Switchel Recipe: Nature’s Sports Drink that Benefits Your Gut

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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 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.

Health Benefits

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, 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.

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. 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.

How to Make Switchel

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is — switchel is delicious any season. Let’s make it!

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.

Switchel step 1 - Dr. Axe

Fill a 2-quart saucepan about two-thirds of the way with water and freshly chopped ginger. Bring the water to a boil and let the mix boil for about 2 minutes, then remove the saucepan from the heat and let the ginger steep for another 20 minutes.

Switchel step 2 - Dr. Axe

Then, in a pitcher, add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice — yum!

Now it’s time to add the ginger water. Use a strainer while pouring the water into the pitcher to keep the chopped ginger out. Stir all the ingredients together.

Switchel recipe - Dr. Axe

That’s all there is to making this switchel! You can enjoy this drink either at room temperature or served on ice. You can even give switchel a little kick and add a splash of alcohol, like gin or vodka, to it. It’s a terrific drink to keep on hand to serve kids instead of sugary soft drinks or juices. They’ll love it, too!

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Switchel Recipe


  • Author: Dr. Josh Axe
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 5 min
  • Total Time: 30 min
  • Yield: 72 ounces 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

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 drink similar to lemonade that’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup ginger, chopped
  • ½ cup maple syrup (add more if need it to be sweeter; you also can substitute molasses for a very old-fashioned taste!)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ⅔ cup lemon juice
  • 6 cups water

Instructions

  1. Fill a 2-quart saucepan 2/3 with water and add ginger.
  2. Bring water to a boil and allow ginger to boil for about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let ginger steep for 20 minutes.
  4. In a 2-quart pitcher, add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.
  5. Strain ginger as you are pouring into pitcher.
  6. Stir and mix all ingredients well.
  7. Can be served warm or on ice.
  8. *Add more water to dilute if needed.

Notes

You can enjoy this drink either at room temperature or served on ice. You can even give switchel a little kick and add a splash of alcohol, like gin or vodka, to it.

  • Category: Beverages
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: West Indian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 8 oz.
  • Calories: 91
  • Sugar: 16.9g
  • Sodium: 11mg
  • Fat: 0.2
  • Carbohydrates: 22.5g
  • Fiber: 0.4g
  • Protein: 0.4g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: switchel recipe, how to make switchel, what is switchel

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88 Comments

  1. Serena Beach on

    Hi… thanx for the recipe!
    Did you know that when you cook ginger at all , it changes the properties
    of the root. When making a Ginger tea it acts as a demulcent & willl help clear mucous from the respiratory tract.
    If you take the chopped raw ginger & mix it in the blender with water, you will have raw ginger juice which has more of an anti inflammatory effect on the body. I keep a quart jar of it in the
    fridge for up to a week…pulp & all & strain it into other juices or tea or smoothies. It has a more pungent
    taste than the cooked version.

    Reply
  2. Patricia Mueller on

    I have made this twice now using only molasses not maple syrup. I absolutely love it. I want to thank you for this recipe, it will be a staple in my kitchen from now on. I have had to take a tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water very day for a few years to combat a skin issue somewhat like exema. This is a delightful way to take it.
    I plan on trying a maple syrup version and also a mixed one for variety.

    Reply
  3. Diane Wilkinson on

    Important to water it down to start with. I think I drank too much, neat to start with!!Delicious though and will keep it up

    Reply
  4. Diana Trout on

    This recipe looks GREAT and I just bought ginger so will try it soon!! However, the one nice thing to know would be how long it would keep in the refrigerator. I would love to double or triple the recipe and appreciate the inclusion of the amounts in this recipe but wouldn’t want to do it until I knew how long it keeps. Can’t wait to try it though. If anyone can tell me, I’d love to know!

    Reply
  5. Zeny on

    Hello. Any danger from non diluted ginger juice? Best time? How often, and how much? Thank you.
    Peace,
    Zeny
    mail.com

    Reply
  6. Linda on

    I do a ginger, lemon, raw honey mixture I make every weekend and drink through out the week that is made similar to your Switchel recipe.

