MxMo XXXII: Guilty Pleasures — Kamikaze!

MxMo XXXII: Guilty Pleasures — Kamikaze!

For the ones of you who find this post without knowing what day it is, it’s Mixology Monday! This month’s theme is Guilty Pleasures, and the rest of the Cocktailosphere’s dark secrets may be found via Stevi Deter’s new all-potables effort: Two at the Most.
For myself, I want to write about Maggi’s and my very own Guilty Pleasure, the Kamikaze. Actually, it is my guilty pleasure, Maggi drinks whatever the hell she likes without regard for what anyone else thinks. But that is because I am a tender-egoed aspirant to the ranks of the cocktailscienti, while Maggi is a Great Broad. To forestall a long story from becoming longer, the Kamikaze is the second most frequently constructed cocktail in my Basement Bar.
I’ve alluded to the Kamikaze several times here, but why have I refrained from blogging up a storm about one of my favorite cocktails? Well, because it is a Guilty Pleasure!
The Kamikaze is important to me not just because it’s a good drink (at least mine is, see below), but because in learning about my version, I also learned something about bartenders. Something important. I discovered that bartenders are not just a glorified soda fountain on two legs. Prior to 1999(?) I had no understanding of bartenders or the concept that intelligence and individuality had anything to do with the profession. As far as I was concerned, they were waiters who poured measured amounts of beer and wine, and mixed drinks according to the recipes found in some book. And I thought there was only one book.
But mein frau and I were at the late Desert Inn in Las Vegas, waiting for the Dennis Miller show and in need of refreshment. We found a small quiet bar of the sort that no longer exist in strip casinos, and sat down. I ordered a VeryDryVodkaMartiniShakenNotStirred, because that is just the sort of poser that I was. Maggi asked for a suggestion. The guy asked her several questions, then offered her a Kamikaze. She replied that she didn’t want a shot, and he said this was his cocktail version. She tried it and really liked it. So did I. Enough that I hurriedly emptied my Martini to have “one of those”. I even asked how it was made, and he explained his recipe, and how and why it differed from most of the ways people made Kamikazes. It was a wonderful on-off conversation that lasted a half-an-hour, and it changed the way I looked at bartenders forever. Yes, most really are waiters who pour measured amounts and think a Jack and Coke is a signature cocktail, but many are much more, and I’m richer for that. And those bartenders are richer for me….
Now, on with the drink. A Guilty Pleasure must be both guilty and a pleasure, so I’ll address both.
My last post previewed the main reasons I see for the Guilty portion of a Kamikaze:

  • It has one of those names. Kamikaze. Really. It just sounds stupid, ignorant, and silly. You could even find a way to make it racist, if professional outrage is your life’s calling.
  • I’m pretty sure it started out as a shooter. At least, that is the reaction most people have when first offered one.
  • The third item is largely limited to dealing with mixological mavens: The Kamikaze is a Vodka drink. Horrors! If you call Vodka poser fluid, well then this is not the cocktail for you! Of course, I’m betting a lot of guilty pleasures we see today from Vodka snobs will be based on the stuff….

Another reason, and a quite legitimate one, that the Kamikaze gets no love is that no two mixers on Earth seem to make it the same way. Is it a shooter, or a cocktail? And why, oh why, does it bring out the worst in hot-button awful cocktail miscues?

Kamikaze Shot Recipe – Vodka Shots — powered by

I hate few cocktail-related things more than someone pouring Rose’s and calling it lime juice. And while I admit Cointreau is Triple Sec, in the sense that a Ferrari is a car, don’t use the good stuff and pretend that generic will produce anything similar. Oh, and I’ve tried this variant. Ugh.

At least the next contestant gets the Rose’s right…

I’m not sure about her Triple Sec, but the bottle is square like Cointreau. And more importantly, who serves a shot on the rocks? Finally, I am not even going to try that recipe.
My point is, Kamikaze has become a generic name for white hooch and limeyness. No one orders them because they have no idea what they are going to get, but odds are, they won’t like it.

