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 fact that the apple cider vinegar has already been fermented, switchel brings many of the same benefits as kombucha without requiring that 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.
What is switchel?
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 ended up with the name Haymaker’s Punch because it was commonly served to farmers to quench their thirst after a long day plowing the fields. Read more about the history of switchel here.
There are endless ways to make switchel and methods 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, 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 is known 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. It has a proven track record for helping to fight bacteria. Thanks to the probiotics, the vitamin C from lemon juice, and loads of minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes from the raw honey, this brew has a host of anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits.
Honey, in fact, is known to successfully treat cough in children. Gingerols in the ginger have known antibiotic properties. You can consider adding some steeped hibiscus tea or extract, which has been proven to fight some of the most pathogenic influenza strains. And then you can even throw in a pinch of cayenne pepper to clear congestion, stimulate the lymphatic system and help clear out toxins [source].
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, that way you have enough to last you the entire time you're feeling sick. If you hate the taste of vinegar, 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 or every two to three hours if you feel a cold coming on, and your immune system will be revved up in no time.
Ginger Cider Switchel Recipe
- Pitcher or glass jar
- Place all ingredients in a pitcher or jar and stir to combine. Cover and leave out on the counter overnight (about 12 hours).
- To drink, pour over ice and top with seltzer water, if desired. Store the remaining switchel in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified pediatrician who has been practicing for more than 20 years. Learn more about Hello Glow's medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.233