Drinking Busaa and Dawa at Kenyan Local Bars

Local Kenyan bars are a great place to socialize, listen to local and country music, and enjoy some delicious drinks like lime Dawa. Learn more about the world of Kenyan local bars, the music that fills their air, and the drinks that tantalize the taste buds.

Kenyan local drink called Dawa
Kenyan local drink called Dawa.

Kawangware Local Bar Scene.

Kawangware, is located in Nairobi, Kenya. Kawangware is one of Africa's biggest slums and is a bustling and informal neighborhood known for its lively atmosphere and energetic nightlife. In Kawangware, you'll find a variety of local bars, as these bars play a significant role in the social fabric of the slum community, providing spaces for relaxation, entertainment, and socializing.

Bars in Kawangware range from small, cozy establishments to larger venues with outdoor seating areas. They often feature wooden furniture, bar counters, and a warm and welcoming ambiance. The atmosphere is typically laid-back and casual, creating a comfortable space where people can unwind. Kawangware, like many urban areas in Nairobi, has a mix of formal and informal settlements.

In addition to drinks, many bars in Kawangware also offer a selection of simple bar snacks and finger foods to accompany your drinks. These can include items such as samosas, fries, nyama choma (grilled meat), or even local delicacies like chapati (flatbread) and sukuma wiki (collard greens).

In Kawangware, there are small local bars or kiosks where you can find homemade brews called chang'aa or busaa. These special drinks are made using ingredients like maize, millet, or sorghum and have a higher amount of alcohol compared to other beverages. In local bars or kiosks in Kawangware and other parts of Kenya, busaa is often served in communal drinking vessels and enjoyed in a social setting. It is considered a traditional and cultural drink, deeply rooted in Kenyan heritage.

Kawangware local bar
Kawangware local bar.

Local bars in Kenya and international bars differ in several aspects, including atmosphere, offerings, and cultural ways. 

Local bars in Kenya hold a special place within the fabric of the country's cultural tapestry. These establishments are more than just places to grab a drink; they serve as vital social spaces that unite communities and preserve local traditions. Rooted in the customs and norms of the local population, these bars provide a glimpse into the heart and soul of Kenya.

Step inside a local bar in Kenya, and you'll find an atmosphere that exudes a laid-back and casual vibe. The d├ęcor often reflects the region's rich cultural heritage, with rustic and traditional elements that transport patrons to an authentic local experience. The focus is on creating an environment where people can relax, unwind, and engage in meaningful conversations. These bars prioritize a sense of familiarity and community, making them welcoming and inviting to both locals and visitors alike.

One of the defining features of local bars in Kenya is their wide selection of drinks. From traditional homemade beers brewed with age-old recipes to locally crafted spirits and popular local brands, these bars proudly showcase the richness of the local drinking culture. While international alcoholic beverages may find a place on their menus, the emphasis remains on highlighting homegrown flavors and traditions. Patrons have the opportunity to explore unique and distinct tastes that have been passed down through generations.

Local bar in Kenya
Local bar in Kenya.

In contrast, international bars in Kenya cater to a diverse clientele, including locals and tourists. These bars aim to create a global and inclusive experience by incorporating elements from different cultures. With sleek and contemporary designs, they offer a more cosmopolitan and modern ambiance. International bars often feature a broader range of drinks, showcasing popular international spirits, wines, and cocktails from around the world. They may also offer an extensive food menu featuring international cuisine options to complement their drinks.

Regarding pricing, local bars in Kenya understand the importance of affordability in the local economy. They strive to keep their drink prices accessible to a wider range of patrons, ensuring that enjoying a drink with friends doesn't strain the budget. On the other hand, international bars often target a more affluent clientele and may have higher price points to match the upscale experience they provide.

While local and international bars have unique charms, local bars in Kenya hold a distinct allure. They preserve the local community's customs, traditions, and flavors, providing a space for people to unite, forge connections, and celebrate their shared heritage. These bars are not just watering holes; they are the heartbeat of Kenyan culture, welcoming all who seek an authentic and meaningful experience.

Bar Music and the Rhythm of Kenya
Bar friends.

Bar Music and the Rhythm of Kenya.

Many bars in Kenya feature a diverse range of music genres that cater to different tastes and preferences. One such genre is Benga, which originated in the Luo community of western Kenya and has captured the hearts of Kenyans nationwide. Characterized by lively rhythms, infectious guitar melodies, and storytelling lyrics, Benga music resonates with listeners through relatable themes of love, social issues, and everyday life. The captivating tunes of Benga inspire patrons to dance and sing along, creating an immersive and joyful atmosphere.

Another popular genre found in Kenyan bars is Genge music, a fusion of hip-hop, reggae, and dancehall originating from Nairobi's urban neighborhoods. Genge embodies the city's vibrant spirit with its energetic tempo, catchy hooks, and witty lyrical wordplay. It has become particularly popular among the younger generation and can often be heard blasting from speakers, infusing bars with an urban flair.

