Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University News

News

Research reveals Eighteenth Century monks’ favourite tipple

(19 December 2016)

Two Eighteenth Century drinks recipes, discovered by researchers from Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion, have revealed that a brandy-based cocktail was a favourite drink amongst a community of English Catholic monks exiled in France. 

The recipes were discovered by Dr James Kelly, Research Fellow in Early Modern British and Irish Catholicism, during research work for the Monks in Motion project. 

Insight into tastes and times

The two recipes describe how to make a punch and a similar drink known as ‘shrub’. Both are flavoured with a choice of orange or lemon peel, sugar, water and up to ten pints of brandy or rum. Along with the large volume of alcohol, the recipes also call for several days of steeping and mixing.

The recipes give an insight into when this drink would have been enjoyed. Dr Kelly explains: “The quantity of punch made, and the time taken to steep 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!”

Not only does the recipe give a fascinating insight into tastes of the time, but Dr Kelly highlights that it also illustrates how, even during exile, monks were keeping pace with trends from home.

Dr Kelly said: “We know that these recipes were written whilst the monks were exiled in France during the Eighteenth Century, but both punch and shrub were hugely popular in England at this time.

“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.”

Alcohol was commonly enjoyed in religious communities at the time, partly because the cleanliness of water could not be guaranteed, and also because it would help to provide some nutrients during times of fasting.

European exile

The recipes were written by members of the St Laurence Benedictine monastic community, a group of English Catholic monks who first settled in Dieulouard, France, in the Seventeenth Century when the practice of Roman Catholicism was banned in Protestant-ruled England.

Dr Kelly discovered the recipes in the archives of Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, which was established by the St Laurence’s monks following their return to England after the French Revolution.

Dr Kelly uncovered the recipes during his research as the Principal Investigator of Monks in Motion. This research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is exploring the political and intellectual role of English Benedictine monks during their time of exile in Europe.

Share this story