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Holidays on Ice

Serve up holiday cocktails with unconventional flair

Silly name, serious cocktails. Rumcow: not a bovine that dispenses Captain Morgan, but in fact, one of downtown’s newest hot spots for eccentric bites and sips.

Global New American dishes with a sassy Southern flair are the M.O. at this Grace Street eatery. Sister spot to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, RUMCOW is the second establishment (just three doors down) of co-owners JOSEPH and ABIGAIL OVBEY. Though rum may often be associated with beach bar drinks, you won’t find a tiki bar daiquiri in sight.

From varying regional expressions of rum to kombucha, sake, and prosecco all on deck – not to mention munchable mini plates such as Crispy Pork Belly Pockets with peach chutney and fig jam goat cheese (a house favorite) – Rumcow, 121 Grace Street, has serendipitously slipped into Wilmington’s food-and-bev scene as a serious contender.

In light of upcoming holiday parties, I sat down with Abbie Ovbey for her advice on crafting a unique cocktail from the glass up.

You and your husband worked with chef Kirsten Mitchell to design the food menu at Rumcow. Between you and Joe, which one of you is more of the culinarian?

“Definitely my husband. He has Italian roots and a Southern mama – the best of both worlds when it comes to learning food and flavors! He’s bold and adventurous with his concoctions and isn’t scared of trying new things.”

It sounds like you’re both heavily influenced by your travels together. What are some highlights of your favorite food and drink memories from your trips?

“In China, we found ourselves in back alleys buying handmade dumplings from single bedroom apartment kitchens and night markets that are only open from dusk to dawn, serving items like fresh duck and water snake. Walking the streets in Spain, smelling the jamón ibérico. The taste of truffle pasta in Florence, Italy. The first sip of a Chianti watching the sunset over a Tuscan countryside. The first taste of a true Margherita pizza in Rome.”

Sake cocktails are still gaining popularity around here. Did you run into them a lot during your travels to Asia?

“We didn’t particularly run into sake cocktails, but we drank a lot of sake all over the world and knew that when we opened Rumcow, we wanted to offer it by the glass and create cocktails based on the notes of the sake we put on tap. For example, we created a housemade lemongrass simple syrup to accentuate the sake’s natural fruit flavors.”

Let’s talk ’Bucha Baby, (the name of a cocktail on Rumcow’s menu that uses kombucha from Wilmington-based Panacea Brewing Co.). The flavor notes of this cocktail are tart, sweet, fruity, and floral. If you’re throwing a cocktail party and don’t have access to Panacea’s blueberry lavender kombucha, what would you substitute?

“Any berry-based kombucha – or even sparkling water or hard seltzer – would definitely work! We love the Blueberry Lavender flavor because it’s subtle, fruit-forward, and pairs so well with the lime and honey. The ’Bucha Baby is a smooth, fun cocktail that’s also good for your guts.”

The Acapulco is super frothy thanks to egg whites. What advice do you have for home cocktail makers who are a little iffy about using raw eggs in their drinks?

“Just do it – and thank me later! Using egg whites in a cocktail might seem foreign and a bit scary, but this method dates back over one hundred years. The addition is almost entirely textural, as it froths up the drink and adds a creamy base. My advice and pro tip for at-home cocktail makers is to start with egg whites out of the carton. These will lend the same textural results and might make the process easier for those on the fence about cracking eggs and sifting out the whites.”

I’m familiar with Bushido Way of the Warrior sake, but our readers may not be. Why did you choose this sake for The Venetian, below right? What’s its flavor profile?

“Bushido Way of the Warrior sake is fruit-forward and has prominent notes of Asian pear, raspberry, and watermelon rind up front. It ends in a smooth white flower and spice finish. With these flavors in mind, we created The Venetian to highlight the berry flavors by muddling a strawberry and adding in fresh lemon to round out the spice finish.”

Tell me about that Spiced Peach Margarita. Using peach chutney in a cocktail is awesome, but what’s firewater?

“Firewater is a habanero tincture, and we put only one to two dashes in each margarita. It gives us the opportunity to add pure heat without taking away from the peach chutney and fresh sour mixes. Add in the smoked sea salt rim, and your taste buds will love you. The peach chutney gives the margarita a summery Southern feel … while the firewater gives the cocktail a bit of that South American heat.”

Any other wild or unconventional cocktail bases you’re thinking about testing out in the future?

“We’re always working on the next big project and unconventional drink. We’re traveling to Croatia and Slovenia and will be doing much more R&D there. Stay tuned!”

'Bucha Baby

1.5 ounce Ketel One vodka

1 ounce honey syrup

1/2 lime, squeezed

2 ounces kombucha


Shake together vodka, honey, syrup, and lime. Top with kombucha (substitute with berry-based sparkling water or hard seltzer if you don't have kombucha handy).




1 1/2 ounce Flor de Cana rum

1/2 ounce orange liquor

Half of a squeezed lime

1/2 ounce simple syrup

1/2 ounce egg whites


Add egg whites to cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously.



The Venetian

1/2 ounce simple syrup

2 strawberries


1 lemon

2 ounces sake

2 ounces prosecco

Muddle together simple syrup with fresh strawberries and fresh mint. Squeeze in lemon and shake. Add sake and prosecco.


Spiced Peach Margarita

1 1/2 ounce Lunazol Tequila

1 tablespoon peach chutney

2 dashes of Scrappy's Firewater Habanero Tincture

1/2 ounce triple sec

2 ounces sour mix


Muddle together peach chutney dashes of Scrappy's Firewater Tincture. Combine rest of ingredients.



To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.


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