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The Dawa, Kenya’s respected happy hour cocktail

Carnivore's Dr Dawa Take Final Bow as signature cocktail lives on


A walk into the Carnivore, one of Nairobi’s prestigious restaurants invites you for a special drink; “Dawa”.

Dawa is a Swahili word meaning “medicine” and it is a signature drink for revellers who frequent the Carnivore in Lang’ata, Nairobi. This Dawa drink is meant to cure all that troubles the human heart and stir happiness.

Essentially, Dawa is a refreshing cocktail from a mix of vodka, lime juice, honey, some sparkling water and brown sugar sprinkles around the rim of the glass. Then, there is this thin stick immersed in the glass to stir your mixture as you wish.

This potent drink is a Brazilian cocktail known as Caipirinha and has for the last four decades been prepared by the late Samson Kivelenge alias Dr Dawa at the Carnivore Restaurant. Dr Dawa has worked at the restaurant since 1980 when it first opened. He only retired in early 2020 over an illness but, unfortunately, passed on.

Samson Kivelenge
The late Samson Kivelenge, the legend famed for the popular cocktail at the Carnivore Restaurant, The Dawa. [Photo Reuters]
His mixology skills and infectious laughter were simply amazing. A tray in hand, he would walk over every table and charm his way into having you taste his signature drink and would go ahead to perform his magic in mixology right at your table.

He preferred using Vodka instead of the conventional Brazilian rum, cachaca. What made his Dawa truly Dawa was the African honey in the mix. It defined the taste so good and a thin bamboo stick did the magic in muddling.

Although this drink has found its way in other establishments across the country, especially in the city, Dr Dawa’s Dawa at Carnivore remains unrivalled in its taste.

Though the mixology legend is now gone, many are asking themselves, how does one prepare this classic drink? Here is how; you will need:

1 tbsp of honey

2 shots of vodka

1 tsp of brown sugar

1 whole lime quarter with skin on

1 stick of bamboo for muddling

How to prepare:

Place lime chunks, honey and sugar in a rocks glass.

Muddle slightly with the bamboo just enough to release the lime juice and mix with the honey and sugar.

Add vodka and some crushed ice; stir to combine ingredients.

Add more ice until the glass is full, then garnish with a lime wheel.

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