I have long been a fan of fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir but it wasn’t until recently that I heard of switchel. A favorite of early American farmers, switchel is a steeped brew of ginger, apple cider vinegar and a natural sweetener mixed with a little water. Due to the pre-fermented apple cider vinegar, switchel has a lot of the same health benefits as kombucha but without requiring a long fermentation process. And because of the added ginger, lemon and raw honey it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and immune-boosting enzymes perfect for keeping your immune system humming during cold and flu season.
While the history of switchel is a bit hazy, it’s thought to have gotten its start in the Caribbean before making its way to the early American colonies. Sometime during the 19th century it got the name Haymaker’s Punch because it was commonly served to farmers to quench their thirst after a long day plowing the fields.
There are endless ways to make switchel and recipes vary depending on the source, but all of the recipes I have seen agree on the use of apple cider vinegar to give it a tart flavor and a probiotic-fueled punch. When consumed regularly, apple cider vinegar has been shown to balance blood sugar, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, soothe skin and aid in weight loss. It’s a well-documented miracle worker that has been proven to improve health in almost every way possible. Now, before you get all worried about drinking vinegar (I know the taste can leave a little something to be desired), when combined with lemon, ginger and honey it tastes more like a natural ginger ale or lemonade, without the overpowering vinegar taste you might expect.
With cold and flu season coming on, apple cider vinegar in the form of switchel makes the perfect health tonic. Thanks to vitamin C from the lemon juice and minerals, antioxidants and enzymes from the raw honey, the brew has a host of anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits. You can even throw in a pinch of cayenne pepper to stimulate the lymphatic system and to help clear out toxins.
One of my favorite things about switchel is that the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Since it has to steep overnight, it’s best to make a large pitcher in advance so you always have some on hand when you start feeling a little under the weather. Simply try pouring it over ice and topping it off with a little carbonated water to give it a soda-like fizz.
Although it’s good year round, during cold and flu season try drinking a glass daily before you get sick and every two to three hours if you feel a cold coming on and your immune system will be revved up in no time.
- 1 (5-inch) piece ginger root, grated
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- ⅓ cup raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 cups filtered water
- Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher or jar and stir to combine. Cover and leave out on the counter overnight.
- To drink, pour over ice and top with seltzer water if desired. Store the remaining switchel in the refrigerator.