The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi


Like a green oasis, Nairobi rises from the desolated African savanna, signalling hope and intent to the adventurous traveller. The place of cool water, as it was affectionately referred to by the Maasai, is still a relatively new metropolis. Established in 1899 as a rail depot on the Uganda Railway by British colonist, Nairobi expanded rapidly to replace Machakos as the capital of Kenya in 1907.

These days over 3 million people call it home and around one hundred major international companies have set up shop here, but with a national park bordering the city, Nairobi is best known to many as the Safari Capital of the world. Every year 4 million plus international travellers dot down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for a quick pit stop before heading out to business or a safari lodge. To make the most of these layovers, why not consider a few drinks along the way?

Craft Beer at the Four Points Hotel

A good start will be to check-in at the Four Points Hotel in the upmarket suburb of Hurlingham. Not only will you be greeted with a friendly smiling face at every possible occasion, but Four Points recently partnered with a local microbrewery to create a signature craft beer for the hotel.

It’s a light German-style Pilsner with a faint hint of citrus, aptly named FourPills. The beer is part of the Four Points’ Best Brews initiative, where over 220 Four Points hotels across the globe offer its own locally brewed craft beer.

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Take the elevator to the rooftop and join the cool crowd between 5-6pm for happy hour while watching the African sun fizz out behind the Nairobi skyline. If craft beer is not your thing (and I doubt it if you read this article) you can also order the compulsory Tusker Lager here. In fact, no trip to Kenya will ever be completed without a can of Tusker.

tusker at four points The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

If your layover does not allow for much exploration, rather opt for the brand new 194-room Four Points at the airport.

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Make your way through the swanky reception and take the lift to the rooftop to see the arbitrary zebra in the national park in the north, while Boeings descent from the Kenyan sky in the south. On tap at the bar you can order a pint of the hotel’s AreoPills Craft Pilsner.  Although similar in style to the FourPills, the AreoPills has a slightly spicier finish, but still light enough to enjoy multiple times.

Dawa at Carnivore Restaurant

dawa cocktail The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

In recent years the Dawa cocktail has become synonymous with Kenya in the same way that the Margarita has to Mexico. You can find a Dawa on most drinks menus across the country, but to try the original you will need to go to Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi.

meat carnivor The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

As the name suggests, Carnivore is primarily known for meat and although the selection is impressive – with everything from chicken to beef testicles – it’s the restaurant’s claim to invent and named The Dawa cocktail, that make the trip to vegan hell a must for any drinks enthusiast.

In short, Dawa, which is derived from the Swahili word meaning “Medicine”, is Africa’s take on the Brazilian Caipirinha.

A mixture of lime, white sugar, ice and vodka are muddled in a short glass with a “Dawa Stick” dipped in honey. The result is a sweet and tangy concoction that refresh wonderfully on a hot sweaty day, but be warned, it punch back like a heavyweight the next morning.  While we’re at it, try and avoid tap water in Nairobi and rather plan ahead by stocking up on bottled water for those dry moments.

Coffee at ArtCaffe

artcaffe The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

During Kenya’s colonial period, the city became a centre for the colony’s coffee and tea industry. Today, Kenyan coffee and tea are a sought after commodity in cafes worldwide and no drinking guide to Nairobi will ever be complete without it.

Stop by the Westgate Mall and sit down for your favourite cup of joe at the very first Artcaffe to open in Nairobi. The now fashionable coffee shop chain, with over 20 locations across the capital, was the first truly European-style cafe and bakery to open back in June of 2008. Trained baristas are on hand to brew any selection of beans ranging from Arabica and Robusta to Kilimanjaro.

Remember to take advantage of the complimentary wi-fi and keep them followers informed with the obligatory snap of your freshly baked croissant or sweet treat. #winning

Craft Beer at Big Five Breweries

big five breweries The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

Since 1922, when the then Kenya Breweries first brewed their now institutionalised Tusker Beer to the latest up-rise of microbreweries, Kenyans love their beer. Every year more than 700,000 hectolitres of Tusker are sold in Kenya alone, making it the largest African beer brand in the Diageo portfolio.

It’s this lucrative beer drinking culture that lure master brewer Aleem Ladak back to Kenya after working for several years in the craft beer industry in Canada and Europe. In 2009 he opened Big Five Breweries, Nairobi first modern microbrewery.

To purvey their premium libation to thirsty punters, the brewery also opened two Brew Bistros in the city – one at the brewery on Ngong road and the other at Fortis Tower. We suggest you head to the Ngong branch to sample a few pints. Except for the five standard brews, which include a few ales, a dubbel and a pilsner, you can also opt for any of the many seasonal beers on offer.

enkare The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

For the more seasoned drinker, try the Enkare. This full-bodied Trippel was aged in Jameson Whiskey casks for 16 weeks. It’s on trend with similar international collaborations from distilleries like Innis & Gunn and Glenfiddich, but with a bit more heat.  At 8.5% alcohol per pour you better hold on.

Currently Big Five Breweries only offers draught beers but plans are underway to roll out bottle options next year.

Cocktails at Nyama Mama

For years the stereotypical African restaurant was simply a gathering place for tourists to eat local delicacies, bang on tribal drums and get their faces painted. A cliché for locals to make fun off.

However, if you’re more interested to dine like a modish Kenyan, rather point your Uber to Nyama Mama at the Delta Tower. This trendy eatery champions traditional local cuisine with a contemporary twists. Inside the eclectic and vibrant decor illuminates the interior, while skillful staff ensures a flavoursome bite every time.

nyama mama The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi
chicken wings The Ultimate Layover Drinking Guide To Nairobi

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You can tuck into anything and everything from crowd pleasers like the Ugali fries to the traditional goat meat platter, but the cocktail menu should not be ignored. Order the “Yes We Can”. A perfect blend of vodka, honey syrup, lime, chai bitters and coconut water. So fresh, but nothing really flush down a tasty meat platter like a good old beer and Nyama Mama’s own IPA does the job spectacularly well.

For the last couple of years Nairobi has experienced one of the highest growth rates of any city in Africa. You only have to gaze over the city skyline to observe construction cranes tirelessly moulding an iconic African city. It might still be a young city in search of an identity, but if you just sit back for a moment and order a drink, you can almost taste Nairobi’s future and it’s damn delicious.