Boilo: Pennsylvania Coal Country’s Winter Warming Wassail

Boilo. Photo by Keri White

We’ve talked before about the pivot to serving warm beverages for outdoor winter gatherings as a way to socialize safely through the pandemic:

Recently, however, I discovered another hot drink that bears sharing: boilo. This spicy, citrusy, warm, boozy (if you wish) beverage is a traditional winter drink in Pennsylvania Coal Country, but it has roots in Lithuania.

The most typical version is mixed with cheap moonshine, Four Queens brand whiskey or strong grain alcohol, but the recipe can be tweaked to skip the spirits altogether or altered for personal taste. We had two friends over for a socially-distanced backyard fire pit last week and served boilo with a ‘pick your liquor’ model — I had rum in mine, my friend vodka and the husbands had whiskey. But you can certainly add more hot water, tea or apple cider and keep this a low-octane drink.

We ladled the boilo into individual mugs and added a shot of the preferred liquor, but you can add the booze to the pot for simplicity or increase the water by about 1½ cups and keep this all all-ages drink.

The house smells absolutely wonderful as this simmers!


Makes about 8 cups

4 whole lemons

4 whole oranges

1 cup orange juice

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

6 cups water

Squeeze the lemons and oranges into a large pot, and toss in the rinds. Add the remaining ingredients, bring it to a boil and simmer it for about 30 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally and squish the fruit rinds with the back of a spoon to extract maximum flavor.

Strain the mixture, and serve as desired.



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