Picture it. It’s summer, late 1800s. You’ve been up since five in the morning tending your fields. You managed to plow one, but now the sun is high and you’re sweating like a pig. The heavy cotton (or flax or whatever they wore back then—whatever it was, it probably wasn’t comfortable) clothes you’ve got on are sticking to you and you could really use a drink. What do you go for?
Switchel. You go for switchel. (And now, just like the people who made our great land so great, you can once again quench your thirst with a drink that is more American than apple pie.
The basic make-up of switchel is easy: water, apple cider vinegar, a sweetener of some sort (usually molasses, honey, or maple syrup), and depending on where you were, some other flavoring (like lemon juice or ginger). What results is a tart yet sweet beverage that does wonders for one’s thirst.
Let’s be honest, though, unless you’re one of the ones out there that is taking shots of apple cider vinegar for your health every morning (or brewing your own kombucha), switchel might at first sound a bit, well, gross.
Sweet vinegar? Who’d want that? Let’s put the principle of drinking it in perspective, though. What about all those IPAs you drink? You can’t tell us you honestly took that first fateful sip of an IPA as a young pup of twenty-one and went, “Woah, this is great!” Hell no, you probably took a sip and went “Damn, this is bitter.” But then you kept drinking anyway.
Same thing here. It might seem unappealing, but give it a few sips and you’re likely to come around just like you did to that fresh-hopped double IPA.
Sometimes called switzel or haymaker’s punch (from the fact that it was consumer by farmers who we can only assume spent their time punching bales of hay), references to the drink go back as far as the late 1700s in New England. Up until recent years, though, there have not been many commercial switchel efforts. You simply made up a batch yourself and that was that.
That is changing, though, thanks in part to Vermont’s Up Mountain Switchel, a company dedicated to showing off what is really one of America’s first craft drinks.
Sustainably made from local apple cider vinegar, local maple syrup, local water, and organic ginger root, Up Mountain Switchel offers a taste of the past while still giving consumers a modern take on the beverage (i.e. you don’t have to spend eight hours hauling hay and milking cows to enjoy it). Instead, you get a burst of electrolytes without all the sodium that you would from a sport’s drink.
Not only do they provide classic flavors such as Original and Lemon, but you can find energizing flavors such as Cayenne and Yerba Maté as well (this was our personal favorite thanks to the mix of refreshment and energy). Whichever variety you go with, each is packed with flavor.
So, next time you’re out working hard (or hardly working, we won’t judge) and you need something to quench your thirst that isn’t alcoholic, what are you going to go for? Switchel. You go for Up Mountain Switchel.