The sunny, citrus flavor makes this a perfect pre-dinner drink for summer
On hot summer days, drinks like the Cuba Libre, the Gin Rickey, the Mojito, and the Gin and Tonic rule. They’re just right for lazy, hot hours by the pool or at the beach — where you want a nice, slow sipper that cools you down and takes a while to finish.
But when the sun goes down, most of us want something less voluminous — but still with bracing and refreshing flavor. We could try old favorites like the Martini or the Manhattan Cocktail, of course, but they seem way too heavy for a warm-weather drink. How about something lighter, preferably with a sunny citrus flavor?
Something like the Maiden’s Prayer. This delightful combination of dry gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and orange juice delivers an authoritative flavor that sharpens your appetite for dinner, but isn’t too boozy for hot summer nights.
And it’s a drink most of your friends probably haven’t heard of. So when you serve it, they’ll admire your vast knowledge of cocktails (and your good taste in drinks). Go ahead and take a bow – you deserve it for introducing them to a top-flight tipple.
Recipe: The Maiden's Prayer Cocktail
The Maiden’s Prayer is essentially a gin sour, with Cointreau replacing the simple syrup or sugar that’s found in most sours (such as the Whiskey Sour). This drink also replaces some of the lemon juice with orange juice, making it just a touch sweeter than other sours, while adding a nice note of complexity.
Speaking of which: Getting the correct balance of sweetness in a drink that contains lemon juice is always a bit of a juggling act. I’ve tried various permutations of this cocktail, and I prefer the formula that David Wondrich suggests. But in the Notes, I offer some different ratios that you might want to experiment with.
This recipe takes several minutes to make, and serves one.
- 1½ ounces gin (see Notes)
- ½ ounce Cointreau
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed orange juice (you can substitute refrigerated not-from-concentrate, but the drink won’t taste as fresh)
- lemon or orange slice, wheel, or twist for garnish (optional; see Notes)
- Add the gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and orange juice to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice.
- Shake until well chilled – 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s already chilled).
- Garnish with a lemon or orange slice or twist if you like, and serve.
- Any brand of good “London dry” gin should work in this drink. (Most of the gin you see in liquor stores is the London dry variety. So if you stick to labels you know, that’s what you’ll probably be buying.) I like Beefeater and Plymouth gin a lot in this cocktail, but other brands work too
- IMO there’s no substitute for Cointreau, which is a type of orange-flavored liqueur called a triple sec. You can try substitutes (they’ll be called “triple sec”), but I’ve found that anything under $20 tends to be a bit nasty tasting.
- When it comes to OJ, freshly squeezed always tastes a lot better in cocktails.
- Same with lemon juice. In fact, don’t even think of using bottled lemon juice in cocktails. You won’t be happy with the result.
- A lemon twist or wheel is probably the most common garnish for this drink, but an orange twist or slice is nice, too.
- I’ve seen a recipe for this drink that specifies an ounce and a half each of gin and Cointreau, and ½ ounce each of lemon juice and orange juice. That ratio doesn’t work for my taste.
- Gary Regan likes an ounce each of gin and Cointreau in this drink, along with ½ ounce each of lemon juice and orange juice. Not a bad ratio, but I still prefer the one I present above.
- Regan also suggests adding a dash or two of Angostura bitters (to taste). I usually like bitters in cocktails, and often add them even when they’re not traditional (which they aren’t in this drink). But in this case, the Angostura bitters don’t work for me.
- I’ve also seen recipes that call for orange bitters. Again, they just don’t suit my taste in this drink.
More About the Maiden’s Prayer
“Refreshing drink!” exclaimed Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she took her first sip.
“It is,” I agreed. “Perfect for summer.”
“So,” asked Mrs K R, “any special history about this cocktail? With a name like Maiden’s Prayer, there must be.”
“Well, as with so many drinks, the origins are a bit murky,” I replied. “The name probably comes from a piano piece originally titled ‘La prière d'une vierge,’ by the Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska, published in 1856.”
“Sounds a bit sappy,” said Mrs K R.
“Yeah, a lot of people consider it overly sentimental,” I agreed. “But anyway, John Stowell Adams wrote some lyrics in English to accompany the tune and called it the ‘Maiden’s Prayer.’ It was a song – and a title – that was pretty familiar to people in the late 19th century. The tune eventually became a pretty well-known country song.”
“So where’s the drink part of this?” asked Mrs K R.
“Well, the drink itself was created sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century,” I said. “David Wondrich found a printed version of the recipe that goes back to 1907.”
“But what does it have to do with the song?” she asked.
“Well, the drink came to be considered a sure-fire seduction potion,” I said. “You know, something that gentlemen — if we can call them that — would offer young ladies in order to, um, lower their resistance.”
“And the ladies had to appeal to a higher power to withstand the onslaught?” asked Mrs K R.
“Something like that,” I said.
“Well, this is a very smooth drink without much boozy flavor,” she observed. “I can imagine someone having an extra round or two, without realizing how much they were actually drinking.”
Mrs K R drained her glass, and looked at it pointedly. “Aren’t you going to ply me with — I mean offer me! — another?”
Well, as C. H. Spurgeon said, “Prayer can never be in excess.”
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