Yes the name is….”interesting”, perhaps suggestive, but also a curse. We will get to that. Meanwhile our goal this week was to post a great, but perhaps lesser-known, drink made from very common ingredients. It’s fun to buy things like Maraschino, Chartreuse and Cocchi Americano and learn about obscure cocktails, but sometimes it is good to have a few recipes that you can make anytime, anywhere. We think the Maiden’s Prayer fits the bill.
And you can probably make the Maiden’s Prayer now, or after a quick trip to the market. The ingredients are dry gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and orange juice. That’s all. (You might want to add some orange or lemon bitters, if you have them…but there we go, getting all “cocktailian”). But the Maiden’s Prayer is a very, very tasty drink. Light, balanced and refreshing, with some depth from the gin. After trying it, Carolyn and I were both surprised the Maiden’s Prayer isn’t a more popular cocktail. The Maiden’s Prayer is certainly a cocktail you could serve to a group and leave everyone happy. And if you have a friend who says “I don’t like gin”, this cocktail might change their mind, the gin blends in quite smoothly. So why don’t we see this drink more?
Well, there is the name. And with cocktails, there is usually a story attached to the name. In this case, the story starts with an ultra-popular 19th century musical piece “The Maiden’s Prayer” about the purity of young women. All good. But with cocktail types being what they are, someone in the early 20th century decided to give the name to a cocktail with, perhaps, a lascivious wink. To make matters worse, the name was applied to multiple different (and sometimes god-awful) drinks, one of which Esquire, in 1949, suggested be “served on the edge of the couch”. Ugh. Maybe they should have called that cocktail “The Lecher’s Quest”. In any event, confusion and sleaze do not make for popular cocktails (well maybe a little sleaze, but certainly not confusion). But there are good versions of the Maiden’s Prayer, you just need to look in the right places.
As for this recipe, we found it in the Savoy Cocktail book from the 1930’s. The Savoy version suggests 1/8 lemon juice, 1/8 orange juice, 3/8 Cointreau and 3/8 dry gin. A pretty sweet drink (but still good, btw). Current cocktail writers like Paul Clarke and David Wondrich go in a dry (or as they say “balanced”) direction and suggest 1/2 ounce each of the juices and Cointreau and then 1 and 1/2 ounces of dry gin. This version is also good, but we think it is a bit too dry. We split the difference somewhat and suggest 1/2 ounce of the lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of the orange juice, 3/4 ounce of the Cointreau and 1 and 1/2 ounces of the gin.
We used Plymouth gin and then Hendricks for this recipe, liking the stronger Plymouth a bit more for this drink. But any good dry gin will do. And if you really want to geek up, we used cara-cara oranges and eureka lemons. The cara cara is a low-acid orange known for having sweeter, more complex flavors than the average navel orange. Great for cocktails. We also tried the drink with orange and lemon bitters (Fee Bros.). While not necessary, the bitters do add some nuance to the drink. We liked a bash of lemon bitters, but feel free to play around, or simply omit this step.
So in the end, we think we succeeded and found a great, but lesser-known, drink that uses common ingredients. We will be serving the Maiden’s Prayer regularly (as long as we have the citrus). We suggest you give the Maiden’s Prayer a try and, if helpful, just ignore the name.
The Maiden’s Prayer Cocktail:
- 1 and 1/2 ounces of dry gin
- 3/4 ounce of Cointreau (or orange liqueur)
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
- 1 dash of Fee Brothers lemon bitters (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, flute or coupe. No garnish. Serve.