Haymaker's Punch, also known as Switchel, ginger-water, switchy and swizzle, has been around for at least a few hundred years, but it's finding renewed popularity as a healthy hydration drink--something of a historic Gatorade. Recipes vary, but Switchel always contains water, apple cider vinegar, sweetener (molasses, maple syrup, or honey), and ginger.
It was also used to make Switchel. Many colonial farmers harbored the belief that in hot weather, a stomach was left cold by perspiration and needed to be heated up by drinking alcohol or something that caused a warming sensation going down, like ginger or vinegar (Sarah Hand Meacham, Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake, page 10). At some point, colonists realized drinking vinegar and ginger in their water was both refreshing and revitalizing.
|American Hay Harvest. Public Domain.|
|Laura Ingalls Wilder. Public Domain.|
As we know today, hydration isn't just about restoring water, but minerals as well, and drinking a large quantity of water quickly can make some overheated people ill. As Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, the "[g]inger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot."
Ginger may have given Switchel its taste and a sense of warmth, but cider vinegar with the mother in it is truly a key ingredient (the mother is a sediment of bacteria, enzymes and yeast). Vinegar, like ginger and natural sweeteners like molasses, are rich in potassium, natural electrolytes.
Today, Switchel is a natural alternative to sports drinks or soda, made with ingredients many of us have on hand. If you'd like to try, here's a basic recipe that can be adapted according to preference. Oh, and yes, it is a little tart. If you've tried Kombucha, you may find them similar.
For one serving:
Combine two cups water, 1-2 T. apple cider vinegar with the mother, 2 t. real maple syrup, honey or molasses, and either a shaving of fresh ginger or a few dashes ground ginger. Let it steep for an hour or two for the ginger flavor to soak in, and when ready, pour over ice and enjoy.
For stronger ginger flavor, boil fresh ginger in water for a few minutes. Allow the ginger-water to cool before mixing with the sweetener and vinegar, to protect the mother.
Add ins? Fresh lemon juice or other fruit juice. However you make it, see if it cools you down on a hot summer day.
Have you ever heard of Haymaker's Punch before? Have you tried it?
Susanne Dietze makes Switchel by the pitcher for her family to enjoy. She is the author of award-winning stories with timeless heart, including The Blizzard Bride and the upcoming A Future For His Twins.