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From Shrub to Switchel


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Photo courtesy of Superior Switchel

From craft brewing to kombucha to today’s popularity of shrubs, the vinegar-based switchel drink is gaining popularity, and the Minneapolis-based Superior Switchel Co. has a drink worth all the fuss.

Made with all organic and sustainably grown ingredients including raw honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger and cinnamon, this wickedly refreshing drink is one we can’t stop sipping on.

If you don’t know much about switchel, haymakers originally made the drink popular during the 19th century. Working in the hot fields left them parched, and since water wasn’t enough to keep them feeling refreshed, the field workers would drink a vinegar and ginger concoction called switchel because it was light, yet gave them nourishment and a bit of energy.

While the recipe has been around for years, Superior Switchel has a story of its own. This version of the popular beverage was originally created by Melina Lamer and Keeley Susienka on the kitchen stovetop in their tiny apartment in St. Louis Park. After one brewed batch they realized they had created something delicious, and with inspiration from the great Lake Superior, they had a recipe and a name. It’s a local and woman-owned business—what’s not to love about that?

As for their switchel, it’s a tangy mixture that can be enjoyed either chilled or warm like a tea. Founders Lamer and Susienka also say Superior Switchel is delicious as a post-workout beverage, makes a great cocktail-mixer, is a natural energizer and can be used as an easy hangover remedy.

I tried Superior Switchel chilled and couldn’t be more pleased. The drink is a taste-combination of sweet, tangy and a little spicy. The apple cider vinegar has a crisp bite to it that is leveled out beautifully with the sharpness of ginger—cutting the bitter vinegar taste. But the real depth of each sip comes from the raw honey and cinnamon—two flavors that sweeten and spice up the refreshing drink.

The smell is delicious too, a mixture of summery and spiced, with the crisp vinegar creating fruity hints and the cinnamon bringing in deeper notes of spice and warmth—hinting at how delicious the switchel could be if it were heated up.

But while it tastes delectable, the real magic of Superior Switchel is the health benefits that come from each ingredient. The ginger helps to relieve nausea, indigestion and inflammation, and the apple cider vinegar encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut due to its pectin content. Also, the raw wildflower honey used in the recipe is a low-glycemic sweetener that balances out the tanginess of the drink but also provides antioxidants, energy and immune support. Add in a bit of cinnamon for spice and water for hydration, and you have a healthy and delicious mix packed with organic ingredients.

It’s a drink perfect for a hot summer day and a chilly night, and if you’re looking to spruce it up in a cocktail, Superior Switchel has a number of suggestions for cocktail mixing. Try it over wild honey vodka, Irish Whiskey or Bourbon, vodka garnished with lime, champagne, sake, rum, lager or pilsner beer—truly the options are endless.

Find your own jar of Superior Switchel at a number of Minneapolis co-ops and farmers markets. To see the full list of locations, visit the Superior Switchel website.  

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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