    Reply
  7. Terry Wheeler on

    Sounds great to me. I’m going to try it. I need another alternative to water,
    herbal,decaffinated suger free tea. It gets boring!!! Thank you so much!!!
    Terry

    Reply
  8. Pam on

    Yummy I love this healthy alternative and so does my toddler. I’m watching sugar even natural ones. I used 1/4 c and it was perfect. I’ll have to try it next with some agave tequila for myself.

    Reply
  9. kathleen hiscock on

    It is delicious as is. You just have to add seltzer to your glass of switchel because it is so concentrated. 1/3 seltzer, 2/3 switchel or half of each.

    Reply
    • Ethan Boldt on

      Not with this recipe, which uses “ginger water” to make it even healthier. Seltzer would be a substitute.

      Reply
  10. Susan on

    I am hoping this drink helps to settle down the inflammation of my bronchial
    tubes, which is causing excessive production of mucus and constant coughing bouts, which then cause immediate severe pain on the top of my head worse than any headache or migraine I have ever experienced and, in turn, raising my blood pressure. I will report back after trialling this recipe for a few days. Not a great start to the new year.

    And, yes, I have made an appointment to see a doctor.

    I like the taste of this recipe just as it is. The ginger certainly has a kick to it, but as it has anti-inflammatory properties, that’s a good thing for me right now. I’m going to try to make a second batch with the same ginger, as it is horrendously expensive here in Australia at the moment because of a national shortfall of fresh ginger due to last year’s dry weather and waiting for the new crop to mature. The current health trends are also pushing the price up. I’m growing my own but it takes about 8 months to fully mature and I don’t have enough space to grow a continuous supply.

    Reply
  11. Cindy on

    Switchel is a traditional drink that we use during our reenactments (Rev War) to make sure we stay hydrated. Thanks for the recipe it will be used with great pleasure!

    Reply
    • Corina on

      Lydia,

      I am allergic to many apples but not all~ go figure.
      If I eat most apples I have an instant reaction but don’t have this with granny smith apples.
      I have tried organic apples but had the same response. Now I have apple trees (old, old trees)
      and I can eat the apples right off the branch with no problem.
      I use apple cider vinegar daily with no allergic effects.
      Not sure what you situation is but I didn’t eat apples for years because I was “allergic”. now granny smith apples or my apples in season are a daily part of my diet.
      For what its worth~

      Reply
  12. PL on

    I made this with just 1/2 cup of maple syrup and 1 13/4 quarts of water and it was perfect. Tangy and not too sweet or sour. It might even be good with slightly less syrup and then folks can add addf’l to suit their tastes.

    Reply
  13. Brenda Segedin on

    Just cut down the maple syrup amount to begin with. You can always add more if need be but cannot take it out if too sweet. I put less than half that amount, and I dilute in hot water now in NZ we’re in winter. I find it perfect. I drink ACV and lemon juice everynight, with no sweet near, before bed and I just love these flavours. Everything is adaptable to your desires and tastes.

    Reply
    • DEE on

      YES, THERE IS . THERE IS ERYTHRITOL AND MALITOL. THEY HAVE LESSER LEVELS OF SWEENTESS THAN XYLITOL, BUT THEY ARE LOW GLYCEMIC AND BOTH ARE BETTER FOR YOU IF YOU MUST WATCH YOUR SUGAR INTAKE. YOU MAY STILL WANT TO USE THEM INSTEAD OF SUGAR TO PREVENT THE CAUSE OF DIABETES IN THE 1ST PLACE.

      Reply
  14. Jay on

    I make this with liquid stevia, it’s delicious but it doesn’t have the same golden color.
    On the rocks with a slice of lemon, very refreshing and, most of all, healthy.

    Reply
  15. Susan on

    RE: Essential Oils, I use both EO’s and fresh ginger…for this recipe I’d go with the fresh ginger. It will have that same fresh ginger “snap” (not the cookie! LOL) that ginger has…similar to a non-alcholic ginger beer. And fresh ginger is fairly inexpensive vs. the cost I’ve seen for EO’s.

