Dawa – a simple tropical cocktail

While on vacation in Kenya with my sister, we stumbled upon (and later, because of) a fantastic cocktail. Simple to construct, lots of flavour and extremely refreshing. It’s called a Dawa, which is the Swahili word for “medicine.” I assure you, the name speaks to the effect rather than the taste.

A simple tropical cocktail
Washed-up, shore-worn sea turtle skull for scale.

While it looks and sounds an awful lot like a vodka caipirinha, the magic of the cocktail is that it uses honey rather than cane sugar. Even better for us, the bartender was using local honey from the mangrove. Being something of a self-diagnosed Honey Snob, I convinced him to let me taste the honey by itself off the back of a bar spoon. The nearest approximation is the dark rich flavour of buckwheat honey, which is what I’d recommend in this cocktail if you can get it.

3 Key limes, quartered and muddled
2 oz vodka
3/4 oz honey (more or less depending on your taste)

Quarter and smash the limes, add the honey, top with ice, add vodka, stir well, and top with ice to serve. The vodka stands way back out of the way and lets the flavour of the honey and limes take the stage.

Don’t forget your sunscreen.

2 thoughts on “Dawa – a simple tropical cocktail

  1. An addendum, lest people waste precious booze on an experiment…
    Try stirring your honey with the muddled limes before adding ice, and feel free to add the vodka before you add any ice at all.

    There’s no accounting for variability among honey, and the last thing anyone wants is honey globs.


  2. I just mixed up a batch of this, and got honey globs. 😦
    But! I pulled out the ice and put the honey/lime juice/vodka into the microwave for 20sec and stirred everything back together. No more globs! Lime-y goodness with honey and vodka ensues.


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