Before there were sports drinks to rehydrate and replace electrolytes after intense physical labor, there was “haymaker’s punch”, or “switchel”. Similar to lemonade, this all-natural drink is currently enjoying a resurgence among modern homesteaders, hipsters, and even upscale restaurants. Thanks to its many health benefits, great taste, and refreshing bite, this drink is primed to become the next big trend.
Haymaker’s punch has a long history as a traditional drink with Colonial Americans. It’s easy to make with just a few ingredients – apple cider vinegar, ginger, water, and a sweetener. Although the history is fuzzy on its origins in the colonies, most believe it was a common drink on Caribbean plantations in the 1600s and then spread to the colonies. Others say it’s derived from “oxymel”, an ancient Greek medicinal elixir made from vinegar, honey and water. Wherever its origins, by the 18th century, “haymaker’s punch” was being guzzled down by American farmers during long work days to keep cool and stay hydrated in the heat.
The ginger that makes up a key part of haymaker’s punch is a natural inflammation reducer. Inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases, causes physical symptoms like skin problems and digestive issues. So keeping inflammation at bay with the ginger found in haymaker’s punch can have other unexpected, welcome side effects, like clearing up acne.
Additionally, because it reduces inflammation, which also counts pain as a side effect, ginger is also a powerful pain fighter. In fact, one study found that consuming a small amount of ginger is more effective at reducing pain symptoms and inflammation than painkillers. Next time you feel a headache coming on, skip that painkiller and reach for haymaker’s punch instead.
Electrolytes are nutrients or chemicals in your body that help it perform specific functions, like regulating your heart beat or telling your legs it’s time to get moving. But after undergoing intense physical exertion (like running a marathon), getting sick, eating a poor diet or even taking certain medications, an electrolyte imbalance can occur. Signs that your electrolytes need some replenishing include constantly feeling thirsty, frequent headaches, fatigue and nausea.
But because of the sweetener and apple cider vinegar found in haymaker’s punch, electrolytes, particularly potassium, are replenished, making it an excellent alternative to sugary drinks like Gatorade. Pour a glass after a tough workout on a hot day to feel refreshed and help your body restore its electrolyte balance.
- ½ gallon water
- ¾ cup molasses
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ tablespoon fresh ginger (ground)
(Although, dried ginger powder was the most readily available form in the 1700s, the benefits of fresh ginger are more numerous so I would recommend using it instead.)
I like molasses, but you could replace it with maple syrup, honey, or another sweetener. You could cut back the sweetener, too. (I prefer just a few tablespoons per half gallon.) Find the right balance for you. Remember to start with less—as you can always add more. Haymaker’s punch shouldn’t coat your mouth; it should taste refreshing. Another idea is to add a teaspoon of fresh lemon or lime juice for zing.