The switchel is thought to have originated in the Caribbean and became popular among British colonists during 17th-century New England. It typically contained apple cider vinegar, ginger and a sweetener, and today, as with the popularity of shrubs and kombucha, the switchel has made a comeback.
Kevin Murphy, the bar director and assistant manager at Daisies, an American restaurant in Chicago, praises switchels for their health benefits. “Switchels are an effective electrolyte-replenishing beverage,” he says. “Ingredients like honey, vinegar, molasses and ginger, along with other herbs and sweeteners, were commonly used; many are still prized for their nutritional value.”
When he found that he was disappointed in the flavor of many commercially available varieties, he decided to create his own, using apple cider vinegar mixed with honey syrup and topped with sparkling water. He even uses a homemade apple cider vinegar, but a high-quality organic commercial brand works equally well.
The spirit is optional, but if you do turn it into a cocktail, Murphy recommends adding no more than an ounce of booze to keep the flavor balanced. Using restraint here also keeps the focus on the drink’s healthy properties, rather than its intoxicating effects. If you do choose to spike your switchel, for good results, try bourbon, white or aged rum, blended scotch, oloroso sherry or Amaro Montenegro.
- 1 ounce spirit of choice (optional)
- 2 ounces sparkling water
- 1 ounce apple cider vinegar
- 1 ounce honey sage syrup*
- Garnish: fresh sage leaf
Combine spirit of choice, sparkling water, apple cider vinegar and honey sage syrup in a rocks glass over ice and stir gently to combine.
Garnish with a fresh sage leaf.
*Honey sage syrup: Add 1/3 cup boiling water to 1 cup honey and stir until honey is dissolved. Steep 3 grams of fresh sage in syrup for 25 minutes, then strain solids. Store syrup in refrigerator up to several weeks.