Switchel | A Classic New England Summer Drink

Before there were soccer fields and Gatorade, there were hayfields and switchel. Cool off with this old-fashioned switchel recipe from the Yankee archives.

By Katherine Keenan

Jul 08 2022

Switchel 2

A pitcher of sparkling “switchel” with molasses, ginger, and lemon.

Photo Credit : Katherine Keenan

Before the heyday of Gatorade, farmers who worked up a thirst in the fields would reach for switchel: a mixture of water, ginger, vinegar, and sweetener (most often maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, or honey).

The original Yankee recipe for “Haymaker’s Switchel” from 1939 reads:

“Switchel — that good old Yankee drink — is nothing more than water seasoned to taste. It is thirst-quenching and inexpensive, and the ingredients are always at hand; furthermore, it holds its own, lacking ice, better than most drinks of its kind.”

Where some switchel recipes call for vinegar, our version of this old-fashioned beverage uses lemon juice. We also prefer molasses for the sweetener, but feel free to experiment with the others mentioned above. (Maple syrup would likely be phenomenal!)


5 cups


⅓ cup molasses
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups water or seltzer


Add all the ingredients to a pitcher and stir until combined. Chill. Serve over ice.