Switchel is a traditional drink with a long history. Some say Switchel dates back to the late 17th century. It is often called ‘haymaker’s switchel’ because it was a refreshing drink for those doing the hard work of harvesting hay and often served along with the noon meal. Although, they didn’t know at the time, the vinegar and molasses help hydrate and replace electrolytes.  They only knew it worked.


John Lewis Krimmel, “The Village Tavern/In an American Inn” (1814), Toledo Museum of Art

The American Table blog has a nice Switchel page along with a recipe from 1853. In the last decade or so it appears Switchel is having a revival and it has lately become popular and now you can buy it bottled online.

We have served Switchel at Venoge since 2005 and only once have I had someone reject it ‘violently’. Most like it or find it ‘interesting’. There are many variations, some using honey or maple syrup, but always using vinegar. The recipe below is the one we use most often.


  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup vinegar or to taste
  • 2 quarts water


Slowly heat ingredients over low heat until combined thoroughly. We recommend using half of the recommended vinegar to start.

Adjust amounts to taste and add more vinegar now if desired. Chill and serve.