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Making Hay

Tina Hartell

Sometimes in the morning when coffee seems too bitter and tea seems too sweet, I make a concoction known as a switchel. 

I heat up some water, apple cider, and apple cider vinegar. This tonic seems to hit whichever spot needs hitting. Although it contains apple cider vinegar, the ingredient that allows it to fall under the nomenclature of a switchel, it is an unconventional one, a drink more suited to the cool morning hours then the mid-day heat.

More often though, switchel is a hot-afternoon drink, a cooling beverage that replenishes electrolytes (or cations for the chemists out there) and warms a body that has been hard at work outside on a blistering early July afternoon. So for all you heat beaters, I offer up this tonic:

Bobo’s Mountain Switchel

4 cups cold well water

1 teaspoon ground ginger (you can use fresh too making for strong ginger flavor)

1/4 cup Bobo’s Mountain maple syrup

1/2 cup cider vinegar

Mix, shake, and keep cold for a few hours in the fridge. Then, my preference is to dilute 50% switchel/50% ice water and add fresh mint. 

Switchel migrated from the Caribbean and it was originally made from molasses – a byproduct of the Caribbean sugar production. In Vermont it became the haymaker’s drink: a 19th century Gatorade. The cider vinegar adds an unfamiliar punch to the beverage, something our palates aren’t used to, but it acidifies the drink in a part of the country where lemons and limes were rarely available. And once used to it, its quite tasty. 

Switchel seems to be having a renaissance this summer – even among those who watch haymaking from their porches – and different flavors are being tried out in test kitchens around Bobo’s Mountain. Recently I’ve tried switchel with varying combinations of basil, lime, honey, cucumber, and cinnamon. 

By the way, switchel also can be drunk in the winter in your slippers sitting front of a fire. Just drink it warm and, if necessary, add the spirit of your choice. Rum brings out its Caribbean heritage but perhaps whisky is the New England favorite.