Early American Energy Drinks Make a Comeback

Simple household ingredients are used to make refreshing Shrubs.

Simple household ingredients are used to make refreshing Shrubs.

Before Gatorade, refreshing and delicious beverages like Switchel and Shrub fueled hard work in the early 1900’s.  Switchel was also known as haymakers’ punch because it was a drink served to farmers while doing the hot, backbreaking work of cutting summer hay.  Housewives would add ground ginger, apple cider vinegar, and perhaps pure maple syrup or honey to fresh cold well water.  It was the task of the younger children to carry Switchel to the workers.

Not only is Switchel refreshing, the ginger helps prevent stomach aches from drinking cold well water in the heat.  If apple cider vinegar with the mother–the natural yeast from fermentation–is used, Switchel is not only antibiotic, it is probiotic.  Honey adds another antibiotic ingredient.


2 tb. apple cider vinegar

4 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. ground ginger or 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 cup water

Combine ingredients and refrigerate a few hours.  Strain before drinking if fresh ginger is used.  Favorite drinks like Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale originated from this popular summer beverage.

SHRUB:  Not many will be cutting hay this summer but a beverage in the same family is making a comeback.  Shrub is a tart fruit and vinegar drink that can be created in your own kitchen.  Basically the ingredients are:

2 cups fresh fruit [berries, cherries, peaches, etc.]

1 pint apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar

1.  Place fruit in a clean quart jar; add the vinegar.  Place the lid on the jar and refrigerate two weeks or until desired flavor is reached.  Strain vinegar to remove fruit.

2.  Place fruit-flavored vinegar in a saucepan.  Add the sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil stirring until all sugar is dissolved.  Cool.  Return to the clean quart jar.  Store in the refrigerator up to 6 months.

Flavor water, sparkling water, or soda water with Shrub syrup.  Use syrup in salad dressings and sauces.

*Note that drinking beverages with a high ginger content can significantly lower blood pressure.




About Sharon L. Clemens

Sharon and husband Merle and their children owned and operated a specialty shop and restaurant in a restored dairy barn for thirteen years in a village in Illinois. After closing their restaurant, they converted the barn into the family home and moved their shop to the garden level. They operated a collectable shop as a home-based business for another thirteen years before retiring to the country life. Sharon has been a special feature guest on the local NBC telelvision affiliate and has spoken professionally on topics relating to herb gardening and cottage lifestyle. In addition to conducting workshops and programs, Sharon writes a weekly cottage lifestyle e-newsletter called “Cottage Chat” and a Word Press blog: Seasons of Farm Grove. She has written five novels, The Younger Girl, Door County Cottage, Timeless-A Door County Love Story, Door County Cabin and Door County Escape, love stories with traditional values set in Door County, Wisconsin.
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