87. What’s a Dawa?

Dawa, the de facto national drink of Kenya, is a mixture of honey, lime, sugar, ice, and vodka. It’s popularity is such that virtualy every restaurant and bar in Kenya has it on the menu.

The star ingredient is honey, which is fitting for a country with a long history of traditional beekeeping.

The Dawa cocktail was first mixed together and served at The Carnivore in Nairobi, back in 1980 when the restaurant first opened its doors.

Dr. Dawa travels from table to table wearing a 1920s cigarette girl-inspired tray carrying the libation’s necessities while wearing a feathered hat similar to those worn by African witch doctors.

Dawa means “medicine” in Swahili, but Samson Kivelenge (a.k.a. “Dr. Dawa”), who is credited with naming the cocktail, does not claim it possesses healing properties.

Still, a Dawa does seem to act as an effective rejuvenating tonic in Kenya’s hot weather.

Dawa comes with its own accessory, a chunky wooden (or plastic) Dawa stick.

Basically, the Dawa stick is a honey-coated swizzle stick that is occasionally carved at the head, or decorated with famous beadwork of the country’s Maasai people. It comes wrapped in honey.
You use it to stir your drink and the honey dissolves with the rest of the ingredients.

These days the Dawa is sipped at sunset across East Africa in a time-honored happy-hour tradition.

The best way to end a safari day is with a beautiful sunset and drink – an activity that’s known as a sundowner.
Make mine a honey drink.


2 teaspoons white sugar or 1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 fluid ounces vodka
(1 or 2 shots)

crushed ice cube

1 whole lime, quarter with skin on

3/4 cup lime juice

1 Dawa stick*, twisted in creamed honey or 2 tablespoons of honey

 *You can replace the Dawa stick with a popsicle stick or spoon.

Put lime and sugar into a whiskey tumbler.
Crush lime slices slightly, add ice and pour in the vodka.
Add the lime juice.

Twist a Dawa stick into some honey and add the stick to the drink. Use the stick to stir the drink.

The more you crush the limes into the mixture and stir with the honey stick, the sweeter your Dawa will taste.

Source: Food.com