Remember John? That super hip global mixology loving pal of ours? He may have left us for South Africa but he’s still sharing his amazing concoctions with us from the other side of the world. This time, he’s corralled his pal Dawn Greensides for photo duties and some of his new buddies in Pretoria for tasting duties (we’re more than a little jealous). Thanks John! We miss you!
Cocktails have a way of bringing – and keeping – people together. Sure, there are the obvious ways; as Dorothy Parker famously said, “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, and after four I’m under my host.” But beyond serving as a social lubricant, they can provide a common ground, a point of interest over which to bond and connect. Case in point, here I am again, all the way from Pretoria, re-connecting with wonderful friends from the Penh. All thanks to cocktails. It’s a beautiful thing. Plus, they’re tasty and make you feel good.
Following the themes of connections and delectability, I submit to C+T’s readers the Dawa. A popular Kenyan beverage – “dawa” is Swahili for “medicine” or “magic potion” – its lineage can be traced back to the Caipirinha and Caipiroska, with a slight nod to the estimable Mint Julep. I was introduced to the Dawa by a long lost family friend, Jeremy, who happened to be in Pretoria a little while back and requested the drink at a braii. And now he’s showing up on this blog. See, connections!
Traditionally the Dawa is comprised of vodka, lime wedges, brown sugar, honey, and crushed ice, with a dawa stick thrown into the mix (think combination honey dipper and swizzle stick). Instructions seem to vary, but it appears that the traditional way to make the drink is to build the limes, sugar, vodka and ice in an old fashioned glass, dip the dawa stick in honey and then stir it into the drink, further muddling the limes while you’re at it. The drink can be a little sweet, but a touch of soda water helps mellow it out while adding a little effervescence, and you can always add more lime or vodka to taste.
Not one to be beholden to tradition, I couldn’t help but tinker, and the end result is what I like to call the Dark Dawa. In place of honey and brown sugar I substituted honey syrup and a simple syrup made with unrefined muscovado sugar. This serves to cut down on the sweetness a skosh, adds a deep molasses flavor to the mix, and helps ensure the drink blends properly. While the dawa stick and associated ritual adds a wonderful aesthetic, I have two issues with it. First, I don’t have a dawa stick, and my muddler is way to big to serve as a garnish. Second, honey is difficult to mix well in cocktails, especially in a drink that is built in the glass rather than shaken. Muddling the limes directly with the honey syrup and muscovado simple syrup prior to adding the ice goes a long way towards resolving both issues.
The biggest change in the Dark Dawa, though, is the move away from vodka in favor of a dark rum. Vodka has its uses, but in cocktails I find it disappears too easily behind whatever other ingredients are incorporated. If you like to taste your booze, try the Dawa with some dark rum and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well the rum, limes, honey and muscovado sugar blend together. And in a way it brings the drink back a little closer to its origins in the Caipirinha. See, more connections!
2 oz vodka
2-4 lime wedges
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons honey
In an old fashioned glass, add the lime wedges (enough to fill the bottom of the glass) and brown sugar and muddle lightly. Fill the glass with crushed ice, add vodka and stir. Dip your dawa stick in honey and stir into the glass, muddling limes further. If you don’t have a dawa stick or a suitable stand-in, add the honey at the same time as the sugar. Fill glass with more ice or with soda water, if desired.
2 oz dark rum
2-4 lime wedges
.5 oz honey syrup*
.25 oz muscovado simple syrup**
In an old fashioned glass, add the lime wedges (see above), honey syrup, and muscovado simple syrup, and muddle. Add the rum, stir, fill with crushed ice and stir again. Top off with ice to fill the glass, or add soda water.
.75 cup honey
.25 cup hot water
In a tea kettle bring water to a near boil, then measure out required amount and pour into a mixing bowl. Add honey, then stir with a whisk until fully mixed then store in a sealed container. Makes about 1 cup, and should last indefinitely.
**Muscovado Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup muscovado sugar
In a sealed container add the water and sugar and shake vigorously until mixed. If you’re feeling a little lazy, you can use hot water to help speed up the process.
Thanks for yet another delicious post, John! We can’t wait to see what you cook up next. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of John’s tasty things he’s made for us here, or at his blog, Alchemy & a Twist!
All photos by Dawn Greensides. Please request permission for use. We are not liable for the extreme thirst that results from this blogpost.