The Powerful Pennsylvania Punch You Probably Didn't Know Existed

According to CNBC, 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky. California produces 84.39% of the United States' wine (via World Population Review). In Pennsylvania, flowing like water through the mountains of coal and spoil heaps that dot the picturesque autumn valleys of northeastern and east-central Pennsylvania is a spirit simply referred to as boilo.

This hot whiskey punch is a specialty located in and around the Coal Regions of Pennsylvania. It sounds deceptively simple — whiskey, fruits such as oranges or lemons, a sweetener like honey, vanilla, or cinnamon, and then simmered over the stove — but the drink's history is interwoven with Lithuanian immigrants and the coal miners of Pennsylvania's booming anthracite economy.

As A Coalcracker in the Kitchen explains, the beverage is similar to the Lithuanian drink krupnikas, a spiced honey drink popular in Poland and Lithuania. The drink is also said to be associated with virtya, a drink popular among Baltimore's Lithuanian-American community. But the origin of boilo itself is credited with having roots in the Coal Region area of Schuylkill County, as the town of Shenandoah was a center for Lithuanian immigrants at the time. The warm spiced drink not only became known as the "Champagne of the Coal Region," but also as a sort of cure-all used to treat anything from sore throats to the flu to helping miners warm up after a shift in the dark, cold tunnels.

Boilo has different variations

Now that you have a bit of history behind boilo, you may be wondering how it's made. While whiskey and fruit are indeed the foundation for the punch, everyone has their own unique recipe on how to make the drink and some keep it a highly-guarded family secret. 

The recipe from Delishably for this Coal Region favorite is a bit more traditional and calls for whiskey, orange juice, honey, cinnamon, and oranges. It is a Keeper gives a recipe for Apple Cranberry Boilo, a drink that's more suited for Christmas parties than warming up after a night shift in a coal breaker. Everyone has their own style of boilo, so it's not so much following a recipe as it is mixing and matching to suit your own personal tastes.

But for a drink that's just whiskey and fruit, boilo has taken the Pennsylvania mining regions by storm. There are annual contests, boilo-scented candles, and even a polka song about the drink (via WNEP). The drink is so popular that, according to Atlas Obscura, Four Queens whiskey (the whiskey of choice for boilo makers in the Coal Regions) is kept in production almost entirely thanks to the spiced punch. If you want to try to make this drink at home, be warned: All that whiskey makes the boilo really strong, so it's best to sip instead of drinking it in a straight shot.