Fans of drinks with a local touch (think chilli crab cocktails) at Mars Bar at the Duxton Hotel will find plenty to love at Red Dot Traffic Building’s new pop-up watering hole, Hopscotch. Open until next October, the unassuming space (where Artery bar used to be) pays homage to nostalgic Singaporean flavours with its retro-sounding name.
The cocktails, crafted by Joel De Win and former Bar Stories barkeep Kino Soh, feature ingredients familiar to the local palate. One standout is the rich Golden 933 ($21), which uses cereal butter fat-washed rum and curry leaves to come across as a sippable version of cereal butter prawns. Another winner, the Kopi Stout ($22) fashions kopitiam breakfast favourites – robust local coffee and savoury Bovril – into a super-smooth rum-stout concoction with a lingering saline kick. Hopscotch has also updated classics such as the Singapore Sling No. 6 ($22) – its version includes housemade pomegranate syrup instead of the usual additive-filled grenadine.
For non-drinkers, there’s also a good selection of alcohol-free sips such as Key Lime Pie ($9), a mix of vanilla, calamansi and homemade lemon curd. It’s a nice detail to ensure designated drivers don’t feel left out.
Our one gripe is that there’s no menu of bar bites. But most drinks come with a thoughtful accompanying local snack. The Golden 933 is paired with prawn crackers, the Kopi Stout comes with nostalgic white rabbit candies or gem biscuits, and the Fortune Kaya Flip ($21) – rum, pandan and a whole egg – is complemented by homemade fortune cookies. It’s enough to tide you through to dinner without pulling your attention away from the drinks.
Otherwise, we recommend coming with your belly filled. The bar isn’t as packed after dinner, and cocktails such as A Warm Hug ($21) – BenRiach whisky, Drambuie, honey, muddled ginger and fresh citrus, served warm – are perfect nightcaps.
With only a year on the lease, the décor at Hopscotch is understandably stark. There’s no gimmick to the concept here. Basic and industrial – outfitted with the now-ubiquitous concrete finishings and exposed filament bulbs – the bar has a good view of the inner courtyard.
In a town bursting at the seams with both speakeasy bars featuring pre-Prohibition classics and Japanese-inspired mixology labs with high-tech equipment, Hopscotch is a solid homegrown option that’s in short supply in the Singapore bar scene. Its smart riffs on traditional recipes have a refreshing local identity – we’d love to see more of this.