Coal Country Holiday Obsession

Boilo — making it AND drinking it — is a local obsession here in the Coal Region around the holidays. 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.

This spirited beverage is the thing of legend in Schuylkill County and everyone has their preferred recipe and method of producing it. But one thing that remains constant is the almost exclusive use of blended whiskey, most notably the brand Four Queens. Schuylkill County residents buy so much Four Queens – more than $65,000 worth between late 2016 and 2017, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board – that they alone are responsible for the product’s continued existence.

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.”