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How to Make Boilo: A Pennsylvania Holiday Beverage

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My recipe for boilo came from a cookbook given to us by my husband's coworker. I hope you enjoy!

boilo-moonshine-wassail-pennsylvania

How to Make Home-Brewed Boilo

Boilo (BOY-low) is a homemade Yuletide cocktail that originated in the coal region of eastern Pennsylvania. Some folks refer to it as "coal region nectar," "coal cracker punch," or the "champagne of the coal region." It's a blend of alcohol, honey, fruits, juice, and spices, and brewing a batch of boilo is a time-honored traditional event rooted in the early mining communities and the Schuylkill County area.

What type of alcohol is in bolio?

Boilo is made of grain alcohol or cheap whiskey that is mulled with fruits, cider, and spices to add interesting flavors. It's a holiday punch best served warm. Make sure to sip the final product slowly, as boilo can easily knock you off your feet.

You can find dozens of boilo recipes that have been developed by generations of coal cracker brewers. Our recipe came from a cookbook given to us from my husband's coworker. I hope you enjoy!

Preparation Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

30 min

1 hour

32 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon orange juice
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/2 gallon grain alcohol (or cheap whiskey like 4 Roses)
  • 3/4 quart honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 oranges, cut into wedges

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the alcohol in a large kettle or pot. Boil the contents for a few minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, and then strain it.
  2. Bring the strained mixture to a gentle boil again. Strain it one more time.
  3. After the drink cools down, pour the alcohol into the pot. Never add the alcohol to the boilo while it is cooking or near an open flame. It's also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, just in case.
  4. Warm the finished drink, but don't boil it or the alcohol will evaporate. Our faded copy of the local recipe actually says this: "Yes, it's called boilo but if you boil it with the alcohol it will evaporate and you're an idiot."
  5. Serve the boilo warm.

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The History of Boilo

Boilo is one of the oldest alcoholic concoctions to hail from Pennsylvania's northeast coal country region. Its popularity is second only to the lager crafted and bottled in Pottsville by America's oldest brewery, Yuengling (YING-ling). Recipes vary slightly from one home to another, but each one uses the same basic ingredients. Many boilo recipes have been handed down for generations and their exact ingredients are a family secret.

Boilo recipes were originally developed using moonshine as the alcohol base, but high-proof low-grade whiskey is becoming a favored substitute for this citrus-spiced beverage. Contrary to its name, you shouldn't boil the brew once the alcohol is in the mix, or you'll evaporate the booze. Make sure not to add the alcohol while the pot is on the stove because even the fumes can cause a fire hazard.

Variations of Boilo Recipes

© 2010 Lee Hansen

Happy Holidays! Have a Cup of Boilo!

Paul from Liverpool, England on November 13, 2014:

I'll probably give this a miss :)

Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on November 12, 2014:

I laughed long and loud when my hubs brought home the recipe (but no free samples) from his workplace party. The company President is the source for our old recipe. I may try making a batch for Thanksgiving this year, to get all my siblings silly.

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on November 12, 2014:

Sounds pretty strong! It's good to see an old recipe passed down

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on December 23, 2013:

Have never had this, but I'm going to give it a try. Sounds Good!!!! Thanks

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on December 14, 2013:

Never tried boilo, but I have however, imbibed some moonshine (white lightning)in my home state of Indiana and nearby state of Kentucky. WOOHOO! Got to try this recipe and send it to all my kinfolk in Indiana.

mel-kav on November 28, 2013:

I have never heard of boilo. It sounds tasty!

JimHofman on October 22, 2013:

I haven't tried Boilo, but it sure sounds good! I make Glogg every year and have a Squidoo lens by the same name with favorite recipes. Cheers!

Chris-H LM on December 24, 2012:

I have not, but I may try. My son likes to brew his own meade. :) Happy holidays!

Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on December 05, 2012:

@Scotties-Rock: My "other" home is in suburban Reading in Berks county. There are lots of folks at my husbands workplace that commute from the coal region and the bosses always serve boilo for at least one work-related gathering every Chrismas. Enjoy!

Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on December 03, 2012:

@anonymous: Sure can!

Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on December 03, 2012:

@Virginia Allain: The printable version is available now. Click the text link at the bottom of the recipe.

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on November 29, 2012:

Sounds so good! I live in Eastern PA but have not ever heard of it. But, I live in the Dutch Country not the Coal Region. :) Great lens and I will be sure to try Boilo or Coal Miner Champagne. Blessed!

anonymous on November 16, 2012:

@Virginia Allain: Copy....paste into Word...print.

aquarian_insight on November 13, 2012:

I'd never heard of Boilo before reading your lens, but it sounds like something I just have to try! Thank you for the recipe and tips! *blessed*

JoshK47 on September 19, 2012:

Sounds quite delicious to me! Thanks kindly for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

GenWatcher LM on September 07, 2012:

This is totally new to me - very interesting!

WaynesWorld LM on December 28, 2011:

Never tasted it. My dad talked about how Everclear was so potent, a guy I work with mentioned how they would go to parties and dump a pint in the punch bowl. It didn't take much to get you soused.

My cousin received some moonshine and had his wife convinced it was evaporating(all the while he was the evaporator. =*)

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 22, 2011:

I love discovering regional concoctions like this! Well presented (and I'm leaving an angel blessing).

It would be great to put the recipe in a printable recipe module.

anonymous on November 24, 2011:

I like using tupelo honey, it is just the right amount of sweet and also use grain alcohol. Smooth and sweet.

anonymous on March 14, 2011:

I don't think I'll make this, but I sure would like to have a sample. I will try just about anything once to see if a I like it.

Melissa from Albuquerque, NM on February 15, 2011:

A group of us made a really dangerous sangria concoction when I was in college that this reminds me of. LOL I will have to try this next holiday season since the below zero weather has passed us and Spring appears to be in the air here in New Mexico.

TurtleDog70 on February 14, 2011:

What a great post! I was in the rural Berks County area and met a man, of all first-names, named Cotton. This was years ago, around Christmas time. Cotton had a batch of boilo on the stove and I had it for the first time. Great drink.

Good call too adding all the fire warnings to your post. Cotton told us a few bolio legends about people burning up their kitchen.

anonymous on January 16, 2011:

sounds like a good drink can you use jack daniels though lol x

Bambi Watson on December 31, 2010:

I'm not a fan of Whiskey, but imagine I could use brandy instead ~ nothing quite as good as warm brandy on a cold day :)

~ Blessed :)

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on December 31, 2010:

Yum! I want some of this right now. It is freezing here in So California and we are not used to it! (28 degrees this morning) I have everything but fresh oranges and cheap whiskey. Will lemons and good rum work? Will let you know as I think I need this for breakfast. Happy New Year, Lee!

Wendy Henderson from PA on December 31, 2010:

I love wassail so I would probably like this. Thanks for the idea.

julieannbrady on November 19, 2010:

Do you suppose boil-ermakers got their start with Boilo? I had really never heard of this drink and I am from Ohio. Sounds delicious -- and I'd like some please!

Lynne Schroeder from Blue Mountains Australia on September 05, 2010:

In Sweden they have Glögg which sounds very similar. Since our Christmas is in Summer I may have to save this one up for our next Christmas in July