Before there were sports drinks to rehydrate after intense physical labor or sugary drinks designed to boost energy levels, there was switchel, an all-natural summer drink similar to lemonade that’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
Currently a favorite in “hipster” markets and upscale cocktail bars, thanks to its numerous health benefits and great taste, this centuries-old beverage is primed to become the next kombucha or kvass. Get ahead of the curve, and start sipping on this fermented drink today.
What Is Switchel?
Made from apple cider vinegar, fresh ginger, maple syrup and then cut with water, switchel’s arrival to America is hazy. Some say this “ginger water” came from the West Indies, where molasses was used instead of maple syrup. Others say it’s derived from oxymel, an ancient Greek medicinal elixir made from vinegar, honey and water. Wherever its origins, by the 18th century, “haymaker’s punch” was being guzzled down by American farmers during long work days to keep cool and stay hydrated in the heat.
At the time, people thought throwing back warm drinks during hot days was better for the body, as it supposedly maintained the body’s equilibrium with the weather. And because farmers couldn’t drink alcohol while working on the fields, benefit-rich ginger was a safe second bet, as it produced a similar feeling to alcohol’s burn while going down.
While their reasoning might not have been totally sound, it turns out these farmers were onto something. Switchel uses are numerous, in fact. Here’s why switchel should be your new favorite summer drink.
5 Benefits of Switchel
1. Ease inflammation
Is switchel good for you? Yes! The ginger that makes up a key part of switchel is a natural inflammation reducer. Inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases, causes physical symptoms like skin problems and digestive issues. So keeping inflammation at bay with the ginger found in switchel can have other unexpected, welcome side effects, like clearing up acne.
Additionally, because it reduces inflammation, which also counts pain as a side effect, ginger is also a powerful pain fighter. In fact, one study found that consuming a small amount of ginger is more effective at reducing pain symptoms and inflammation than painkillers. Next time you feel a headache coming on, skip that painkiller and reach for switchel instead.
2. Get an electrolyte boost
Electrolytes are nutrients or chemicals in your body that help it perform specific functions, like regulating your heart beat or telling your legs it’s time to get moving. But after undergoing intense physical exertion (like running a marathon), getting sick, eating a poor diet or even taking certain medications, electrolytes imbalance can occur. Signs that your electrolytes need some replenishing include constantly feeling thirsty, frequent headaches, fatigue and nausea.
But because of the maple syrup and apple cider vinegar found in switchel, potassium-rich electrolytes, particularly potassium, are replenished, making it an excellent alternative to sugary drinks like Gatorade. Pour a glass after a tough workout on a hot day to feel refreshed and give help your body restore its electrolyte balance.
3. Enjoy a dose of apple cider vinegar
By regularly drinking switchel, you’ll get all the terrific benefits of apple cider vinegar,including healing compounds, like potassium, magnesium and probiotics.
Thanks to the many uses of apple cider vinegar, it’s one of my favorite natural remedies. It balances your body’s pH levels and, as a liver and lymphatic tonic, detoxes your body. Not bad for one of the most common household items!
4. Go gaga for ginger
This root is packed with health benefits. Ginger is a fantastic digestive aid, soothing upset tummies and easing bloating symptoms. It also boosts your body’s immune system, helping it fight off disease. Additionally, ginger root benefits include breaking down the accumulation of toxins in the body, another way it boosts immunity.
5. Reap maple syrup’s sweet surprises
If you’re using sweeteners, maple syrup is one of the top natural sweeteners. When used in moderation, it is an excellent alternative to cane sugar. Maple syrup affects blood sugar levels less than regular table sugar and includes trace antioxidants and minerals that regular sugar lacks.
Because maple syrup is made from tree sap, it’s also much less processed than refined cane sugar. It also steers clear of many of sugar’s harmful effects.
How to Make Switchel
Switchel, unlike other trendy fermented drinks like kvass or kombucha, is quite easy to make at home. We’ve included a recipe below to whip up your own batch.
Note that, while many recipes use maple syrup, it’s also possible to substitute benefit-rich raw honey (raw honey contains contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes!). If you’re drinking switchel regularly, it’s a good idea to alternate between maple syrup and honey to enjoy the benefits of both while keeping your sugar intake down.
If you want an after-work cocktail, give it a nutrient boost by using this delicious beverage as the base. Switchel combines well with alcohol, especially whiskey or gin. You can also use seltzer water instead of regular H2O to give the drink a fizzy, soda-like sensation while keeping it alcohol-free.
Because there are such few ingredients involved in making switchel — apple cider vinegar, water, maple syrup (or your choice of sweetener) and ginger — it’s important to choose the highest quality of each.
Opt for raw apple cider vinegar and, when choosing maple syrup, choose one that has pure maple syrup as the primary ingredient, preferably an organic variety. Steer clear of varieties with unnatural high-fructose corn syrups; these maple syrup imposters run rampant at grocery stores.
Make sure you don’t miss out on ginger’s benefits; use fresh slices each time instead of powdered. Freezing the ginger root beforehand can make slicing and dicing easier.
To make this ginger honey drink extra refreshing, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint, lemon wedges or berries.
- 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- at least 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger; you can also add in extra slices
- 4 cups water or seltzer water
- Combine all the ingredients in a large jar with a lid.
- Shake to combine.
- At this point, you can drink it over ice cubes or refrigerate and let steep for 12 to 24 hours.
- Stir well before serving.
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