Switchel: the Original Energy-Ade

What do you drink if you’re worn out and need a little kick? An Ade, soda, an energy boost? In the 18th century, before supermarkets had shelves lined with this stuff,  many people drank a delicious beverage called Switchel.

Beverages similar to switchel date all the way back to ancient Greece, and were drank all the way around the world. This recipe was typical of those popular in America from New England all the way to the Caribbean. Of course regional influences made for local flares. In Vermont, for example, Switchel was made with Maple Syrup and mixed with oatmeal. (The oatmeal was eaten as a snack once the beverage was finished.) While in Trinidad the drink was almost always mixed with special branches from the quararibea turbinata plant. (Also known as the swizzlestick tree.)

Like Jon mentions in the video above Switchel is excellent with alcohol rum. The succulent balance of vinegar and sweetness makes for an exquisite cocktail base.

Switchel

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon of Drinking Water
  • 1/2 cup of Unsulfured Molasses (not blackstrap!) — to understand better what type of molasses this is, make sure you watch the video on Switchel posted above. You may also substitute maple syrup or honey.
  • 1/4 cup of Apple-Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of Powdered Ginger

Procedure

Mix all ingredients in a large vessel. Stir vigorously, especially making sure the ginger is well assimilated. Refresh yourself accordingly!

Switchel, along with many other tasty beverages, can be found in Libations of the Eighteenth Century by David Alan Woolsey, sold at Jas. Townsend and Son.

8 thoughts on “Switchel: the Original Energy-Ade”

  1. I’ve made two small batches. The first followed the recipe using molasses. WAY too strong for our tastes, even after adding sugar. The second batch was made with honey and barely one teaspoon of ginger. Much better!

  2. I made this for my students some years ago and it rapidly turned into a game in which the boys tried to trick each other into drinking it.

  3. Ginger lemonade is also wonderful – make the syrup in large batches, use the remaining ginger and lemon pieces as pulp/preserves for spread on bread. Use the syrup with seltzer water for nice refreshing drink. Found an adapted receipt (recipe) in later 1800’s.

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