Switchel – Old-Timey Drinking Vinegar

And in my thirst they gave me vinegar

-Psalm 69:21

Switchel, old-timey drinking vinegar, make with apple cider vinegar, molasses, and gingerThis post is part of an ongoing fight against the tyranny of the lemon.

In the ancient world drinking vinegar was for the destitute and god-forsaken.  In fact, it was the last thing Christ drank before he gave up the ghost.

So it is interesting that in North America, before we had access to cheap lemons and limes, we made several thirst-quenching drinks with vinegar.  The most famous of these was probably switchel, a mixture of apple cider vinegar, molasses, and ginger, diluted with cold water.  Switchel was often given to farmhands during the hot harvest season.

I know drinking vinegar sounds really weird, but with balancing sweetness and water to dilute, switchel can be subtle and delicious.  A good switchel actually tastes like ginger ale more than anything, and you might not even realize that it contains vinegar if you aren’t forewarned.

If you are skeptical, I encourage you to try the extremely simple recipe below.  I make a switchel concentrate, which can be stored in the pantry and diluted with water as necessary.

Switchel Concentrate


  • 250 g fancy molasses
  • 250 g honey
  • 250 g apple cider vinegar
  • 125 g fresh ginger, chopped fine in a food processor


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pot over medium-high heat.  As soon as the mixture reaches a vigorous simmer, remove from heat and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. Remove the ginger by passing through a fine mesh strainer.

Yield: ~650 mL switchel concentrate

To serve, combine each part switchel concentrate with about six parts still or sparkling water.  Serve over ice.