Period Gatorade?
By John Giere, 55th Reg’t of Foot

After much digging, I have finally found not one, but two recipes for “switchel” or “haying water” used in the old days as a more refreshing drink than plain water when doing strenuous labour such as cutting hay or threshing. I could have sworn it was in Beth Gilgun’s book, Tidings from the 18th Century, but I couldn’t find it there. I did, however, find it in the following sources:

From Tankard Recipes and Drinking Customs compiled by Donlyn Meyers, 1993:
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

“Heat together water, sugar, vinegar, molasses, and ginger until the sugar dissolves. Cool and serve in glasses. This drink was a sort of German Gatorade, for work in the fields giving sweating men sugar, electorlites [sic] and minerals quickly.”

From Parting Glass, An American Book of Drink, Wheaton, by B. Lanzerotti, 1993:
Haymaker’s Switchel
“Mix 1/2 cup molasses with 3/4 cup vinegar. Combine mixture with 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger, stirred into 2 quarts of cold water. Lace generously with rough-cut cider (or brandy), add crush ice, then leave to chill.”

I haven’t tried to make either recipe, but I did sample some switchel at Old World Wisconsin a few summers ago. It was kept in a big crock and covered with wet toweling to keep it cool. It has a somewhat different taste, but isn’t bad at all. I think the first recipe might be better since heated water will make the sugar and molasses dissolve better.

As many of our events occur in during the “dog days” of summer, I highly recommend the ingesting of Gatorade–or one of the above concoctions–with great frequency during the event day. The flavor “Lemon Ice” mixed 50/50 with cold water is very refreshing and not as slimy-tasting as straight Gatorade.

Here’s an idea: it might make an interesting camp scenario to “issue” a gill of Gatorade in lieu of the daily rum ration. Rum, brandy and whiskey were typical issued liquors and were sometimes mixed with water in the canteens (as was vinegar). A little food coloring would turn Gatorade into a convincing substitute and lining up the men to issue the ration could open up a whole range of camp scenarios – ed [Mark Tully].