The dawa (medicine) cocktail, invented at the Carnivore restaurant in the Langata suburb of Nairobi, was inspired by the Brazilian caipirinha, a cocktail made with the cane-sugar spirit cachaça. Bartenders complained of morning-after headaches from the cachaça and started subbing in vodka. (Some Brazilians also prefer vodka with their muddled limes and sugar; the resulting drink is a caipivodka.) Carnivore’s bartenders began testing their new drink on guests; and one of them, who happened to be their landlord, was a fan. He asked for another, referring to it as his dawa (medicine). The name stuck and so did the cocktail, which is now found across Kenya.
1 tablespoon sugar
6 ice cubes
2 ounces vodka
Honey to taste
Cut the lime into quarters and place them inside a lowball glass. Add the tablespoon of sugar and muddle the mixture with a stick until the sugar is moist—but be gentle so you don’t extract too much bitterness from the peel of the lime.
Add at least 6 ice cubes to the glass. (According to one bartender, “Warm dawas are disgusting!”) Pour two tots of vodka over the ice. Dip the stirring stick in honey, then lightly stir it into the drink. Remember: Honey is a garnish in this cocktail. You don’t want the drink to become sickly sweet.