A STRONG brandy-based cocktail was the tipple of choice for a community of 18th-century Benedictine monks during their exile in France, a theologian from the University of Durham has discovered.
Dr James Kelly, of the Department of Theology and Religion, came across two recipes for a citrus fruit punch, shot through with up to “ten pints” of brandy or rum, in the archives of Ampleforth Abbey, in North Yorkshire.
The two recipes were penned by members of the Benedictine monastic community of St Laurence, who established the abbey when the monks returned to England after the French Revolution. The monks had settled in Dieulouard, France, after Roman Catholicism had been banned in England in the 17th century.
”The recipes describe how to make a punch, and a similar drink called ‘shrub’,” Dr Kelly says. “Both are flavoured with orange or lemon peel, sugar, water, and up to ten pints of brandy or rum. The quantity, and the time taken to make the drink, suggests that this was something to be enjoyed on special occasions by the whole monastic community — not a quick drink for cocktail hour.”
Alcohol was commonly drunk in religious communities at the time, he says, since the water could not be guaranteed clean. The citrus base for the cocktails also provided some nutrients during fasting.
”Both punch and shrub were hugely popular in England,” Dr Kelly says. “The fact that members of an exiled monastic community were making these drinks shows that they were not cut off or isolated from the world around them. Rather, they were part of the globalisation of tastes and trends.”
Dr Kelly was conducting research for his project “Monks in Motion”, which aims to explore the political and intellectual part played by English Benedictines during their exile in Europe.