Drink of the Week: The Kentucky Daiquiri at Hopscotch
Despite what you might have heard, Hopscotch is neither a Japanese nor a fusion restaurant. Going here with these kinds of expectations will only lead to confusion and distract you from having a great experience. The Japanese influence is there, subtly adding elegance rather than a flamboyant theme. The space is inviting and adorable, partly because it's so tiny, but mostly because the staff is friendly and always within reach--literally. The bartender's service well is so small, they merely spin in place to do 90% of the work.
The cocktail list leans heavier in the rye, bourbon, and scotch direction, which makes sense, given the Japanese fondness for whiskies, but that's as far as the Asian influences go--except for the amazingly precise Asahi draft beer system that produces the exact and perfect head of foam. Co-owner Jenny Schwarz worked with her good friend Wes Bouchia (formerly bar manager at Yoshi's, now at Ward III in New York) who would text her recipes when she was putting together the list. Drinks, like the excellent scotch based Plaid on Plaid ($9, Black Bottle Blended Scotch, lemon, honey, egg white, Peat Monster Scotch) that sounds heavy, but is surprisingly light, couldn't outshine the wonderful Kentucky Daiquiri ($11, rye, strawberry, lemon, honey, ginger beer).
It's a tall, cooling drink that manages to be exciting and still delicate, and not overly sweet. The bright lemon and ginger make for a perfect pairing to the Yonsei Oysters ($5, fresh oyster, sea urchin, salmon roe, citrus soy), that also happen to tell the story of co-ownder and chef Kyle Itani's roots. Yonsei is a term that refers to fourth generation Japanese Americans, like Itani who is half-Japanese, half-Italian. Itani's heritage is on display in the oysters, where he takes elements of Japanese cuisine and melds them with his American upbringing. Sometimes, explaining where you came from only takes a single bite.
Lou Bustamante Yonsei Oysters
2 oz. rye whiskey (uses either Bulleit Rye or Rittenhouse 100)
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon
3/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
2 small strawberries (the little local organic ones are the best)
Bundaberg ginger beer (Cock 'n Bull ginger beer would also work well)
Muddle strawberries with lemon juice. Add whiskey and honey syrup. Shake, double strain into a Collins glass with ice. Top with Bundaberg ginger beer and garnish with a lemon wheel.
Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave. (at 18th), Oakland, 510-788-6217