Introducing Our Brand New Switchel!
So what, exactly, is switchel? The short answer is that it's a sweet, carbonated, vinegar-based drink. The long answer is probably as long as history itself, so let's go with the short version of the long answer, shall we?
Vinegar and its use by people is older than written history. There's evidence of vinegar in the tombs of the pharaohs, and wine production goes back well before there was written language. And where there's wine, there's vinegar.
Some of the first evidence of vinegar being drunk is from account of a beverage called posca, used by Roman soldiers in the field. It was a mixture of vinegar and water and sometimes it was sweetened with honey. It was one of the first sports drinks! The tartness of the vinegar is incredibly refreshing on a hot day!
There are examples from around the world of similar drinks, which would lead one to think that switchel-like beverages have been around for a while! There is a version of this popular in Persia called sekanjab, often mixed with mint and cucumber, and there is a related beverage in North America called Shrub. Shrub is sometimes used interchangeably with switchel, but a shrub is more often vinegar mixed with some kind of fruit juice. (As a side note, be on the lookout for shrubs coming soon from The Old-Time Vinegar Company!)
The modern switchel showed up in the 17th century in North America. It's not known if it originated in New England or in the Caribbean, but it's not unreasonable to think that it may have happened in both places. It was usually made with apple cider vinegar, molasses, and ginger. Usually this was drunk at harvest time, hence its nickname: Haymaker Punch. This is the basis for the recipe for Cider Mill Molasses Switchel (the recipe for Red Rocking Chair Cinnamon Switchel is totally our own... tradition is the start of the journey, not the end!)
So there you have it! I think you'll agree that our switchels are a delicious treat on a hot afternoon. Be sure to look for them at your favorite stores!