Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) is having a moment. The cloudy, unpasteurized prebiotic is touted by wellness gurus as a panacea for everything from lackluster skin to poor digestion, and even conventional medical professionals agree that it has health benefits. Studies indicate that the acetic acid in ACV (and all vinegars, actually) might help inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis. It has also been shown to complement weight loss efforts and inhibit the complete absorption of starchy foods when consumed before meals, which not only reduces calorie absorption but also helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check.
ACV is so popular that even fashionable, health-focused celebrities are singing its praises. Influencers like Hilary Duff and Gabby Douglas, among numerous others, proclaim that a shot of the stuff first thing in the morning is an essential component of their daily self-care routines.
But truth be told, the taste (not to mention smell) of straight ACV is not just offputting, it is the stuff nightmares are made of. Which is why so many people resort to shots. Plug your nose, down it quickly, and then chase it with something stat - or so the logic goes.
The problem is, ACV is highly acidic, and drinking it undiluted can wreak havoc on your tooth enamel and the tissue lining your esophagus. That’s why most health professionals recommend instead that you add a tablespoon or two to water or other beverage. This approach makes for much safer ACV consumption, but it is still far from delicious.
Luckily, your ACV habit can be pleasant, even joyful, if you look to the wisdom of our colonial forebearers. Hundreds of years ago, they too were drinking raw ACV as a refreshing health tonic, only they were doing it in the form of switchel.
What Is Switchel?
Switchel is a tart beverage characterized by four main ingredients: vinegar, ginger, water, and a sweetener of some sort; usually maple syrup, sorghum, molasses, or honey. It dates back to at least the 1600s and for generations served to rejuvenate hardworking farm laborers and other parched Americans who needed the means to hydrate and replace lost electrolytes—sort of like an all-natural, old fashioned sports drink.
What Does Switchel Taste Like?
You can think of switchel as similar to lemonade, but instead of citrus, which was not readily available to early Americans, vinegar is the acid of choice. Much like lemonade, switchel is pleasantly sour and more or less sweet, depending on how much sugar you add to it.
Making Switchel at Home
You can make switchel a glass at a time, in large-format to serve a crowd, or as a convenient concentrate. The latter is the preferred method for a few reasons: It takes up less space in the fridge, and it stays fresh longer.
I also like to cut mine with fresh lime juice and zest for added nutrients, including vitamin C. Because I use the zest, I always opt for washed, organic limes to avoid as many potentially noxious chemicals as possible. Lime’s natural sweetness also allows me to reduce the amount of sugar I add to my concentrate. Honestly, I have gotten to the point where I don’t add any sweetener at all, but if you are new to the ACV game, I recommend starting with a tablespoon and adjusting to your tastes from there.
As for your sweetener, my go-to recipe calls for raw honey, which has plenty of healthful properties in its own right. You could also use conventional honey, real maple syrup, or molasses. I have even been known to substitute tart cherry juice concentrate for an extra dose of powerful antioxidants.
Finally, your ACV should be raw and organic because that means it contains the highest amounts of trace minerals and other beneficial compounds. You’ll be able to tell it’s raw because it will look murky and cloudy in the bottle, with bits of sediment floating about. It should also be clearly labeled that way if you are unsure.
Switchel and ACV Recipes to Try
Apple Cider Vinegar Fire Tonic from The Spruce
Switchel Recipe From 1853 from The American Table
Autumn Apple Cider Switchel from Stir and Strain
Coconut Ginger Switchel from Natural Fit Foodie
Tart Cherry Switchel from Yuri Elkaim
Strawberry Ginger Switchel from Recipes to Nourish