Discover the invigorating flavors of dawa, Kenya's iconic cocktail! Combining the refreshing notes of vodka and lime, this drink is a delightful blend of flavors that will captivate your taste buds!
Thirsty for more drink recipes? Then try our pink gin recipe, Lumumba drink, and Spekulatius Likör next! Also, don't forget to check out our YouTube channel! We have lots of recipe videos for you to explore!
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Dawa brings back so many memories! Oh yes, I still remember how a few sips (or maybe not so few sips) of dawa at Java helped me get through heartbreaks, colds, you name it! Dawa is what my friends and I would have to celebrate finally getting paid after a tough month, promotions at work, or simply enjoy during a girl's night out! Those were good days, I tell you, and you will find out why once you make your own!
meaning of the name dawa
Dawa dates back to the 80s and owes its origins to The Nairobi Carnivore restaurant. The name dawa is Swahili for medicine because word on the street is that dawa could cure anything!
Allegedly, bartenders at The Carnivore experimenting with their cocktails unknowingly served dawa to the restaurant's landlord. He was so impressed by the drink and even claimed it had cured his hangover. They say no trip to Kenya is complete, without a sip of dawa and I can tell you that that is indeed true!
In terms of appearance, dawa bears a striking resemblance to the Caipiroska, with the only distinction being the absence of honey in the latter.
This is a summary of the ingredients you will need to make dawa cocktail, as well as possible options for substitution. See the full measurements in the recipe card provided below.
Brown sugars make Dawa stand out. From my trips to Carnivore, I learned that demerara or turbinado sugar is the ideal sugar choice when making dawa. Both of these are light brown sugars with caramel notes, almost similar to coffee. Don't have either of these? Then simply use brown sugar instead. Just bear in mind that brown sugar is sweeter, so you may want to use less of it unless you like your cocktails overly sweet.
Lime adds a refreshing taste and really makes the dawa drink special, so feel free to use as much of it as you like. Additionally, you will require some vodka. We mostly use Sminorff (not sponsored) in Kenya but feel free to use any good quality vodka that you like.
And to finish it off, you will need some honey, as well as some crushed ice. This gives the cocktail a wonderfully cool and refreshing taste. Here, feel free to use as little or as much honey and crushed ice as you prefer!
how to make dawa drink
This is a summary of how to make dawa cocktail. You will find the detailed instructions in the recipe card below.
- Add lime quarters with the peel facing down in a cocktail glass then muddle (see notes). Add sugar, then combine.
- Stir in the vodka.
- Fill the cocktail glass with crushed ice, drizzle honey on top using a spoon or a dawa stick, and stir.
- Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!
To prevent the ice from melting and diluting the drink, I suggest not making the dawa ahead of time. However, this shouldn't be an issue because the dawa drink is incredibly easy to make! If you want to save time, I recommend gathering all your ingredients and preparing everything in advance.
- Make sure that you are using crushed ice and not ice cubes.
- Don't drink alcohol? Then make this recipe alcohol-free by omitting the vodka altogether.
- Do not skip on the muddling! Muddling is the process of gently crushing the fruit to release its juices and essential oils. Muddling the lime helps extract as much flavor as possible.
- Garnish creatively: decorate your glass, cut your lime wedges creatively, feel free to use your creativity, when it comes to garnishing!
more Kenyan recipes
Hungry for more? Then don't miss trying out our other African dishes!
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- ½ lime (cleaned, and cut into small wedges)
- 2 bar spoons demerara sugar (alternatively, use turbinado, coconut, or brown sugar)
- 2 oz (60ml) vodka
- a drizzle of honey
- 1 cup crushed ice (use more or less, as preferred)
- Add lime quarters with the peel facing down to a cocktail glass, and muddle well (see notes).
- Add sugar and the vodka, then combine using a cocktail spoon.
- Next, fill the glass with crushed ice. Using a spoon or a dawa stick if you own one, add a generous drizzle of honey, then stir to combine.
- Garnish your Kenyan dawa drink with some lime wedges, and serve it chilled!
- Use more or less sugar or lime, to suit your preference.
- Muddling is the process of “smushing” fruit, herbs, or sugar into a cocktail to infuse their flavors. It releases the juices and oils trapped between the rinds and seeds, resulting in a more flavourful drink.