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Liqueur is hot stuff at working men's club

A WORKING men's club in Lancashire has achieved a rare bacchanalian claim to fame as the home of the world's most serious drinkers of the French liqueur, Benedictine.

Last year the 480 members of Burnley Miners' Working Men's Social Club drank more than 1,000 bottles. And they shun the usual ice mixer to take it with hot water.

Alan Kennedy, the club secretary, who orders up to 90 cases at a time, said: 'It's unbelieveable really just how much Benedictine we drink. We are supposed to be the world's biggest retail outlet.

'If you ask for a Bene 'n' hot anywhere else in the country, people think you're crazy - but we always keep a flask of hot water on the bar so people can top up.'

A figure of 30 per cent of the Benedictine drunk in Britain is consumed in the Burnley, Accrington and Nelson area of Lancashire.

The local passion for the drink was started by soldiers in the 11th battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment during the First World War.

In the cold winter of 1918 the battalion was based in Fecamp, Normandy - where the liqueur is made - and the troops drank Bene 'n' hot to keep warm in the trenches.

On their return the soldiers passed on their liking for the drink.

Later this year 40 members of the Burnley working men's club will visit the Benedictine distillery in Fecamp.

'Its going to be like a visit to Mecca,' Mr Kennedy said. 'The taste has been passed down from generation to generation ever since the soldiers got a taste for it.'

The secret recipe for the golden liqueur was invented in 1510 by a Benedictine monk, Dom Bernardo Vincelli.

A spokesman for Benedictine confirmed that the Burnley Miner's Social Club was the largest outlet for the liqueur in the world.

He said the club members who plan to visit the distillery would be a given a special welcome. 'They certainly deserve it,' he said.