Switchel

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (yes vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (optional)
  • tap water to make 2 quarts

This is a very old recipe, imported from our Yankee neighbors to the north, and before that, from Nova Scotia. Did you ever wonder what folks used to drink in the days before soda pop, and when lemons were out of season? Why Switchel of course. Instead of lemon juice, it uses a tangy combination of flavorful apple cider vinegar, molasses and ginger to make a summertime treat which will whet your whistle better than any modern thirst quencher I’ve ever run across.

First get out a two quart pitcher. Measure the vinegar, molasses, sugar or honey and ginger into it. Add cold tap water to fill. Stir to dissolve everything and serve in tall ice filled cups. Traditionally, oatmeal was also added to the mixture, to give it a little body, and improve the flavor. I am ashamed to say I have never prepared it with the added oatmeal, so if anyone does, please let me know what you think. This beverage takes a little getting used to. It is strongly flavored, nothing bland about it. It tastes best when it has mellowed overnight, blending the ginger with the molasses. It does quench your thirst better than anything else on a hot summer day though, and of course, costs next to nothing to prepare. I have also tried heating it in the winter time and drinking it as a hot toddy, it is actually quite delicious this way.

I hope you enjoy this and my other inexpensive beverage recipes. Another favorite of mine is this spiced citrus tea mix. Give it a try.



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Comments

  1. Tallulah says:

    I tried the oatmeal–didn’t care for it. I think the Switchel is better without it and I used fresh ginger. Delish!

  2. How much fresh ginger did you use?

  3. This is the first recipe I’ve seen that calls for oatmeal. I’ve had switchel in New England in the summer and it’s very refreshing stuff, although yes, it does take a bit of getting used to.

    What I might do with the oatmeal is buzz it up in the blender to a powder and then let it steep in the mixture overnight. That would add almost a milky sort of body (I do it for non dairy “cream” soups) to the concoction that sounds pleasant.

    I’ll have to try that next summer.

  4. My mother tells stories of drinking switchel during haying season in the summer. Lived in a small place called North Volney, on Lake Ontario. During this heat wave, she was thirsty, remembering her youth and having her thirst quenched by drinking switchel. I tried it, yes, it is a powerful drink, but reminds me of a good ginger ale. I like it better without the oatmeal.

  5. Mexican culture has a drink that is similar except that the oatmeal is soaked in water overnight or use warm water to speed the process. Strain out the oats, and add the other ingderents. you can also blend the oats, but i do not like that as well.

  6. Kiddalee says:

    This recipe also fits in the “Bath and Body” section, as it is a home remedy that people used before Gatorade was invented.

  7. Great web site you have here.. I could spend hours here looking around!.Makes me feel I am back home in the hills again! FYI I am a older guy 53 who gets night time leg cramps.and if you get cramps at night like me, your be glad I posted this even if it is off topic a bit.. Drink a glass of Switchel at night before going to bed. keeps my leg cramps down.Sure you may hit the can a few times ,but stoppling cramps it is well worth it!. The vinegar in it stops cramps in their tracks in just a few minutes and keeps them away for hours . Just like a few shot glasses of pickle juice will do too..Hope this info. helps someone out there.

    • Eric,
      My husband has a bad time with nocturnal leg cramps. I googled that, came up with “stopslegcramps.com” with old Amish cure including vinegar, ginger and garlic. Reminded me of Grama’s switchel, which I drink because it tastes good, keeps me hydrated. Glad to read of your success! We were at the Doctors today, he didn’t have a cure, suggested stretching exercises. I’m going to go make some switchel right now. I’ll pour it down him, pray it kills the cramps. Jan

  8. Thank you for sharing this switchel recipe! I doubled the amount listed and had this drink ready in the fridge a few days before our baby’s due date. While birthing our baby, I was very thirsty and craving something tangy and this switchel really did the trick! It not only satisfied my thirst, but also settled my stomach and I feel it helped give me the extra boost for the birth. This drink is in my family recipe book and I’m sharing this with other momma-to-be!

    • Try 1 cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon ground ginger. 1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent low calorie sweetener) and water to make a gallon. It mellows if let set at room temperature overnight. We drank this in the hay field when we were doing loose (not baled) hay. It’s good warm or cold (Tends to warm up in the field no matter how cold it is leaving the barn.)

      • i too had this putting in loose hay. we were fortunate enough to have a couple of very cold springs close by to store the jug in.

  9. Denise Melton says:

    I have inherited all my 96 year old mothers recipe books. While going through many of them, on a card I came across the recipe for Switchel. I do remember hearing the word but could not remember what it was or what it was used for. There are three recipes on the card. 1. regular Switchel. 2. Haymakers Switchel and a third using Cinnamon and Vanilla. I indeed will try it as we are now in the hottest part of the summer with temps here in Florida as hot as 103 degrees. By the way mom is still a northerner or should I say Yankee.

  10. I made this once when I was a little girl, since my mother home-schooled me and had a tendency toward teaching me ‘old-time’ crafts and recipes. Now I’m married, and my husband has a strong tendency to become dehydrated, especially since he is one of those who has to be reminded to eat and drink before he’ll do it, even though he’ll often spend hours working outside at a time. A couple weeks ago we were (once again) talking about this problem, and I remembered making this drink-though we called it ‘ginger-water’, a few years before. I am so glad I found this recipe! My husband drinks it up (he loves tangy things) and I feel like he seems to have more energy and less issue with dehydration. The only thing I changed was decreasing the molasses to 1 TBS and then adding about 2 TBS of dark brown sugar. This is not because there is anything wrong with molasses, but we tend to like it in moderation, and it was a little too much for us the first time we made it. Great, great recipe!

  11. Here is an apple juice plus vinegar sports drink recipe that also makes a great, refreshing homemade drink.

  12. stephany says:

    made me some simple switchel tonight for the hot southern days. Sweet tea is great but I need a switch up!

    1 C sugar
    1/2 honey
    1/2 vinegar (preferably apple cider but white will work)
    1 – 2 tbl ginger powder.

    Stir up, add to 2 Q container, Add water. Serve over ice.

    I might add a bit more vinegar next time. LOVED it and simple to make.

  13. Dave Massey says:

    As the youngest of 8 or 9 boys in the neighborhood, we all helped the farmer next door with his summer haying. He would start the day by baying a couple of wagon loads to get a head start on us boys. His wife or sometimes when his brother when he was home on leave would drive the tractor pulling the wagon. 3 or 4 of the older boys would be on the ground throwing bales up to us younger guys as we stacked it on the wagon. Gramma would be right there with a cold pitcher of switchel after every load that was packed into the barn. It was the best thing for thirst that I can remember. I thought for sure that recipe had gone to the grave with Gramma. What a surprise to find it on line here. Thanks to all that have held on to these recipes,and thank you for bring back childhood memories… Dave

  14. I used quick cook steel cut oatmeal I ground up in a blender. The steel cut is twice as dense as rolled oats, so I used half as much – 1/4 cup. It tames the vinegar out nicely.

    I also used fresh ginger, 3 tbsp. And used Blue Agave Nectar instead of sugar or honey.

    If you skip the molasses you will need to get another potassium source (like Morton’s salt substitute) or it won’t hydrate you nearly as well on those blazing hot days.

    Glad I found this recipe, it beats out sport drinks. Even the youngster likes it over Gatorade.

  15. There’s a similar recipe in the Bragg’s ACV book but without the ginger and oatmeal. Nice to know its origin!

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