Christmas in Northeast Pennsylvania calls for “the Champagne of the Coal Region.”
In Pennsylvania’s Coal Region, chilly winters have long been accompanied by a powerful, potentially explosive tipple known as boilo. Typically, it’s an orange brew made of liquor, honey, citrus fruit, and spices. Sometimes, raisins or ginger ale are added to the mix. Once mostly made with moonshine, it now often gets its punch from Four Queens whiskey. Boilo is potent to the point that locals joke about its combustible vapor, but it’s often made in the safety of a slow cooker.
Boilo is a wintertime drink, often sipped around the Christmas tree. While every family has their own recipe, it’s generally agreed that boilo can be traced back to krupnikas, a Lithuanian honey liquor. When Eastern European immigrants came to mine anthracite coal in the region, it’s likely they brought their comforting drink with them. Boilo, too, developed a reputation as a soothing beverage. It was once considered powerful enough to soothe colds and the flu. These days, though, it’s imbibed more for fun than for health, giving it the nickname “the Champagne of the Coal Region.”