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How to Make a Batch of Boilo - A Pennsylvania Holiday Beverage

Updated on November 27, 2016
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Boilo Recipe - Northeastern Pennsylvania Coal Region Holiday Wassail
Boilo Recipe - Northeastern Pennsylvania Coal Region Holiday Wassail

Pennsylvania Christmas Punch - Home Brewed Boilo

Boilo (BOY-low) is a home made Yuletide cocktail that's a favorite drink in the eastern Pennsylvania Coal Region. Brewing up a batch of wassail-like boilo is a time-honored traditional event, rooted in the early mining communities and cultures of northeast Pennsylvania, especially the Schuylkill county area.

Boilo is based on grain alcohol or cheap whiskey mulled with fruits, cider and spices added to jazz it up and add interesting flavors. It's a best-served-warm holiday punch to which you add the alcohol AFTER you've heated all the spices and cider and removed the pan from the stove.

Some folks refer to boilo as "coal region nectar," "coal cracker punch" or the "champagne of the coal region." Everyone agrees on how you should drink boilo ... sip very slowly, because it's universally agreed that boilo can knock you off your feet. As with all cultural cocktails, variations on the recipe are abundant - feel free to improvise! Just remember to gently warm the finished boilo to serve it.

Despite its name, if you boil it you'll evaporate the alcohol and, as my tattered copy of this recipe version states, "if you boil it, you're an idiot."

Photo credit - bekathwia, Flickr

Make Your Own Moonshine - White Lightnin' User's Guide

Modern Moonshine Techniques
Modern Moonshine Techniques

Boilo purists insist that moonshine or grain alcohol makes the best boilo base. If you can't find either one, recipes suggest using cheap rye whiskey as a substitute ingredient.

Learn how make your own personal supply of moonshine.

 

Have You Ever Tasted Boilo? - Also known as "coal cracker" (coal miner) champagne

If you've ever had the good fortune to take a sip or several sips of boilo, you know it's a unique and warming experience.

Boilo - Have You Tasted Coal Cracker Champagne?

See results

Home Distillery - Make Your Own Moonshine

Learn to concoct and brew home-distilled beverages.

Steel Brewing Pot with Glass Lid - Use to warm up your boilo with spices and spirits

A large stainless steel pot is ideal for mixing and heating boilo.

Prime Pacific 18/10 Stainless Steel 20 Quart Stock Pot With Glass Lid
Prime Pacific 18/10 Stainless Steel 20 Quart Stock Pot With Glass Lid

Glass cover lets you keep boilo warm after it's ixed.d and mixed. Don't put alcohol into your boilo until you remove it from the stove!

 

There are dozens of different recipes for boilo, each one customized by generations of coal-cracker-brewmeisters. Thie recipe for boilo that's in our cookbook came to me via my husband's co-workers. The company president serves this to employees on the final work day before Christmas ...

  • Prep time: 30 min
  • Cook time: 30 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour
  • Yields: Many or few, depending on tolerance

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/slices

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except the alcohol in a large kettle or stew pot. Boil for a few minutes, cool slightly and strain.
  2. Bring strained mixture to a gentle boil again; strain once more.
  3. After strained mixture cools down, add the alcohol. Before drinking, warm your boilo, but don't boil or you will evaporate the alcohol.
  4. 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. NEVER ADD THE ALCOHOL TO THE BOILO WHILE IT IS COOKING or NEAR FLAMES. SEVERE FIRE DANGER!
Cast your vote for Home Made Boilo Recipe
Wassail - similar to boilo, but made with ale
Wassail - similar to boilo, but made with ale

Boilo Recipe History

Moonshine Base with Citrus and Spice

Wassail photo by jeremytarling, Flickr

Boilo is one of the oldest alcoholic concoctions to hail from Pennsylvania's Northeast region coal country. Boilo is a "home-brewed" blend of alcohol, honey, fruits, juice and spices whose 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 more recently the favored spirits for this citrus-spiced beverage (served hot, like wassail) is high-proof low-grade whiskey. Boilo is meant to be served warm ... and can get you really fired up if you're not careful!

Wassail Photo Credit:topdrawersausage, Flickr

Warning - Fire Hazard

NEVER ADD THE ALCOHOL TO THE BOILO WHILE COOKING.

Turn off heat and remove pan from hot stove.

Kitchen Safety - Fire Extinguisher

Boilo is made with alcohol but you should never add the liquor to the pot while it's on the stove or near an open flame. It's also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, even if you don't concoct a batch of boilo.

How to Make Boilo

The recipe, the brewmistress and the imbibers all share with you a look at how to make boilo, the traditional coal cracker's holiday punch ...

Beaucoup Boilo - Recipes & Folklore - Blend, Simmer, Cool Slightly, Drink Up

For such a humble beverage there are many variations on the basic boilo recipe. All boilo recipes use grain alcohol or whiskey, honey, spices and fruits. Contrary to the name, you shouldn't boil the brew once the alcohol is in the mix, or you'll distill out all the booze.

Some recipes recommend adding the whiskey after simmering the rest of the ingredients, then letting the whole batch cool down before bottling. All recipes caution about the danger of adding so much alcohol while the pot is on the stove - even the fumes can actually cause a fire hazard, so be very careful.

© 2010 Lee Hansen

Happy Holidays! Have a Cup of Boilo!

Submit a Comment

  • Paul Ward profile image

    Paul 2 years ago from Liverpool, England

    I'll probably give this a miss :)

  • Lee Hansen profile image
    Author

    Lee Hansen 2 years ago from Vermont

    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.

  • SusannaDuffy profile image

    Susanna Duffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

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

  • esmonaco profile image

    Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

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

  • Nancy Hardin profile image

    Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    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 profile image

    mel-kav 3 years ago

    I have never heard of boilo. It sounds tasty!

  • JimHofman profile image

    JimHofman 3 years ago

    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 profile image

    Chris-H LM 4 years ago

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

  • Lee Hansen profile image
    Author

    Lee Hansen 4 years ago from Vermont

    @anonymous: Sure can!

  • Lee Hansen profile image
    Author

    Lee Hansen 4 years ago from Vermont

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

  • Scotties-Rock profile image

    Clairissa 4 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

    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!

  • profile image

    anonymous 4 years ago

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

  • profile image

    aquarian_insight 4 years ago

    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*

  • profile image

    JoshK47 5 years ago

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

  • GenWatcher LM profile image

    GenWatcher LM 5 years ago

    This is totally new to me - very interesting!

  • WaynesWorld LM profile image

    WaynesWorld LM 5 years ago

    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 profile image

    Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

    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.

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    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.

  • MyCrazyAdventures profile image

    Melissa 6 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

    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 profile image

    TurtleDog70 6 years ago

    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.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

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

  • mysticmama lm profile image

    Bambi Watson 6 years ago

    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 :)

  • Heather426 profile image

    Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

    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 L Henderson profile image

    Wendy Henderson 6 years ago from PA

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

  • profile image

    julieannbrady 6 years ago

    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!

  • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

    Lynne Schroeder 7 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

    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