Thirst-quenching drink makes a comeback - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Thirst-quenching drink makes a comeback

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Harvesting hay on a hot summer day is backbreaking, exhausting work. So to help, for centuries, farmers have carried into the fields a drink that's thirst quenching and energy boosting. 

"As my husband's family would say, 'it would slake their thirst,'" said Susan Alexander.  It's called Switchel -- a natural refresher -- and Alexander tried it for the first time 27 years ago.  She loved it and wanted to bottle it.  "Every family 100 years ago had their own recipe and this is a take of my husband's family recipe," she said.

Two years ago Alexander opened The Vermont Switchel Company.  Her Switchel is made with maple syrup, ginger, molasses, apple cider vinegar and lemon. "A lot of people refer to it as farmers Gatorade, because it has electrolytic properties. My children were raised on it. They drank it instead of Gatorade," Alexander said.

She says the black strap molasses provides calcium and iron. There are antioxidants in the lemon juice, and ginger helps with digestion  

"This Switchel is much better -- there was no lemon in the Switchel we had at home," said George Putnam, as he picked up a case of Switchel with his family and toured the Hardwick Food Venture Center, where the drink is made.  "It was the hayfield drink. It was the drink that would quench your thirst when you were hot and thirsty," he said.

A drink from the past -- people have a thirst for today.  Switchel is sold in 35 stores and several farmers markets.  Alexander says she's the only one making a go selling Switchel as a business in Vermont -- and as soon as it's made, it's sold. "About 3,000 bottles a month and 500 jars a month and we can't satisfy the demand with that level of production,"  she said.

Alexander hand bottles now, but wants to find an investor to go big and machine bottle even more Switchel. She can barely keep up with Vermont demand, so when she gets requests from out of state she has to tell people to be patient. "There are 7-9 percent of the population who turn their noses up, but the other 93 percent love it and end up buying it," she said.

Time for this reporter to give it a try.

Susan Alexander: A lot of people smell it first, and that can be a detractor.

Reporter Gina Bullard: That's pungent!

It can be mixed with spirits, seltzer water -- served hot or cold, or made into ice cubes.

Reporter Gina Bullard: It's kind of like ice tea with a kick.

Susan Alexander: I like that description.

An old fashioned refreshing drink with a modern Made in Vermont twist.

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