Over the past few years, drinking vinegars have been popping up here and there in grocery stores, often alongside kombucha and water kefir. I was surprised to learn that not only are drinking vinegars incredibly tasty and refreshing, they have a long history and potential health benefits. They’re also perfect for sipping on a hot summer day!
Shrubs and switchels are both vinegar-based drinks that came about in the eighteenth century America, with switchels being more common in the hotter parts of the country. Traditionally made with vinegar, molasses, ginger, and water, switchel was often drank while working the farm on hot days, earning it the name Haymaker’s Punch. Shrubs are slightly different as they contain fruit and were traditionally made by pouring vinegar over fruit that had been reduced with water and sugar, left to sit for a couple days, then strained and drank. Fire cider is a common folk remedy; a sweet and spicy vinegar infusion commonly made out of apple cider vinegar, honey, spices, and herbs, which could vary depending on what was available during the season. The ingredients are mixed together and left to infuse for a month! It was named by the celebrated American herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, who is attributed with creating a standardized, enhanced version of the original remedy. Fire cider is said to stimulate the digestion, enhance the immune system, and warm you up on a cold day. It can be taken as an undiluted spoonful, diluted with water or juice, or even tossed into your meal.
- The ancient Greeks first developed “oxymels” which are a concoction of honey and vinegar; Hippocrates, called the father of modern medicine, considered oxymels to be powerful health elixirs
- The word shrub comes from the Arabic words “shurb” and “sharbat”, both meaning “to drink”; it’s thought that shrubs may have originated in the Middle East
- Throughout history, vinegar has thought to have a cooling effect on the body and was often used to reduce fevers
- During the 1800s, switchel was very popular among Harvard students as a cocktail mixer
- While vinegar is very acidic, it becomes alkaline once it’s digested; it’s believed that having a more alkaline body chemistry is preferable and can prevent many health conditions
- Both switchel and shrubs gained popularity during the temperance movement, being touted as an excellent alternative to alcohol.
- Many colonial-era sailors drank switchel, believing it prevented scurvy
- In eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ice water was looked on suspiciously as something that could cause indigestion and other ailments, making vinegar a refreshing alternative
- Once refrigeration came about, shrubs lost popularity but started to see a resurgence around 2011 among American bars and restaurants
Intrigued yet? Make a shrub or switchel for yourself, and be sure to check out the next episode of Fermentation Road, featuring Liber vinegar!
Cherry Strawberry Shrub
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Mix together occasionally on low heat until dissolved.
Add 1 ½ cups chopped strawberries and cherries
Turn heat up to medium – medium high and then reduce heat and simmer until the liquid has taken on the color of the fruit and the fruit looks slightly bleached.
Add 1 cup Liber Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Vinegar
And 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Mix; remove from heat when just starting to simmer
Drain the fruit from the mixture. Once cooled, store the shrub mix in the fridge in an airtight container. Sip by itself, add seltzer water, or add to salads in place of a salad dressing.
5 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped, fresh ginger root
Combine the water and ginger, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water looks slightly reduced and yellowish in color. Strain the ginger root out of the water and set aside to cool slightly.
Add in 1/2 cup of molasses (you can also use honey or maple syrup if you prefer) and stir to mix.
Add 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
Pour into a sealable jar and set in the fridge to cool for several hours. Shake well before enjoying, and add a squeeze of lemon if you like- I found it really enhanced the flavors! Enjoy!