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Switchel is like cheater's lemonade—but maybe even better. Learn how to make it at home.
I had never heard of switchel when my friend Hannah asked if I would be her bar-back at last September’s Queen Bee Cocktail Classic, a honey-driven cocktail competition put together by NYC Honey Week.
The whole evening was both wacky and wonderful: There were tutus involved (not, I am happy to report, on my own body), there were lots of people buzzing around with drinks in their hands, and Hannah wore handmade paper flowers—complete with bees trembling on the ends of curled wires—in her hair. Bartenders from all over the city hoped their specialty cocktail of the evening would win them the title of Queen Bee. The only rule was that every drink had to include honey in some way.
Hannah’s cocktail was a honey-whiskey switchel, a not-too-sweet highball topped off with seltzer water and a generous pinch of salt. She called it Haymakers Punch—"haymaker's punch" is a farmer nickname for switchel, because the stuff is so revitalizing when it's hot out—and it won her second place at the Classic. It also turned me on to switchel (which has since appeared on the shelves of the Whole Foods around the corner from the Food52 office).
Switchel is a tangy steeped brew of apple cider vinegar, ginger, and something sweet—Hannah makes hers with honey, but I like the rooty warmth of maple syrup. It is excellent as Hannah served it in her punch, with whiskey and seltzer water, but most of the time, I combine everything—vinegar, maple syrup, fresh ginger, and water—all at once in a big jar, screw on the lid, and shake until it’s all combined.
After an overnight steep in the refrigerator, I pour it over ice and drink. It is supremely refreshing, like lemonade but without having to squeeze all of the lemons. And it’s a much less austere way to get apple cider vinegar, which purportedly has about one million health benefits, into your system than a bracing shot of the stuff.
Makes 4 servings
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (I like the unfiltered stuff, like Bragg's, best)
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (as much as you want—I usually slice up a piece the size of my thumb)
4 cups water
Combine all of the ingredients in a large jar.
Shake to combine thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
The switchel on the right has steeped for 24 hours—you can see how much darker it is!
To serve, strain into glasses filled with ice—or heat it and drink as a tea.
Photos by Bobbi Lin