So why do I love Kamikazes? I iterate (never use the non-word reiterate around here, or Maggi will break out the Ban Hammer!) that I love my Kamikaze. If the world came to its senses and standardized the drink to my specifications, then it would not be a guilty pleasure anymore. Let’s look at the recipe:


  • 3 oz. decent Vodka

What, not the good stuff?

No. Any cheap stuff that doesn’t taste nasty will do. This drink is not subtle enough in flavor for any alleged subtleties of premium Vodka to show through.

  • 1 oz. Cointreau

You just said no premium stuff! Then you call for Cointreau. I think I’ll use my generic Triple Sec.

Put down that bottle and walk away. The difference in flavors with this ingredient would be more than readily apparent.

  • 1 oz. Rose’s Lime Cordial

But you just slammed that guy in the first video for using Rose’s!

No, I slammed him for calling Rose’s lime juice. you actually need Rose’s for this. It is the only legitimate use for the gnarly stuff, except for in a Gimlet.

  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

Whoa! Hold on! What happened to your shortcut? You’ll use crappy bottled lime juice in your precious Pegus, but demand “fresh” for your Guilty Pleasure?

Get over it. When I say “Fresh Lime Juice”, I mean “Fresh Lime Juice If Available-If Not, Use Good Bottled Juice And Move On with Life”.

I will never, ever
give up this fight!

I’m sure you won’t, Gabe.

Mix in shaker with lots of ice and agitiate with vigor and tenacity. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a wheel of lime, if you used fresh lime juice and not the perfectly good bottled substitute.

What results is a lightly sweet, very tart, and subtly funky cocktail. It does not seem very strong, but it very much is. And interestingly, it will still taste pretty good as it starts to warm up, which is good, ’cause this ain’t a petite recipe. The Kamikaze is not terribly challenging to make or savor. It is refreshing in Summer or Winter. And it goes better with food, at least hearty fare, than most cocktails.
In short, it is the ultimate McTini, even better than the Cosmopolitan. Most anyone will find it drinkable, and you can serve it to the most timid of drinkers. Of course, the world is not going to standardize on this recipe, so you will have to enjoy it in the confidential safety of your Basement Bar, a Guilty Pleasure forever.


  1. Chuck

    14 October

    This was part of my dilemma in not coming up with a MxMo post this month. Indeed I immediately thought of the Kamikaze, but couldn’t write it up as a guilty pleasure because even though it was my drink of choice in college for a while, it ended up leaving me with the only existing photographs of myself passed out next to a toilet, which kinda removes the “pleasure” part of it. (This was thanks to a Kamikaze Party I decided to throw, batching 5 gallons of it and serving it directly from the fridge in little Dixie cups. There were almost no survivors.)

    And there was none of that fancy shmancy fresh lime juice for me. At the time it was 2 parts (cheap) vodka, 1 part (cheap) triple sec and 1 part Rose’s.

    22 years and I still haven’t touched one.

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  2. Doug

    14 October

    I. am. sorry.


    Well no, not really. I just laughed my ass off at your comment.

    I am particularly interested in who actually DID survive…..

    Come back! Come back to the ‘kazi!

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  3. Cynthia Closkey

    15 October

    This sounds both deadly and delightful. I feel no shame in drinking something made with vodka — in fact, that concern didn’t even occur to me this MxMo. Your Kamikaze seems like a nice vodka gimlet with a bit of Cointreau added, and since almost everything ends up better with a little Cointreau this is a shoo-in. Nice!

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  4. Dr. Bamboo

    15 October

    Great post all-around! (even with Gabe’s interruptions).

    I knew someone many years ago who declared these her drink of choice. I haven’t heard from her in years, and always wondered if she disappeared Kurtz-style and is holed up in a temple somewhere making Kamikazes and commanding an army of zealots.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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