The brandy-based cocktail mixed up by Yorkshire monks

Father Luke, a monk at Ampleforth Abbey  in North Yorkshire, checking on the trees in the abbey.
Father Luke, a monk at Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, checking on the trees in the abbey.
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MONKS in Yorkshire may have lived simple lives, but they liked nothing more than brandy-based cocktails, researchers have discovered.

A university team has discovered 18th century recipes which describe how they made a punch flavoured with citrus fruits, sugar and a choice of brandy or rum.

The monks at Ampleforth Abbey used recipes collected when they were in exile in France, say researchers from Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion.

Dr James Kelly, who researched English Benedictine monks in exile, said: “The two recipes found 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 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,” he said.

Not only does the recipe give a fascinating insight into tastes of the time, but it also illustrates how, even during exile, monks were keeping pace with trends from home. Dr Kelly explains: “We know that these recipes were written whilst the monks were in exile in France, but both punch and shrub were hugely popular in England at this time.”

Alcohol was enjoyed in religious communities at the time, partly because the cleanliness of water could not be guaranteed.