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How to Make Pennsylvania Coal-Cracker Apple Pie Boilo (A Drink)

John lives in Easton, Pennsylvania with his Russian wife and 11 goldfish of unknown national origin

What Is Apple Pie Boilo?

Unless you live in a north-eastern Pennsylvanian or central Pennsylvanian mining town (a.k.a. a coal-cracker town) or know someone who does, you have probably never heard of apple pie boilo. I am here to tell you that you have been missing out on one of the tastiest drinks on this side of heaven.

There are innumerable iterations of boilo because everyone seems to have their own recipe. Generally, this beverage contains:

  • some kind of citrus (like lemons or oranges),
  • herbs and spices (like nutmeg or anise),
  • and a sweetener (such as honey).
  • Historically, it has a moonshine or whiskey base, but it can easily be made without that.

It isn't to difficult to make, just a little bit time-consuming. But trust me (my mother said to never trust anyone who says "trust me"), you and your friends will be very happy if you make this delightful libation. This drink is also open to interpretation and experimentation, and everyone that makes it does it a little bit differently. This drink makes a regular appearance at the annual playing of the Lafayette-Lehigh football game (usually the week before Thanksgiving), which is the longest-running college-football rivalry in America.

Apple pie boilo can be served warm or cold, makes a great tasty treat for football tailgating parties, and is a great holiday drink that goes along with all the tasty pies, cakes, and other treats that usually show up around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday tables. It will warm the cockles of your heart (and your stomach).

Preparation Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

12 hours

2 hours

14 hours

2 Gallons


  • 3 Red Delicious Apples, Optional
  • 1 gallon Apple Cider
  • 1/2 gallon Apple Juice, Concentrate Preferred
  • 2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 750 milliliters Four Queens Whiskey or Spiced Rum


  1. Add all ingredients except the whiskey (or rum).
  2. Simmer for two hours.
  3. Cool overnight.
  4. Filter out cinnamon sticks and apples.
  5. Add one bottle of your preferred alcohol.
  6. Serve warm or cold, but do not boil it. (If you boil it, you'll lose all of the alcohol.)

Rate Apple Pie Boilo

Keep This in Mind When Making Apple Pie Boilo

  • Prep time includes allowing the mixture to sit overnight (8-12 hours).
  • Actual time to mix all ingredients together except the whiskey or rum is probably about 45 minutes.
  • Always add whiskey or run to the mix after everything has been filtered and cooled down.
  • The drink is best served warm on cold days.
  • Makes a good companion drink to go with Russia Apple Sharlotka.
  • Great drink for football tailgate parties, Thanksgiving get-togethers, or Christmas/New Year's Holidays. Don't forget the Super Bowl!!!

Many video recipes recommend using Everclear Whole Grain Alcohol. We do not recommend using Everclear or any other type of whole-grain alcohol.

Alaska Breaker Outside of Shamokin, PA

Alaska Breaker Outside of Shamokin, PA

A Brief History of Apple Pie Boilo

Apple pie boilo actually originated in Lithuania, and its original name was "Krupnickas." In its most basic and original form, the beverage contained moonshine. But as time has progressed and the drink has evolved in the coal regions of Pennsylvania, moonshine has been replaced in some recipes by Everclear (which is pretty close to moonshine). The tamer versions contain Four Queens whiskey. Nearly any boilo recipe that doesn't contain moonshine will have Four Queens.

In the Pennsylvania coal regions, boilo is of such great importance that every year there are contests where makers vie for the title of "Best Boilo Recipe."

Perhaps this is why apple pie boilo is frequently referred to as the "champagne of the coal region." Of paramount importance is that you should never add the alcohol portion to your boilo recipe when it is being heated or boiled. Add after everything else is done, and then when you heat before serving. Make sure you do not boil the boilo after the alcohol is added because then you will boil away the alcohol (and your friends will tell you that you are stupid).

You may hear of applie boilo being referred to as "Pennsylvania Christmas punch," "coal-cracker champagne," "coal-region nectar," or "coal-cracker punch." There may even be some other terms used to refer to this beverage, as boilo is not restricted to the apple pie version, there are many other versions too. Some other versions are called: honeyberry, "tomata," and blueberry—and there are as many names as there are variations.

This beverage became a tradition in the coal regions of Pennsylvania as the immigrants who brought the recipes here with them from Lithuania and other Slovak nations believed that the powerful punch held natural cures for such things as the flu and colds. Modern medicine would probably dispute that fact, but being married to a native Russian, I can tell you for certain that they have a lot of "home remedies," that most of us Americans would find to be strange and some even "hard-to-swallow." I will not elaborate on that last statement, but anyone who is married to a Russian woman can probably take a guess as to my meaning.

