Seeking shelter from recent storms, we bustled into the cozy comfort of Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar in Oakland’s Uptown. Hopscotch has the familiar feel of a re-imagined diner, with its traditional chrome accents; light fixtures with a vintage look; checkerboard floor; and L-shaped counter lined with red barstools. A relative newcomer to Uptown, Hopscotch seems as though it’s always been here.
In an unprecedented move, we visited Hopscotch twice in one week.
On the first occasion, we saw Love and Virtue triumph: gin, amaro, crème de violette, egg white and lemon, garnished with nutmeg and a single perfect rose petal, this cocktail is a treat for the eyes and the palate. Jason the bartender explains that this is one of his creations; a drink that’s “well-balanced, not too sweet, and designed to complement the food offerings at Hopscotch.” We enjoyed the unusual combination of flavors and the elegant presentation. And then our eyes wandered back to the menu as we plotted our return.
While Jason (along with General Manager Jenny) has developed many of the drinks on the menu, he enjoys tweaking the classics as well. When pressed to name his favorite drink, he demurs at first, then recommends the Maple Old Fashioned. He says, “Winter is a good time for classic cocktails.” Jenny believes there’s “no need to re-invent the wheel,” and agrees that there is room for innovation behind the bar.
On the strength of Jason’s word, we return and give the Old Fashioned a try. The Hopscotch version contains rye, pure maple syrup, and bitters — served on the rocks. One sip and we understand why this is one of the most popular drinks he serves. Smooth, with a touch of spice, a hint of maple — could this be the beginning of an old-fashioned friendship?
With no chalked grid or reference to the child’s game in evidence, we ask our server about the origin of the restaurant’s name. He points out the hops+scotch pairings listed on the menu. A new twist on a classic — the Hopscotch trademark.
The Drink(s): Love and Virtue; Maple Old Fashioned
Drink to try next time: Kentucky Daiquiri
The Crowd: A convivial Uptown blend
Behind the Bar: Jason “the creator/re-inventor” veteran bartender
When to go: Any time, or pre/post Paramount/Fox performances
The Deets: Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar, 1915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
Risa Nye, aka Ms. Barstool, is a freelance writer based in Oakland. She writes the blog Zero to Sixty and Beyond.