after being near a heating vent in the sealed jar all day, it was super bubbly, very much like an extra fizzy kombucha. I already have another jar going. 🙂
I will do a blog post on this, since it worked so well with the warm ferment to get bubbles. I also omitted the limes because I didn’t have any. I will definitely experiment with fruits (and maybe even some veggies!) added though.
Well done on that idea, it sounds great and will try myself!
Jillian do you mind sharing where to find your blog as I don’t have much refrigerator room and would love to do it on the counter top?
That is brilliant Jillian. I ran to the Grocery store this morning when I read this recipe and especially your comments. I have my girlfriend trying it too. 🙂
Jillian, what is a gingerbug?
This > https://wellnessmama.com/8942/ginger-bug/
Thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to try this recipe ?
One question- is this safe to drink during pregnancy?
I drink it while pregnant, but like anything, always check with your DR or midwife if you have concerns…
This is the video I watched. Very interesting Hope the link works!