coal region boilo

Coal Region Boilo

Boilo is an alcoholic beverage consisting of a blend of fruits, sweeteners, spices, and whiskey. It is traditionally served during the winter holiday season  and it is most definitely a Schuylkill County / Coal Region thing.

EVERY boilo maker has THEIR recipe and EVERY boilo maker is positive THEIRS IS THE BEST. The recipe basics are pretty much the same, but just about every person’s prized version differs slightly in amounts of ingredients and perhaps a “secret” ingredient here or there.

For someone wanting to try their hand at making boilo, or for someone who has never had it – or never heard of it, this recipe is a STARTING POINT. Feel free to alter to your own personal taste.

The invention of Lithuanian immigrants, boilo shares ingredients with krupnikas, a traditional spiced honey liquor that has been consumed in Lithuania and Poland (where it is called krupnik) for centuries. The beverage also appears to be related to viryta, a drink popular with the Lithuanian-American community of Baltimore. “Viryta” is derived from the Lithuanian word for “boil” or “cook.” 

In years gone by, boilo was made with moonshine, but today’s boilo makers often use Four Queens, an inexpensive blended whiskey distilled by Laird & Company, Scobeyville, NJ.

In fact, Schuylkill County buys so much Four Queens (according to PA Liquor Control Board statistics) that the distiller says they Schuylkill Countians alone are responsible for the product’s continued existence.

A 1954 feature in Allentown’s (Pa.) The Morning Call states, “Only one drink is recommended, but a second is permissible. A third is usually denied because of boilo’s potency.”

The rumors of boilo “exploding” likely tie in to people adding the highly flammable alcohol while the pot was still over an open flame on the stove. Always remove the pot from the heat source when adding alcohol to any dish or recipe!

Remember, the hotter the base mixture is when you add the alcohol, the more alcohol will be lost to evaporation. So, the best rule of thumb is not to boil the boilo after adding the alcohol!

Four Queens Whiskey
Laird & Company, One Laird Road, Scobeyville, NJ 07724

Locate Four Queens in PA at Pennsylvania State Stores
Fine Wine and Good Spirits

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Coal Region Boilo

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: BeverageCuisine: Coal Region, Eastern EuropeanDifficulty: Intermediate

Boilo is an alcoholic beverage consisting of a blend of fruits, sweeteners, spices, and whiskey. It is traditionally served during the winter holiday season in Schuylkill County in the Anthracite Coal Region.


  • 1 bottle whiskey (any relatively cheap, blended whiskey will do – Four Queens is very popular)

  • 4 oranges

  • 4 lemons

  • 2 cups of honey

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 small box (snack size) raisins

  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

  • 1 tsp whole allspice berries

  • 12 whole cloves

  • 1 liter ginger ale or orange juice or water (your choice)


  • Cut the whole oranges and lemons into quarters. Squeeze the pieces to release the juice then add the squeezed fruit (peel and all) to the pot. Add the gingerale or orange juice (or water if you prefer). Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the whiskey.
  • Cook everything at a slow simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 – 25 minutes. The color should be a yellow-orange.
  • Once the fruit is mushed from cooking, strain the liquid to remove the solids and spices. Press the pieces of fruit into a fine mesh strainer to remove all the liquid. Discard the remains of the fruit/spices.
  • Allow this mixture to cool before adding the alcohol to your taste – usually the entire bottle. (adding alcohol to very hot or boiling liquid will cook off the alcohol defeating the entire purpose of boilo! – So, don’t boil your boilo!!)
  • Serve warm in shot glasses or heat-proof glass.
  • Individual servings can be lightly re-warmed in a microwave.
  • Refrigerate left overs or store in a cool place.