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The Blue Collar Bookseller Review: Haymaker punch | Reviews

The Blue Collar Bookseller Review: Haymaker punch |  Reviews

It is hot. It’s so hot that even the white collar workers are red necks today. Soon people will complain that it is too cold. After mowing my garden and pulling weeds, I agree. After working out, there’s nothing like a cool glass of switzel.

I grew up drinking swizel. My grandmother made a cold jug for my father and me when we went by or did housework. What is swizel? Switzel – also known as switchel, swizzle, ginger water or haymaker’s punch – is a drink made from water mixed with vinegar and honey, then seasoned with ginger.

Switzel is believed to have originated in the Caribbean, where molasses was often used as a sweetener. By the end of the 17th century it had become a popular drink in the American colonies, and by the 19th century it had become a traditional drink to serve to thirsty farmers at high harvest, hence the nickname ‘haymaker’s punch’.

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Sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup are also used to sweeten the drink instead of honey. In Vermont, oatmeal was sometimes added to give the drink extra fullness. Lemon juice is also occasionally added to the drink.

My grandmother and mother have only ever made svitzel with honey. The relationship between sweetener and vinegar and water varies a lot in traditional and modern recipes, but here is a basic recipe to get you started:

8 cups of water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon ground ginger

For more great honey recipes, I recommend checking out The Healthy Honey Cookbook. There are recipes from all over the world, including Old German, Croatian, Slavic, Russian, Polish, Canadian and American.

There are twelve categories of honey recipes here: for cooking, baking, canning, frying, grilling, freezing and more – and everything for eating or drinking.

Most of the recipes are “sugar free”, which means they do not require white sugar. However, a few require sugar as well as honey, as the author did not want to change the ingredients in these long-cherished secrets.

The Healthy Honey Cookbook is more than just a book of recipes. It is filled with fascinating facts about the social insect that produces honey. For example, there are 500 honey bees for each human.

Larry Lonik also includes a short story about the honey bee in North America. The honey bee is not native, but introduced to the continent by early settlers.

Honey has been a part of human history. In many cultures, honey has associations that go beyond its use as food. The Egyptians sometimes used honey for embalming, and in the Roman Empire, honey was possibly used to pay taxes instead of gold.

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The Old Testament has many references to honey, the most famous being from Exodus which describes the promised land as a “land flowing with milk and honey”.

Yes, the fate of man and the honey bee are connected. It has been said that “If the bee disappeared from the surface of the globe, man would have only four years of life left” …

Switzel? Gatorade or an ice cold beer? Tell the blue-collar bookseller what you drink.


Kevin Coolidge is currently a full-time factory worker and part-time bookseller at From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, Pa. When he is not working, he writes. He is also a children’s author and creator of The Totally Ninja Raccoons, a children’s series for reluctant readers. Visit his author’s website at

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