He is the talk of the town. Mohammed Saleh created international headlines courtesy of possibly being the world’s only camel milk -mixologist.
Each night during iftar and suhoor, the 25-year-old Jordanian can be seen at Giornotte restaurant, part of the newly opened Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, shaking and stirring milky concoctions including camel milkshakes and iced coffee with camel milk.
Saleh has been revelling in the international spotlight; the Los Angeles Times recently described him as “The Shake It Up Wizard”.
“It has been a great reception,” he says. “People seem to be enjoying the drinks and, what’s more important, they want to know about camel milk itself. Many don’t believe what they are tasting is actually camel milk.”
Saleh, who arrived in Abu Dhabi in December, explained his creations are meant to celebrate the region’s culture.
“A month before Ramadan, the hotel was planning its iftar and suhoor meals. Since the hotel’s head chef and food and beverage manager are French and American, they told me to create something that truly reflects some of the traditions of this region,” he says.
“Drinks are my speciality. While I could have just concentrated on making the usual tamarind and jallab drinks, I wanted to do something that would be unexpected and excite the hotel visitors and myself.”
His decision to use camel milk stems from his previous stints working in luxury hotels in Oman’s Sohar Beach and Salalah.
Saleh’s Oman experience had him unwittingly try his first glass of camel milk.
“I remember it tasting like nothing,” he says. “By that I mean there was no real flavour to it. When my friends told me that it was camel milk, I admit that I didn’t believe it. However, I did feel full afterwards.”
The benefits of camel milk are becoming increasingly celebrated. As well as containing heavy doses of vitamin C, camel milk is also full of nutrients and protein. These factors have convinced Saleh that it’s best served during Ramadan.
“If you think about it, the best meal you can have before starting the fast is camel milk and some dates. Both have the protein to get you through the day,” he says. “It also goes well later in the night with suhoor meals. It’s healthy and better than having fatty foods that sometimes you tend to order at such gatherings.”
The challenge and thrill, Saleh states, is how to make it all -palatable.
Saleh says the concoctions on offer came after trial and error. “I am always trying to find the right combinations,” he says.
“A lot of the times, you can tell from the hotel guests. For example, people really enjoyed the camel milkshakes with date and strawberry. When it comes to raspberry, some initially found it tangy and I worked on it and now they enjoy it.”
As well as the smiles of hotel guests, Saleh says the biggest reward comes from changing people’s perception towards camel milk.
“Nearly every day I get instances where a person will come to my station and once I tell them what I do, they are not interested. But I make them a drink and they become totally surprised,” he says.
“A few days later, they come back with friends and want to know more about camel milk and the drinks. I love the conversation that it creates.”
After Ramadan, Saleh will be serving his concoctions in the hotel’s in-house Lebanese restaurant, Mijana.
He says more new flavours are on the way.
“With Ramadan, we are trying to create a buzz about the drinks and people will then hopefully order them more regularly after the Holy Month,” he says.
“I am always practising and learning new ways to make better drinks. The whole thing is a process and I am always creating.”
• Camel milk beverages are served at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal during iftar (sunset to 9pm) and suhoor (9pm to 2am). For details call 02 818 8282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shake it up
Mohammed Saleh stirred up a storm with a variety of drinks using camel milk. All drinks are Dh25.
Camel milkshake: date
What’s in it: pasteurised camel milk and medjool dates
What it tastes like: who needs Moroccan tea when this can give you the same sugar high?
Camel milkshake: strawberry
What’s in it: pasteurised camel milk and fresh strawberries
What it tastes like: it’s all about the strawberries. Full of flavour and rather pretty looking.
Camel milkshake: cherry
What’s in it: pasteurised camel milk and cherries in syrup
What it tastes like: it’s cherry syrup and not the real thing. That said, it works rather well and disguises some of the heaviness of the camel milk.
Camel milkshake: nuts
What’s in it: pasteurised camel milk and cashew nuts
What it tastes like: the nuts are blended to small shards so it also give you something to chew on.
Camel milkshake: raspberry
What’s in it: pasteurised camel milk and fresh raspberries
What it tastes like: an acquired taste. Fruity for some, too tangy for others.
Camel milkshake: cinnamon
What’s in it: pasteurised camel milk infused with cinnamon
What it tastes like: Ask for extra cinnamon to give your shake a little kick.
Do it yourself – a date camel milkshake
Recreate one of Mohammed Saleh’s popular creations with this simple recipe for a date camel milkshake.
6 pieces of medjool dates (or any other type of dates)
250 ml pasteurised camel milk (available in select supermarkets)
Remove pits from the dates and cut dates in small pieces.
Put dates in the blender and add milk.
Run the blender for around 30 seconds.
Serve in a tall glass with a straw
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