This cocktail is a precise blend of vodka, triple sec, and lime juice, each contributing equally to its characteristic earthy flavour profile. Served in shot glasses, the ritual often involves a swift consumption, accompanied by a touch of salt and a lime wedge to balance the tang of the lime juice.
Originating from World War II, the Kamikaze shot draws its name from the Japanese phrase "divine wind," initially denoting the powerful winds that thwarted Japan’s Mongol invasion in the 13th century.
WW2 soldiers coined the term "Kamikaze" for this shot in homage to the Japanese kamikaze pilot bombers. These pilots underwent intense training to purposefully crash their modified planes into American warships, resulting in a catastrophic explosion and the demise of occupants from both sides. The method, initiated in October 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, was essentially a suicide mission conceived with the intent of turning the tide of the war in Japan's favour. Unfortunately, this tactic proved unsuccessful in altering the course of the conflict. Post-war, American soldiers in Japan appropriated "kamikaze" to describe the intense cocktails they consumed. During the 1940s, the Kamikaze shot gained popularity among military personnel.
However, it was not until the 70s and 80s that the drink caught on among the American masses. The reintroduction of the drink is credited to a certain Tony Lauriano in 1972,
according to a January 1989 article in Motorboating and Sailing Magazine by cocktail writer John Mariani.
Initially referred to as the Jesus Christ Superstar, its name was later changed to Kamikaze due to its more palatable association. An alternative origin story emerges from an October 1979 Ski Magazine article by Peter Miller. Miller suggests that the Kamikaze's popularity began in Florida in the early to mid-1970s before making its way to New York. Once it gained traction in New York, its popularity spread throughout the country. The Kamikaze found a particular niche in the ski resorts of North America, likely owing to its potency and the notion that consuming this cocktail is akin to embarking on a one-way journey.
Of course, the surge in its popularity in the U.S. bar culture aligns seamlessly with the widespread acclaim of vodka during that time.
Although technically vodka and triple sec are the key ingredients of Kamikaze, it's the lime juice that makes or breaks the drink. While lime juice is a standard component in many cocktails, its role in the Kamikaze shot is pivotal. The sharpness of lime juice serves a precise function — it acts as a counte to the sweetness of triple sec and the robustness of vodka. Without it, the Kamikaze shot would teeter towards excessive sweetness and acridness. Furthermore, lime juice introduces a fruity, citrusy note, elevating the overall drinking experience.
While this drink stands as a distinctive cocktail, it has always been unjustly robbed of a singular identity. For example, in preparing a Margarita, if one were to swap the tequila for vodka, one would get Kamikaze. Similarly, some narratives on the origin of the iconic Cosmopolitan cocktail trace roots back to World War II, suggesting it evolved from a Vodka Gimlet, underwent a phase as a Kamikaze, and eventually assumed its modern form in the 1980s with the introduction of cranberry juice.
A vibrant twist to the classic Kamikaze cocktail is the Blue Kamikaze, which substitutes blue Curaçao liqueur for triple sec.
Add the vodka, orange liqueur and lime juice to a shaker with ice, and shake thoroughly until well-chilled.
Strain into two shot glasses.