I might warm up my next Christmas party with a shot of boilo. This is a strong, spiced drink from Pennsylvania. Carol makes her own boilo from a family recipe, and a magazine just published her article about the drink! Below is a repost of her article:
Boilo is a distinctive cocktail that developed thanks to the first wave of Lithuanian immigrants, deep in the anthracite coal region of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. It has become a staple in Lithuanian-American homes for over a century. Their ancestors brought this age-old tradition from their homeland to the New World. It is a warm spiced alcoholic beverage consumed during Christmas, New Year celebrations, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries.
Made by Monks
Boilo is believed to have been derived from krupnik aka krupnikas, a golden, spiced honey liqueur made from grain alcohol that is believed to have been developed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by Benedictine monks in the city of Nesvizh (Nesvyžius). Boilo has been called the “Champagne of the Pennsylvania Coal Region,” “Coal Region Nectar” and “Coal Region Punch.” It warms the heart and soul. It has been described as tasting like heaven on fire.
Thirteen Herbs, Spices
Family recipes differ slightly, but they share the same basic ingredients of honey, oranges, lemons and thirteen herbs and spices, including cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, juniper berries, cardamom seeds, whole nutmeg, whole allspice, whole cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, raisins, rock candy, saffron and candied ginger. Recipes call for use of 100 proof whiskey such as Four Queens to supply the needed alcohol content. Boilo is served warm. It is generally sipped because it can really pack a punch. Exact measurements of these herbs and spices are closely guarded family secrets.
How to Make Boilo
First, gather and group all the ingredients together so nothing is overlooked. Slowly dissolve honey with water, ginger ale or apple cider. Add the juice of oranges and lemons with the thirteen herbs and spices to create a glorious mixture. Then, stir the mix slowly and bring it to a low boil.
The kitchen will fill with the aroma of sweet honey nectar and the comforting smell of herbs and spices. Next, reduce heat, simmer the savory mixture for 30 minutes and stir often. Strain the contents and return the liquid to a large pot. Add the alcohol, then stir and bring to a low boil. Finally, remove the pot from the heat and bottle the boilo.
The Knights of Lithuania Council #144 sponsors the Lithuanian Days festival at the Schuylkill Mall in Frackville, Pennsylvania. For the past three years, the festival has featured a boilo contest. People present their homemade boilo, and each entry is carefully judged based on smell and taste. After the judging, free samples are shared with festival goers at The Screening Bar. Judging is led by Robert Savitsky, tasting event coordinator, Knights of Lithuania member and Boilo connoisseur.
This year, the contest had 14 entries, each with its own unique flavor. John Keff won first place, as he has now for three years in a row, making him the grand Boilo champion. John received a trophy and the honor of making the prize-winning boilo for the Council #144 Kūčios Christmas dinner.
Do you think your boilo recipe has what it takes to win? Only one way to find out; consider entering the contest next year at the 102nd Lithuanian Days festival. Please visit the Knights of Lithuania Council #144 website, www.kofl144.weebly.com for more information regarding the festival and the Boilo Tasting Event. Until then, į sveikatą! To your health!
The original article appeared as “Boilo: Champagne of the Pennsylvania Coal Region” in the November/December 2015 edition of Lithuanian Heritage, a supplement to Draugas News.