The Hottest Healthy Drink Ingredient Already In Your Pantry
By Lindsay Cohn
For a healthier mixed drink try…vinegar? Yes, turns out that beloved pantry staple can do way more than make delicious pickles and salad dressings.
Like bone broth, drinking vinegar is an ancient remedy that’s back in vogue. Produced through a two-step fermentation process, drinking vinegars’ use in the East dates back to ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. In the West, switchel—a refreshing, potassium-rich drink made from apple cider, water, ginger and sweetener (honey, maple syrup or molasses)—was popular among New England farmers in the 1600s.
Like other fermented things, vinegar-based drinks are loaded with gut-health-boosting probiotics. Plus, they’re particularly beneficial for digestion, improving nutrient absorption and balancing hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach, studies show.
Plus, they’re tasty. “Palates across the board are expanding due to the rise in kombucha, kimchi, and a variety of other popular pungent flavors,” Dr. Zelana Montminy, health and wellness expert for juice- and drinking vinegar-maker Suja and author of 21 Days to Resilience, tells Clean Plates. “Vinegar adds a nice acidic kick to any drink and gives an automatic complexity of flavor to keep our taste buds captivated.”
“What is amazing about vinegar-based drinks is that they connect with the ancient wisdom. That’s why I think these nutritionally abundant beverages are becoming such a hit,” says Chloe Elgar, certified holistic nutritionist and founder of Chloe’s Countertop. “There’s something so empowering about creating a concoction in your own kitchen that not only tastes delicious but is also good for you.”
The best part: Vinegar-based drinks are “relatively simple to make,” says Montminy. “All you need is fruit, sugar and vinegar. And if you’re anything like us, your pantry is already stocked with bottles of vinegar—notably apple cider, coconut, white, rice wine, champagne and balsamic.”
TAKING A HIT OF ACID—VINEGAR, THAT IS
Vinegar is great for killing bacteria and balancing blood sugar, particularly important for people with Type 2 diabetes. Watching your weight? Research suggests that acetic acid, the active compound in apple cider vinegar, acts as an appetite suppressant. And another study found that it may help reduce body fat.
Vinegar is “a wonderful option for acid reflux and heartburn symptoms, where you might be experiencing low—or more often than not, high—stomach acid levels,” says Elgar.
Plus, you can double down on the benefits and the flavor by switching up different herbs, spices and other ingredients in your drink. Struggling with inflammation? Try infusing your vinegar-based elixir with turmeric. If you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress, then a soothing herb, such as chamomile, rose or passionflower, is a great option. If you’re feeling under the weather, or simply to support immunity, add ginger, cayenne, honey and lemon.
SUPER HEALTHY VINEGAR-BASED COCKTAILS & MOCKTAILS
And why not boost your health at the same time that you’re upping your cocktail cred? Whether it’s cocktail hour or you’re looking for a mocktail, it’s easy to bring vinegars into the mix. Apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar work nicely with most flavors. That salad dressing favorite, balsamic, pairs particularly well with berries and darker liquor. Here are some recipes and bottled options to get you started:
It comes with no surprise that Montminy likes Suja Peach Ginger Drinking Vinegar. “It delivers minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, and copper, digestion-promoting ginger and live probiotics to keep your gut in tip-top shape,” she says.
For another store-bought option, “I love an immunity vinegar such as Pok Pok’s Turmeric Drinking Vinegar, which is a blend of cane vinegar, cane sugar, fresh turmeric and ginger, sea salt, citric and ascorbic acid,” says Elgar.
Or try a shrub—that is, a fruit syrup made with vinegar. We like to DIY a healthier version, like Spicy Mango Tequila Cocktail, by swapping in honey instead of sugar, and by skipping sweetener altogether and choosing naturally super-sweet fruit like mango.
The Apple Cider Vinegar, Turmeric & Honey Switchel (recipe below) is spicy and surprisingly delicious. Pair it with a refreshing salad like Spinach, Avocado & Hazelnuts With Ginger-Tamari Dressing, or an appetizer like Artichoke Guacamole for a yummy end to the day.
Apple Cider Vinegar, Turmeric & Honey Switchel
500 mL filtered water
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove
2-inch piece ginger root
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon honey
In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth.