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Up Mountain Switchel

Ely Key and Garret Riffle had worked all kinds of physical jobs, from baling hay in Vermont to manning a lobster boat in Maine. So they knew firsthand the power of a thirst quenching energy drink to get them through long, tough days.

Enter Switchel, a traditional Vermont drink made from fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Ely was first introduced to it by his dad, who'd brew up a batch to drink after long days on the farm, and shared some with Garret who became an immediate fan. But it took a year of conversations about starting a food business before the two friends realized they already had the perfect product. They gave themselves a month to settle their affairs, move to Vermont and start making Switchel.

The recipe is straightforward, but labor intensive. Fresh, raw ginger root is essential. They grate it by hand, then brew in large vats along with raw, organic apple cider vinegar from New York’s Finger Lakes and maple syrup from a small family-run farm in central Vermont. They make 15-gallon batches at a time, then pour by hand into Mason jars. It’s just a two-man operation, so when they’re not making Switchel, they’re probably delivering it!

In 2013, they moved the business to Brooklyn, but they still think of Switchel as a little taste of Vermont. Whether you're working the fields or Wall Street, everyone appreciates a thirst-quenching, healthful and delicious drink.

photo courtesy of Vicky Wasik

Favorite ways to drink Switchel?

Garret: Ice cold, mixed with seltzer and a lemon. It adds a nice ginger kick to smoothies in the morning. A Switchel shandy is really nice. Some kind of cocktail with fresh fruit/herbs, particularly a Ginny Switch, by the Perfect wife in Vermont –  Gin, Switchel, club soda, muddled cilantro and a lime wedge.

Ely: Morning, I like to sip it hot. Afternoon, chug it cold with a lemon slice when I get back from a run. Night, mixed with beer or vodka for a party.


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