Event - Hopscotch Summer Cocktail Menu Preview

The summer solstice is going to bring more to you than just warmer days. Hopscotch Tavern in downtown Fullerton is releasing their summer cocktail menu tomorrow, June 21, and it is tasty. We had a chance to give it a try on Tuesday before Hopscotch's own "appreciation preview (of sorts)" the next day where fans of the tavern could sneak a peek and sip of the seven new concoctions. It was nice to be able to taste these before the hubbub and find out something about Hopscotch that we hadn't known before - more on that below!

We were honored to have our drinks prepared for us by James Wood himself, the Director of Libations there at Hopscotch and the creator of its handcrafted cocktails. He claimed that the summer cocktail menu carried no underlying theme but was rather a menu made of drinks he experimented with and ended up liking. I'd have to say that I found a theme that tied in the seven drinks though: genius. There were tiny stories to some of the cocktails that we learned but overall, it was just a pleasant experience of seeing the cocktail from (just about) start to finish. Each of these cocktails will come in at $12 apiece so if you want to shave a little off of that, Happy Hour gives you $2 off!

The first two to come out were The Lowery (Zaya 12yr aged rum, port, lemon, vanilla, rose water, chocolate bitters, and egg white) and the Blackberry Smash (Right gin, cinnamon, blackberries, mint, and lemon). Both were extremely refreshing and dispensed with quickly because of how much we enjoyed them. The first had a smooth feel with an underlying, dark savoriness brought out through its chocolate tones. Paired with rum, the chocolate bitters made a difference as did the texture adopted through egg white usage. I really enjoyed the second drink due to 1) my love for gin and 2) its bright taste stemming from the inclusion of much mint and the wakes-you-right-up cinnamon.

Our next two were the Gimme 2 Utah (High West Silver Oat White Whiskey, Luxardo, lime, grapefruit, and grapefruit bitters) and The Peruvian (Pisco Porton, Courvoisier, lime, thyme syrup, bacon ranch powder, candied bacon, and celery bitters). If you are a fan of grapefruit and a clean but smooth finish, you ought to give the Gimme 2 Utah a try. It finished quickly, especially with the inherent grapefruit-y bitterness being countered by lime and the whiskey itself. As for The Peruvian, James claimed it to be his favorite of the menu and once I had a sip, I knew just why. Not only are the ingredients involved very unique (they make the powder from rendered bacon fat!) but all of them play off of each other beautifully. The candied bacon had just about the consistency of a sweet jerky, and its typical saltiness was replaced by sweetness. The cocktail washed down each bite so well that it was obvious we needed to keep eating the bacon. Orders of this will grant you an entire half slice of the candied goodness.

Our remaining three cocktails from the menu were London Lemonade (Pimms No. 1 Cup, housemade rosemary lemonade, and Prosecco), Smoke & Mirrors (Port Charlotte Peat Project Scotch, Kubler Absinthe, lemon, vanilla, cherry bitters, and Scotch mist), and A Night in Oaxaca (La Puritita Mezcal, Zinfandel, adult grenadine, lime, and cherry bitters). The London Lemonade was such an easy drink to finish quickly because of its low alcoholic taste/content and the refreshing rosemary lemonade that made sense for any hot day. The Prosecco added a touch of bubbly to the mix, and Duc said that the drink reminded him a bit of a ginger brew. In a nearly stark contrast, the following Smoke & Mirrors was heavy on the smell and taste of black licorice via absinthe usage. Using a spray bottle, James had tipped the surface of the drink with  scotch as well as the outer face of the glass, giving it all the aroma of scotch without using it. Clever! As for the last drink, it was definitely one to enjoy if you want fruity but potent drinks. Throw in some of that zinfandel to make you feel a little classy, and you are good to go.

If you wanted to know, we were not irresponsible and did get food in ourselves alongside the plentiful glasses of drinks. What we had learned while there was that Hopscotch had recently welcomed Chef Cody Storts as their chef and as a result, had changed their menu from what we had experienced before. To be blunt, this change is bringing the tavern in the right direction by escalating the food up to the cocktails' level. Whereas slow-cooked foods were the focus when it first opened, Hopscotch has now drifted slowly away from the burger/barbecue/etc style and more into one that complements its libations. We got to have their PB&J sandwiches (amazing with strawberry-rhubarb jam and housemade peanut butter between sourdough), a short rib jerky just 30 hours into its process (this made me nearly fall out of my chair from the pure tender and flavorful bites I got every time), sweet potato fritters in honey maple cayenne butter (doughy and crunchy where it counted), fries with bacon powder on top, and blue crab "tots" of pea, risotto, and Marscapone (amazing with every accompanying "sauce" to have).

In addition to the smorgasbord of what seemed like sides, we also were treated to Pork Belly Rillettes (bacon onion jam, apple lemon salad, and baguette slices) which were close to heaven on Earth. A jar of juicy pork belly sat beneath the greens but there was no hiding the meaty deliciousness with the illusion of health via vegetable. On crunchy slices of baguettes from the infamous OC Baking Company, the rillettes were almost too much of good stuff, especially with bacon onion jam on top. I am so very excited for the direction that Hopscotch is taking with their menu (which includes the likes of fried pig ears, venison, rabbit, and even a lobster cream soup) and look forward to coming back for more. At the very least, I can come in before they finish serving The Peruvian! 

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos can be found on Facebook here.