    Dr. Axe, thanks for this recipe! All the ingredients are staples in my house, so easy to make a batch. Love the idea another commenter made to mix with sparkling water. Mmmmm!

    Reply
    • Courtney on

      I too take EO’s internally (Young Livings) and the ginger in my opinion will not have the same flavor effect as the chopped raw root will, but I’d imagine you could replace ginger eo and even lemon eo for the fresh stuff as desired.

      Reply
  16. Tasha on

    I make something similar to this and use 2 drops ginger oil. I use doTerra. Not sure how much with other brands. I use stevia instead of honey or maple syrup.

    Reply
    • Linda on

      I’ve been boiling just a cup of water with ginger, then finish with sparkling water. Three of us have gone through a gallon a week since mid-February. Really like this stuff.

      Reply
    • Paul on

      You don’t get half the flavor with dried ginger that you do with fresh. I don’t think you get as many of the benefits either.

      Reply
      • David on

        There are so many brands and types of stevia it would be impossible to say how much. You just have to sweeten to taste. So many people try stevia and claim they don’t like it. Well there is raw green leaf stevia, white powder refined stevia, white powder stevia extract (I prefer), liquid stevia and many other variations and manufacturers.

    • Joyce Brown on

      If the ginger is only boiled for 2 min it should be good for making ginger tea. Boil it for 10 min. in 2 cups of water & add lemon juice and more water to taste. Hot or cold it’s good.

      Reply
      • Melba McGilvrey on

        I would say, any other natural sweetner, Stevia leaf. Pretty sure that the maple syrup is for energy, as many would use this drink for a cleanse.

    • Rena on

      With that amount of lemon juice and vinegar you’ll need that amount of sugar! I use 1 cup of sugar (minimum) for each 1/2 cup of lemon juice when I make 2 liters of lemonade so, yeah, this is not too much sugar. :)

      Reply
    • David on

      It’s too much sugar if, like me, you can’t tolerate sugar. Whenever i see any recipes that contain sugar of any amount, i either try it with stevia or move on.

      Reply
      • Phyllida on

        You could try Yacon Syrup which tastes sweet but is not processed by the body as a sugar. It is also high in nutrients including inulin.

    • Bertha on

      I drink it without any sweetener. It tastes fine to me. I often add ACV to herbal tea too. It gives it a nice taste.

      Reply
    • Rosa on

      Hi,
      I think if you add Stevia it works like sugar but with no calories and no negative effect if one is diabetic

      Reply
    • Elle on

      One can train oneself by adapting your taste buds and thus not use any sugar. My form of lemonade is organic lemons juiced with peel, soaked in purified water. The Oils in the peel are sooo good for you, hence, only use organic. I honestly don’t like it sweet anymore. However, don’t sell yourself short with Maple Syrup, get Organic Grade B – it is full of minerals. By using the right products you can actually Feed your body.

      Reply
      • Redbird67 on

        I like your post.. I drink this 2-3 times a day and I have gotten accustomed to its unique taste.. I use the real maple syrup or our local honey or good old blackstrap molasses. Sometimes a combination of the three. I also add cinnamon to our taste, lemon of course sometimes a mix of lemon and lime. When I can get the organic cranberries, we make up and can our own juice.. I add it to this recipe (sometimes) in place of the water… I also add (sometimes) the organic concentrated black cherry juice…sometimes some fermented ginger “bug”””” it gives it some Zip…The original Switchel Tea was really a mixture or punch of different flavors of what was in season .
        I have osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia plus bone spurs… this has helped me by drinking it on a regular daily basis.. start off tart and train your tastebuds to less sweetening….I read where this is a natural Gatorade…to me and my body switchel is better…❤

    • Emily on

      One thing about the sugar is that the Apple Cider Vinegar needs the sugar to continue to culture and become probiotic.

      Reply
  17. Melissa on

    I have seen similar things done with Jun or Kombucha. Do you rate them? I see a lot more about Kombucha but prefer the taste of Jun, are the benefits similar?

    Reply

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