Cocktail: Si Sayidh
When Habibi Holdings founder Hosni Emam opened the first Habibi Restaurant in 1999 he brought recipes for the cocktails with him as well as for the food. Having worked in various positions in different hotels in the Middle East, he has served a few stretches behind the bar.
"I wanted to create some cocktails with specifically North African ingredients, which wasn't that easy to do," he recalls.
The results were the Si Sayidh, Habibi Forever, Alexandria Beach and Shamrouk, all of which are still on the drinks list, as well as a few mocktails for customers who don't consume alcohol.
One recipe which has proven particularly popular with Habibi and Habibi Café customers is the Si Sayidh, which Emam named after a character in the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.
Sayidh, Emam explains, is a strict Muslim when at home with his family, but likes a drink when he goes out with his friends.
The North African ingredients of this cocktail are boukha - a clear spirit distilled from figs, available in Egypt and the Maghreb - and karkadé, an infusion made by soaking dried hibiscus flowers in cold water overnight.
Boukha is a versatile spirit, often served chilled as an aperitif, after dinner at room temperature, and also in a number of cocktails.
Emam's brand of choice is Boukha L'Oasis from Tunisia. If you can't get that, he says, silver tequila is a good substitute.
For the hibiscus infusion, the flower grows in Asian countries.
The drink is a cool summer refresher, slightly sweet from the Triple Sec but with a touch of bitterness from the hibiscus infusion, and with the cinnamon subtly present. It should be served with plenty of ice.
30ml Boukha L'Oasis or silver tequila
15ml Triple Sec
60ml fresh orange juice
60ml hibiscus infusion
1 pinch cinnamon powder
1 slice orange