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 debatably originated in the Caribbean, but New England also holds credit as the source of switchel, and it became 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."
Switchel is experiencing a renewed interest and has become a steadily-growing category in the ready-to-drink beverage industry. As of 2015, there are several companies that produce and distribute switchel beverages throughout the US. Canada has one commercial switchel producer.
It has also been used in recent years as a base in alcoholic cocktails, or as a mixer.
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- "I and My Chimney by Herman Melville". Online-literature.com. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
- D.C. Md Jarvis (May 12, 1985). Folk Medicine: A New England Almanac of Natural Health Care from a Noted Vermont Country Doctor. Fawcett Publications. ISBN 978-0-449-20880-9.
- Sterling, Justine (2014-07-24). "Switchel: The Best Summer Drink You've Never Heard Of | Food & Wine". Foodandwine.com. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
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