Benedictine was first consumed as a medicinal elixir and reviving tonic. It was created in 1510 by a Venetian monk called Dom Bernardo Vincelli who lived at the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy. It’s a rich and intricate blend of 27 plants and spices. At the end of the late 18th century after the French Revolution, the Abbey of Fécamp was destroyed in 1791 and DOM Bernardo’s precious secret recipe appeared to have been lost forever.
In 1863, a local wine merchant in Fécamp called Alexandre Le Grand discovered a collection of manuscripts saved from the Abbey’s destruction by a distant relative. Within the collection of papers, he discovered a notebook containing what appeared to be a liqueur recipe. Once Alexandre believed he had recreated the recipe as faithfully as he could to Dom Bernardo’s original, he decided to sell the liqueur to the public. In tribute to the creator of the liqueur, the liqueur was named Bénédictine after the monastic order of Dom Bernardo Vincelli and the bottle also features the Latin motto of the Bénédictine order – ‘Deo Optimo Maximo’ meaning ‘to God, the good, the great’ as well as the coat of arms of Fécamp Abbey.
A manuscript nicknamed “the elixir of long life” was delivered to a monastery outside Paris in 1605. It contained the instructions to make a pea gree herbal liqueur called Chartreuse. And since 1737 this has been made by Carthusian monks in the La Grande Chartreuse monastery in the Chartreuse mountains north of Grenoble.
The drink is composed of 130 herbs, flowers and plants that are macerated in alcohol and steeped for eight hours into a tonic. Chartreuse soon grew in popularity and was often used for enjoyment rather than as a medicine. Noticing this trend, the monks adapted the recipe in 1764 to make a milder drink now known as Green Chartreuse. Today, the elixir is still made by a pair of monks at La Grande Chartreuse following the ancient recipe.
If you’re a fan of beer, then Trappist beer is a must have. The most well known possibly of the Trappist beer brands is one called Chimay. Try saying Cistercian thrice, very fast! We owe Trappist beer to the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe in France, where the Trappist order originaged. As the order spread from France to other parts of Europe, so did their beer brewing traditions.
In the middle ages, brewing beer fulfilled several purposes for the monasteries. Firstly it added to the monasteries attraction as a place of refuge for with decent food and drink, Secondly it acted as a currency with which to barter and thirdly beer was far more sanitary to drink rather than water, which at that time was largely unsanitary and the drinking of which could lead to certain diseases.
Today, ten Trappist breweries are active— 1 in Austria, 6 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands, and 1 in the United States.
It’s popularly believed that a monk named Pierre Perignon discovered the 2nd fermentation in wine, which is what gives Champagne it’s bubbles, while at the Benedictine Abbey of Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France. And in tribute to whom, Moet Hennessy named Dom Perignon. One doesn’t know to what extent this story is true or false, but it’s true that he did make important contributions to the production and quality of Champagne.
There is also a record of a sparkling wine called Blanquette de Limoux which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Carcassonne in 1531.