Surprisingly, Kenya also has a strong affinity for country music, despite its American origins. The storytelling nature, heartfelt lyrics, and themes of love, heartbreak, and nostalgia found in country music strike a chord with Kenyan listeners. Many local artists have embraced country music, infusing it with local influences and creating a unique Kenyan country sound. The melodic tunes and relatable lyrics create a sense of connection and evoke emotions among bar-goers.

Bar Music of Kenya
Bar Music of Kenya.

Drinks are served in local bars in Kenya.

Bars in Kenya offer extensive beverages to cater to diverse preferences. From traditional favorites to contemporary delights, there is something for everyone. Be it local brews, spirits, wines, or refreshing cocktails, bars provide a haven for patrons to indulge in their drink of choice.

One notable feature of Kenyan bar culture is the popularity of local homemade beers. These traditional brews, often referred to as "busaa" or "chang'aa," hold a special place in the hearts of many Kenyans. Brewed using local ingredients such as maize or sorghum, these beers carry a distinct flavor and are deeply rooted in local traditions. They are known for their authenticity and are often enjoyed by locals as a way to connect with their cultural heritage.

Local bars in Kenya offer more than just drinks and music; they provide an escape from the pressures of everyday life. Men find solace in these establishments, unwinding and letting go of their worries in a casual and welcoming atmosphere. The availability of drinks, entertainment, and engaging activities enhances the overall experience, providing comfort and enjoyment.

Moreover, bars serve as social hubs where individuals can connect with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. The relaxed environment encourages conversations, laughter, and the forging of meaningful relationships. The sense of camaraderie and belonging that comes from these interactions can be incredibly comforting and fulfilling.

In Kenya, socializing in bars has become integral to the cultural fabric. It offers an avenue for relaxation, connection, and enjoyment. With the presence of live music, including Benga, Genge, and even country music, the atmosphere is electric and invigorating. The evolving attitudes towards gender inclusivity have resulted in greater acceptance of women in bars across the country. As long as the legal drinking age of 18 is respected, bars continue to thrive as vibrant spaces that celebrate Kenya's rich cultural heritage and foster a sense of community.

One popular local drink served in bars across Kenya is called Dawa, which means medicine in Swahili. This refreshing cocktail is made with a combination of vodka, lime, honey, and crushed ice.

Kenyan drink called Dawa
Kenyan drink called Dawa.

Ingredients and directions for the popular local drink served in bars across Kenya called Dawa.

2 ounces vodka

Juice of half a lime

1 tablespoon honey

Crushed ice

Club soda (optional)

Lime slices, for garnish


In a glass, squeeze the juice of half a lime. Add the vodka to the glass. Stir in the honey until it is well combined with the lime juice and vodka. Fill the glass with crushed ice, leaving some space at the top. Stir the mixture vigorously for about a minute using a long spoon or swizzle stick. This helps to dissolve the honey and infuse the flavors. If desired, top the glass with a splash of club soda for a bit of fizz. Garnish the drink with a lime slice.

Dawa is a popular choice for those looking for a refreshing and citrusy cocktail with a touch of sweetness. Its simplicity and unique flavor make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike in Kenyan bars.

One popular Kenyan drink you might come across in bars is called Dawa. Dawa is a Swahili word that means medicine, and it's a unique and refreshing cocktail. It is typically made with vodka, honey, lime juice, and a special ingredient called dawa mix or dawa spice. The dawa mix blends sugar, crushed ice, and muddled lime wedges. The drink is stirred with a wooden stick called a dawa stick, which is traditionally made from a special medicinal tree called mukombero.

Dawa is known for its sweet and tangy flavor, with a hint of herbal goodness from the dawa mix. It's often garnished with a slice of lime and served in a glass with crushed ice. Many people believe that Dawa has healing properties and can cure various ailments, hence the name medicine.

In addition to Dawa, you can find other popular drinks in bars in Kawangware and across Kenya. One such drink is Tusker, which is a well-known Kenyan beer. It has a smooth and crisp taste, and it's enjoyed by many locals. Another popular local beer is White Cap, which has a slightly stronger flavor than Tusker.

For those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, Stoney Tangawizi is a popular choice. It's a ginger ale soda with a strong ginger kick that provides a refreshing and spicy taste. Maji is another non-alcoholic drink commonly served in bars. It simply means water in Swahili and is usually served in chilled bottles.

In Kawangware, you may also find small informal bars or kiosks that serve homemade brews, commonly known as chang'aa or busaa. These local brews are made from ingredients like maize, millet, or sorghum and have a relatively high alcohol content.

So, whether you're in the mood for a refreshing Dawa cocktail, a cold Tusker beer, or a spicy Stoney Tangawizi, Kawangware's bars offer a range of drinks to suit various tastes and preferences.


Week’s Best African Culture Posts

African Pizza: Spicy Chicken Pizza with Pumpkin Fufu Crust

Fat Ways: High Calorie Egusi Soup Recipe

African Chicken Fingers with Honey-Mustard Harissa Dipping Sauce

Blink Think the Magical Tree Nymph