Switchel, also switzel, swizzle, ginger-water, haymaker's punch or switchy, is a drink made of water mixed with vinegar, and often seasoned with ginger. Honey, sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup were sometimes used to sweeten the drink instead of molasses. In the U.S. state of Vermont, oatmeal and lemon juice were sometimes added to the beverage.
Switchel originated in the Caribbean, and had become a popular summer drink in the American Colonies in the late 17th century. By the 19th century, it had become a traditional drink to serve to thirsty farmers at hay harvest time, hence the nickname haymaker's punch. Herman Melville wrote in I and My Chimney, "I will give a traveler a cup of switchel, if he want it; but am I bound to supply him with a sweet taste?" In The Long Winter Laura Ingalls Wilder describes a switchel-like beverage that her mother had sent for Laura and her father to drink while haying: "Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot."
The recipe is very similar to that of ginger beer, where vinegar is replaced with lemon or lime juice and bacteria are added to induce fermentation.
Switchel is bottled and distributed by companies such as Up Mountain Switchel and The Vermont Switchel Company.
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