Switchel is a lot like lemonade. But instead of being made with stunningly beautiful lemons, it’s made with vinegar, which, while delicious, is devoid of charisma. Lemons are the color of sunshine and smell like a summer’s day, and vinegar is a thin brown liquid that smells like it wants to kill you. But when you mix it with sweetener and dilute it with water, oh, how wonderful vinegar can be! There was a time in our country when Americans couldn’t get enough of their beloved switchel, but once lemons became more widely available in the early 20th century, this beverage practically disappeared from the nation’s consciousness.
No one can conclusively say whether lemonade had anything to do with switchel’s misfortunes, but it seems rather suspicious that a beverage so consistently popular since the late 1600s mysteriously fell out of favor around the time Big Lemon started flexing its muscles. Don’t get me wrong, I adore lemons and all lemon-adjacent products, but I do think it’s a bit unfair that switchel was all but forgotten the moment a newer, sexier acid-spiked beverage came onto the scene. There’s more than enough room in our lives for both of them, and what switchel lacks in the glamour department, it more than makes up for in ease: vinegar does not need to be cut, pitted, and squeezed, and it’s cheaper than fresh lemons, too.
The basic formula formula is vinegar + sweetener + water; once you figure out what proportions taste best to you, let your imagination run wild. In this recipe, for example, I blended in blueberries and a tiny bit of basil, livened up switchel’s traditional apple cider vinegar with a splash of balsamic, and sweetened it with monkfruit (since I’m not a fan of drinking sugar). Play with this recipe all you like, tinkering with ingredients and amounts until you have the perfect switchel for you. Once you’ve found that sweet spot, I’m pretty sure you’ll be finding switchel in your fridge a lot more often.
- 3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen and thawed)
- 3 1/2 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup sugar (or whatever sweetener you prefer; I use monkfruit)
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 2 leaves basil (optional)
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 15 seconds. Refrigerate until cold, or pour over ice and serve. Garnish with a tiny sprig of basil if you want to feel fancy.