Strawberry Basil Switchel

Strawberry-Basil Switchel

Megan Drinks, Traditional Healing Foods, Whole Food Recipes 21 Comments

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Switchel is a fermented, thirst-quenching beverage– that’s actually fast and easy and …rewarding and …encouraging to make! …And your kids, if you have any, will say, “Can I have more of that?”

Apple cider vinegar is the magic ingredient. It actually contains probiotics and inoculates this simple ferment.

No work. Just a blender (or shake it to combine). And lovely spring ingredients.

In spring. I *love* fresh herbs.

My kids LOVE strawberries.

Herbs help us to detoxify. So do berries! This probiotic beverage is full of minerals and electrolytes; and it also helps our bodies to cleanse themselves, which is what our bodies are designed to do each spring!

This lovely beverage is sweetened with maple syrup, but you can make it GAPS Diet-friendly by using honey instead, if you prefer. It also contains that super-food, ginger…!

Also…the apple cider vinegar in this drink helps to give our stomachs the right ph for digestion. So this is a great drink for supporting digestion, before meals, between meals, during or after meals.

Speaking of after meals, if you’re someone who has a hard time feeling satiated with meals, this is a great “dessert” drink. It helps with satiety, as many fermented foods do, leaving you fuller and satisfied, while also aiding in digestion.

A Brief History

It’s fun to say, Switchel! (Added bonus.)

How long have humans said, Switchel?!

Perhaps switchel originated in the Caribbean; others say China. There is also a reference in the Bible to Ruth sharing a vinegar-based drink while working in the fields of Boaz– so Israel.

Many say that the Amish brought it with them to the American continent. It became popular in the States in the 1600s, in Vermont and amidst the American colonies. I was first introduced to this thirst-quenching drink while reading The Long Winter (one of my favorites) by Laura Ingalls Wilder to our two oldest kids, now teenagers. Laura said the ginger in the sweet vinegar water helped Pa’s body to assimilate the hydration better, so he could gulp down the water without getting a belly ache. Ma knew this, and to Pa it was a treat.

While most broadly switchel has historically, across many countries, been used by field workers to cool off, we also see it was consumed by the first American east coast college students, with alcohol added in– and conversely, by families, as a wonderful alternative to alcoholic beverages! Wow, such a diverse appeal!

What’s It Taste Like?

You do taste the mild vinegar flavor, kind of like with kombucha, but less sweet. You taste the basil and strawberry strongly. The ginger comes through, too, but not as strongly as the strawberry and basil.

If you like alcohol, it would go well with a shot of something in it (like tequila…or having likely originated in the Caribbean–rum or whiskey).

It has that same restful quality that you want from a before or an after-dinner drink.

It’s also pretty cute to see my 8-year-old sipping on it and savoring it. Again, like kombucha, it’s got a lot of different nuances, and it feels like an experience to have a glass.

While sipping it is fitting, if you’ve been exerting yourself in the sun, then by all means it’s a drink that can also be gulped!

It’s not super sweet, so if you prefer– add a few drops of liquid stevia, to taste, to the finished product (or you can add fresh or dried stevia at the beginning of the recipe, with the fresh basil).

My kids and husband like it as is. When asked if it was sweet enough, they all said yes; it was just so good. So I don’t add any stevia personally.

Everyone is so pleased with the drink. They fight over the last bit in the jar…

Strawberry Basil Switchel

How long to ferment?

The first option is to drink the electrolyte beverage immediately. There won’t be as many probiotics, but it will be a little bit sweeter, and delicious.

The second option is the leave the beverage out on the counter overnight, during which time the basil steeps into the liquid and the probiotics increase. You can leave this switchel on the counter for 24 hours.

Or thirdly, some folks refrigerate theirs immediately, and that works fine, too, but the probiotics won’t increase as much.

I leave mine out for 24 hours and then refrigerate it overnight, or for up to a week, for the best of both worlds. Refrigerating not only chills the liquid, but also intensifies the flavors.

Like many historic beverages there is no right answer. All of the different versions of switchel reflect the ways it’s evolved from one home to another, across country and state lines. The main thing is to have fun with it. Most ferments have more rules than switchel. Be poetic and drink it when the muse leads you.


