The summer heat and I are not friends. I’m the sort of person who’s more comfortable in the sub-zero darkness of January than the oppressive sauna of July. The air gets thick, sweat drips tickle, slow motion kicks in, and you stick to everything including your clothes, your seat, and your own nerves. But, since there are four seasons here in Western New York, that’s a big pile of “too damn bad” that forces us to adapt.
As someone who now moves with intensity and purpose roughly five times per week – even when the mercury stretches past 80 – one thing I’ve had to get right REALLY fast is hydration. When water out (i.e. sweat) is greater than water in, all hell breaks loose – headaches that can’t be touched by pain meds, muscle cramps that feel like a gunshot wound, dizziness that’s not the fun kind, and creepy goose bump chills.
While the grocery store shelves are packed with sports drinks and “recovery” beverages, I’m puzzled why anyone who cares for their body through proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep would ever pour that shit into their mouths. Sure, I’ll chug a small Gatorade once in a while after a rough night of drinking and dancing to make myself human again, but to throw one back every day after physical exertion seems toxic. Look at the label: processed sugar, artificial colors, and flavorings that are anything but natural. Do you recognize any of the ingredients listed besides water? Nope. So put that crap down – there’s another way.
Switchel is an old-fashioned drink made with just four ingredients. It replenishes electrolytes naturally in a way that’s pretty damn delicious and thirst-quenching. Also called Farmer’s Gatorade or Haymaker’s Punch, switchel is what men who worked 14-hour days out in the sun-drenched fields carried with them to keep from keeling over from dehydration. It’s simply water, ginger, cider vinegar, and a natural sweetener that varies by region; maple or honey up north, molasses or sorghum down south. Some add a squeeze of lemon at the end, too. A note on the vinegar: use only Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, sold in the hippie section of any grocery store (or use homemade). Do not use the cheap store-brand cider vinegar or your switchel will taste like turpentine. Bonus: Bragg’s has natural priobiotics that are wonderful for gut heath and the immune system.
Alright, enough about farmers and guts – here are the silly simple instructions (I usually double the recipe when the weather forecast calls for a week or two of high temps):
Recipe courtesy of Square Deal Farm in Walden, VT
- 1 quart cold water
- 1 tsp fresh ginger (or more if you’re into it), peeled and sliced thin
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar (Bragg’s)
- Bring water and ginger to a boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in maple.
- Let cool before adding vinegar.