Red Delicious Apples

Red Delicious Apples

10 Reasons Why Apple Pie Boilo is a Great Drink

  1. If you make it right, you won't even know there is alcohol in it.
  2. It will warm the cockles of your heart on any cold and snowy winter day (night).
  3. It doesn't cost much to make.
  4. The recipe is enough to share with several people.
  5. It's part of Pennsylvania's coal-cracker history.
  6. You can start a conversation about this punch with "You might be a coal-cracker if..."
  7. Four Queens whiskey is cheap.
  8. It contains lots of fruit (which is good for you).
  9. Your friends will think you are super-smart if you know PA coal-cracker history.
  10. It makes a great compliment to other apple-flavored desserts.

How Do You Make Non-Alcoholic Boilo?

Some people may want to make apple pie boilo that doesn't contain alcohol. Perhaps because of religious convictions, because someone in their social group is in recovery, or because minors will be attending the party. Whatever the reason may be, there are a variety of ways to replace the Four Queens Whisky with non-alcoholic beverages.

Some options are to use

  • four cups of ginger ale or
  • Barillo's apple-flavored soda (you may have to go to a Mexican or Puerto Rican market for this).

You can do some experimenting with other types of juice or soda too, but personally, I would stick with the apple flavors. There is no law that says you HAVE to stick with apple flavors, that is just my own preference. With trial and error, you might even come up with a concoction that suits your taste buds even better.

Keep in mind, that the nutritional information is based on the Four Queens whiskey version of this drink. If you make the non-alcoholic version, the nutritional information will be somewhat different.


John Fisher (author) from Easton, Pennsylvania on December 12, 2019:

Thank you for all the comments. Mike--Next time I make boilo, I will set some aside to sit for a year and see how much smoother it tastes to me. In my opinion, it is incredibly smooth fresh out of the gate, and hard to imagine that it could get any better. I know a Jazz singer from Lithuiania that usually visits Easton in the summertime. I will ask her this summer about Krupnikas.

Mike on October 18, 2019:

From what I’ve read and know from my own family’s mid pa heritage, boilo is partly inspired by Krupnikas, a Lithuanian honey drink with variants in Poland, the Ukraine, and other neighboring countries. Since many of the miners came from those countries, it makes sense.

Much like krupnikas, letting your boilo sit for a year makes it incredibly smooth and tasty. Although admittedly it’s hard to resist drinking it right away

Dab on December 08, 2018:

I've had some in the fridge for a year couldn't taste any difference,,,,How long does whisky last.

Marylynn Williams on October 24, 2018:

What is the shelf life of Boilo? I have a bottle left over from last year just wondering if its still good

John Fisher (author) from Easton, Pennsylvania on February 18, 2018:

I have never made it with caramel, but I will do some research. If I find a recipe, I will let you know.

John Fisher (author) from Easton, Pennsylvania on February 18, 2018:

I take the skin off.

Danny on December 15, 2017:

When you add the apples do you take the skin off or leave it on.

Judy Mehlbaum on November 12, 2017:

I see Coleen adapted this to make caramel apple. Can you share how to do that. I would love to make the caramel. I had it and love it. Person who made it doesn't share the recipe.

Colleen on December 13, 2016:

Having made this for a few years now I can tell you that kept in a cool place this boilo will last well more than a few months and the longer it sits he smoother it gets. I have always used everclear and not four queens but I don't see a difference in how long it would last. I have adapted the recipe to be a caramel apple and it has always been a HUGE hit! We have introduced it to friends and family outside of the coal region and they are absolutely in love!!

Carol on December 09, 2016:

I would love to print this recipe for future use. How can I print only the recipe. I do have a wonderful Boilo recipe that I make, it has an orange for the fruit. I would love to make the apple pie Boilo. Could you do a printable recipe? Thank you PS. My husbands family are coal crackers!

John Fisher (author) from Easton, Pennsylvania on January 18, 2015:

Thanks for your comment, Sharon. If it's refrigerated, it should keep for a few months at the very least, but the fresher you drink it the better.

Sharon on December 11, 2014:

How long will this keep if I make and give as a gift?

Nikki on December 07, 2014:


John Fisher (author) from Easton, Pennsylvania on December 18, 2013:

@bob-Everybody has their own version. Some have nutmeg and all spice, some don't.

bob on December 17, 2013:

Why isn't nutmeg or all spice added? They are in apple pie... ???

John Fisher (author) from Easton, Pennsylvania on December 10, 2013:

@NancySnyder-Thanks for your kind words. I've seen several different versions of boilo, many with lemons and oranges in the mix, but I haven't tried making any of them yet. I do have to say that I am very fond of the apple pie boilo though, and actually, I like to mix it 50/50 with horseradish vodka when it actually comes down to time to drink it. Gives it some additional zing.

Nancy Snyder from Pennsylvania on December 10, 2013:

This is a great hub! As a Schuylkill County native I share your love for boilo. In my area most boilo recipes were made with oranges and cinnamon for a more citrusy drink. I only tried apple pie boilo a few years ago, but it is very good. As you mention boilo recipes vary. Since this is usually a home-made drink everyone tailors their recipe to their own preferences. I will be starting my holiday boilo soon. Thank you for sharing!

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