Summer Tonic: Wild Blackberry Switchel

IMG_9222The hot days of August herald the annual harvest of wild blackberries that grow plentifully in the hills of Northern California. These sweet, sun ripened gems are always a summer highlight, and I don’t mind braving a few thorns for the reward that awaits those who venture out to forage.

One for the bucket . . . two for me! 

And so it goes as my fingers stain purple with the telltale juice from a successful pick. After all, eating as you go is all part of the fun.

In years past I have savored the fruits of my labor in crisps, and cobblers, and pie. But recently, thanks to my friend Kim Riley, I discovered a new way to enjoy the essence of summer blackberries in this heirloom recipe for Blackberry Mint Switchel. 

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, switchel was a popular summer drink in colonial times made with a mixture of water and vinegar which was sweetened with molasses (though honey, brown sugar and maple syrup were substituted as well). The origin of this beverage remains unclear, but it most likely had roots in the Caribbean which would explain why it’s sometimes served with rum. By the 19th century, it was enjoyed by farmers as a thirst quencher during hay harvest–thus its nickname, “haymaker’s punch.”

This delicious version is make with a blend of wild blackberries, water, apple cider vinegar, fresh mint, and lemon juice sweetened with a hint of maple syrup. It’s a sweet-tart concoction that’s both refreshing and good-for-you.

Feel free to experiment with the amount of added sweetener, and adjust to your own liking. *If you plan to use this as a summer cocktail base, pour into individual glasses over ice with a shot of rum, and leave out the sweetener all together.



*original recipe by Kathy Hester at


  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 cup wild blackberries
  • 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbl. real maple syrup
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 15 fresh mint leaves


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetener per your preference. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher, and discard solids. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Serve over ice and enjoy as a refreshing tonic, or add a shot of rum for a sweet-tart summer cocktail!
Categories: Cocktails, Craft Beverages, Drinks, Healthy Eating, Seasonal RecipesTags: , , , , , ,


  1. Oh my, that looks cool and refreshing! I’ll post it this week.

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