Strawberry-Basil Switchel
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 10 minutes
Strawberry-Basil Switchel
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 10 minutes
Servings: cups
  1. Place 4 cups water in the blender. Add the strawberries, ginger and maple syrup (or honey).
  2. Blend on low speed for 10 seconds. Then increase to medium for 15 seconds.
  3. Pour the contents of the blender into a *1/2 gallon mason jar* [see link below]. Add the apple cider vinegar, fresh basil, and remaining 2 cups water. Stir to mix. (If there is too much water, just add the remaining 2 cups until the overall liquid level in the jar reaches the narrowed neck space, allowing about 1 inch head space.) Screw on lid.
  4. Leave the ferment out at room temperature (covered with a tea towel) for 24 hours. Then refrigerate overnight. Switchel will only get stronger and the flavors more distinct as it refrigerates. May be refrigerated up to a week, or maybe longer, but I haven't tried that, because we usually drink it within 3 days.
  5. Note: Switchel does not need to be left out. I like to do this step to increase the probiotics. You can actually serve it immediately, or simply chill and serve.
Recipe Notes

This is the unfiltered apple cider vinegar I use.

*Here are the mason jars I use.

Share this Recipe


Have you made or enjoyed switchel before? I’d love to hear!



  • Charis Yoder

    I’ve never tried switchel before, but it sure is fun to say! haha I can’t wait to try it! I just know my kids are going to love it as well!!! I’m eager to see if I can gulp it without that apple cider vinegar taste getting to me… 🙂 I think it will work out just fine. I’ll start is in rotation with my water kefir, so the kiddos don’t have to wait for a beverage in between batches.

  • Raia Torn

    This sounds wonderful! I’m always excited to try new fermented goodness. 🙂

  • thefoodhunter

    I’ve never heard of this but I would love to give it a try.

  • Lindsey Dietz

    I’ve had switchel once. It was “regular” flavor, but it was delicious! I love this flavor combo!

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish

    I love the history of Switchel! Such a fun, old, drink. We’re huge fans of it in our home, especially during the summertime. I love that you added basil to yours, such a beautiful flavor combo.

  • linda spiker

    Well this sounds easy enough! I have never attempted kombucha because it always seems complicated to me. But this sounds do-able!

  • I would love trying this. Does it taste like apple cider vinegar? I had someone’s brand switchel and it was awful.

  • Oh my! I just bought some strawberries and have a big bunch of basil growing on the windowsill. Gonna have to whip up a batch of this and see how the family likes it! Do you know if you could sub the ACV for water kefir or kombucha? I’d like to try all three to compare, but only if they’d ferment!

  • Megan Stevens

    I love the idea of rotating it with water kefir, variety taste-wise and different probiotic strains! 🙂 I think you’ll like the flavor.

  • Megan Stevens

    Yeees! No harder than homemade lemonade, for sure! 🙂

  • Megan Stevens

    LOL, the flavor isn’t strong of vinegar, no. But there is a mild ACV flavor. I think this recipe is especially good because the strawberry and basil are very strong flavors overall, and you can always add additional sweetener if desired.

  • Megan Stevens

    The main difference in using water kefir or kombucha instead is that ACV is much more concentrated; and the other two would be very diluted with 6 cups water and the other ingredients. ACV is uniquely good for digestion as this dilution, whereas the other two would offer just a hint of a benefit. You also can’t leave this out for a long ferment with only 1/4 cup of water kefir or kombucha, because the strawberries may produce alcohol before the probiotics have a chance to take over. So I recommend sticking with the ACV for this recipe. 🙂

  • Megan Stevens

    Thanks, Emily. Love that you all enjoy it regularly and that yes, it’s so old, with a great history.

  • Megan Stevens

    Thanks, Lindsey!

  • Megan Stevens

    Me too! 🙂

  • I knew you’d have an answer! Thanks…I’ll be mixing this up today to enjoy tomorrow (it’s supposed to get sunny and warm!).

  • Megan Stevens

    Yay, wonderful!! Yes, big heat headed our way as well. 🙂

  • Susan Sullivan

    Will it be a negative impact if I wanted to add fresh lemon juice? I love strawberry lemonade.

  • Megan Stevens

    I would say to add it right before you drink it. That allows the other flavors and actions to happen first. 🙂

  • Judy Dauphinais

    Sounds delish…can’t wait to try it! So we’re to cover the jar with a tea towel for the overnight fermentation with the lid on? Or should the lid be off like when making kumbucha?

  • Megan Stevens

    The lid is on overnight. 🙂