WHAT IS SWITCHEL?
Switchel’s popularity rose from field to ale house in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also called haymaker’s punch, the summertime thirst quencher relished by sweaty field hands was served to sailors. With its recipe imported from the rural districts, the universal appeal of switchel spread to higher social callings. Harvard University students, reported to have paraded in the streets with the Cambridge fire companies and formed their own militia, enjoyed tubs of switchel after a hot day at the brakes and even shouted the word during their battle cry, “switchel all around,” preferred their vinegar, ginger and molasses bevy spiked with rum.
Switchel was served in private homes, surfaced in taverns and was offered as punch in both chambers of Congress, where a sour mash of lemons and spices was added to the brew. The beverage was sampled by all in attendance and undoubtedly led many statesmen to pontificate ad infinitum — perhaps even to filibuster — with tremendous verve and swagger.
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