It started with a tweet.
Few things send us scrambling over to google than a word we’ve never seen before. Just us?
The word was “switchel” and it was mentioned by Food Book Fair‘s Elizabeth Jones (who also penned this fabulous food culture publications round up) as a new beverage offering. Intrigued by what we gleaned from a quick search, we immediately wrote the company behind the mysterious name. What in the world was this stuff and please tell us more?
And in one of those circuitous but fortuitous instances that social media seems to bring about, weeks later the guys (Ely Key & Garrett Riffle) behind Switchel put us in touch with the newest member of their team – Elizabeth – who would help share their story.
No matter how long it took to finally get the details (next time, we’ll simply DM), the engaging history lesson was totally worth the wait. A belief in tradition and handcrafted quality defines Switchel. Word.
Hi larks & japes and readers!
We are always hyped when someone reaches out to us because as a small, independent and new operation, we don’t spend our money on marketing. We spend it on the most important thing, the beverage, allowing it to speak for itself and create our community. But this also means that our company grows slowly and organically, so thanks for being a part of it!
Switchel is an American heritage beverage with a rich and interesting history that we believe represents a lifestyle we’d like to carry on. A well-balanced one (like the drink!) of hard work, good health, farming, physical activity and…fun. This 1800’s concoction was created by American farmers seeking to quench their thirsts in the hot summer sun. It’s comprised of fresh ginger, raw apple cider vinegar, 100% pure Vermont maple syrup, and water. After a long day’s work, it’s not uncommon to mix a little whiskey or rum, home brew or moonshine with Switchel and imbibe while the sun goes down. Delicious, healthful, versatile and like our ancestors, we make it all by hand.
We first heard about Switchel from Ely’s Dad, who used to drink it as a kid when he was haying fields in Vermont. When Ely moved back from California, where he was working for a large lemon and avocado farm, he began researching the beverage’s history and health benefits. Imagine! They used to lower it down in well buckets to keep cool in the dark well bottoms and then pull it up with the rope and ladle it into mason jars. Farmers made it to soothe their throats from hay and wildflower debris, as well as dirt and sweat. It would revitalize them. Local doctors swore by the drink’s health properties and recommended daily use.
After all our fact-finding, making Switchel ourselves while working on Ely’s family farm seemed like the right thing to do. The first few batches were barely palatable, and if you try other versions of this beverage you may have a similar experience. But we kept at it, tweaking measurements and consulting old time Vermonters. Together, after a year, we nailed down our recipe. We filed as a Vermont company, sold at the Londonderry Farmers Market and expanded our brewing operation out of Ely’s Gramma’s barn.
We have grown a bit since then, but not by much. Garrett and Ely still manage everything, from sourcing ingredients to brewing, bottling and distributing the final product to venues that we vibe with. Using this approach, we are efficient and resourceful each step of the way. We have also added a Bushwick, Brooklyn based brewing facility, allowing us to grow as a company in a new and exciting market. Our ingredients are still sourced from Vermont so we can support and create communities in both places while limiting our environmental impact (efficiently brewing where we distribute).
We also know where and from who our ingredients come from, and ensure their quality and freshness. Our maple syrup comes from a family operation on a beautiful plot of land in central Vermont. Their small sugarhouse allows them to make high quality product and a lot of it. There is no forklift to move our huge barrels of maple syrup so instead we use common sense and some elbow grease to roll them down a hill to our waiting, open truck bed. Maple syrup is mineral rich, all natural, and has tons of calcium. It’s also sucrose rather than fructose and is therefore much more easily digested by the body and turned into useable energy. It’s so potent in flavor you don’t need much of it which keeps the sugar content in Switchel incredibly low. Our vinegar also comes in barrels. We believe in the health benefits of raw apple cider vinegar, but we also believe raw vinegar is not something to mess around with. So we go with a Northeastern supplier who has been making non-GMO, Kosher vinegar for 100 years.
This is Switchel. Our label proudly displays our badge- the old time farmer’s haysickel wrapped around hay with the green mountains in the background enclosed by a circle. Keep an eye out for it! Pour over ice, heat like a tea. Mix with a spirit, marinate your steak, or even use in a homemade salad dressing. However you choose to use Switchel, we hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy making it. Cheers!