Settled at the edges of the gorgeous Gillman Barracks and shrouded amongst towering trees, lies the newly reopened Hopscotch, which after a much-anticipated year, has finally opened its doors to the public.
Mixes From Mars, the company that owns and runs Hopscotch, started in 2013 when one of the founders, Roger, was working at Bar Stories. Bar Stories didn’t have a cocktail menu but instead allowed bartenders to create new and interesting drinks for customers. This really spoke to Roger’s creative side.
While he was there, Roger was asked by a friend to bartend for one of his private parties and it was this experience which enabled him to start bartending for events under his company, Mixes From Mars.
Roger and his team specialised in bespoke cocktails and managed to get clients such as Formula 1, DBS and Google.
With the success of Mixes From Mars, Roger and his team then moved on to starting a pop-up bar at the Red Dot Museum called Hopscotch.
Mixes from Mars Head of Sales and Marketing, Nicholas Goh, said: “We actually built that bar mostly by ourselves to save on costs. We didn’t take out any loans and none of us were particularly well-to-do so we had to be careful with how we spent the money.”
Hopscotch, was incredibly popular and attracted the attention of many in the younger working crowd. They were drawn to the cosy, homey feeling of the bar and the unique concept of having the bartenders create a special cocktail for each person that ordered a bespoke cocktail.
The team did so well that they were able to stay beyond their 1-year lease.
However, as it was only a temporary pop-up, they eventually had to leave. Much to the dismay of their many fans, Hopscotch took a one year hiatus to regroup and to set up a new bar.
Nicholas said with a smile, “Many people, especially our regulars, kept asking us when we would be coming back.”
This was when the team finally secured a spot in Gillman Baracks where they could open Hopscotch.
“It took a really long time and it was difficult because even after we got the spot, there were renovations to be done. The bar was not fit to be open for business yet but we were still being charged rent.”
During this time, the company relied heavily on the profits generated over the past two years to fund the development of Hopscotch.
“It was a bit different here because we were not allowed to do the renovations ourselves. We had to hire a contractor with the proper credentials.”
Nicholas continued by saying that unfortunately, the contractor ended up abandoning their project halfway.
“Thank goodness we were only paying him in installments.” Nicholas chuckled.
The team came together after that to finish up the leftover work together. They worked hard together to try to get everything ready as soon as they possibly could and even did their own marketing to generate publicity for the bar. “We went with the idea that the faster we did this, the faster we could open. So we basically slept, ate and worked at the bar day after day. It was so tiring but we just did it.”
Nicholas even talked candidly about how the team managed to clear the mini forest that the previous bar had grown by themselves. They considered it to be quite an achievement.
Now, Hopscotch has officially opened its doors, much to the glee of their regulars, and they are back to serving their unique bespoke cocktails as well as food such as steak, oysters, fries and more.
If you decide to be adventurous and go for their bespoke cocktails, you can rest assured that you will be in good hands with their team of talented bartenders who are also required to taste every creation before serving it. The bar works in an interesting way in that they ask their customers what they like, how strong they like their drinks and what kind of flavours they prefer. The bartender will then come up with something and present it in an unique way.
Hopscotch stands out in the world of bespoke cocktails simply because they go for more of a local-flavour and they play with ingredients that one would rarely expect to see at a bar.
“We use things like Milo, Horlicks, Nutella, Bundung, Kopi O and more. We actually take a lot of inspiration from hawkers. We look at what they serve and how they serve it and we see how we can incorporate it,” said bartender and founder Joel Newin, 26.
Joel also talked passionately about how much he loved experimenting with ingredients that his customers most likely had not been fully exposed to yet.
“When we were at Formula 1, we created these mango spheres that would burst in your mouth. At first people were very cautious because they looked like egg yolks. They were eyeing us and were curious but didn’t really want to try it. Then slowly as more and more people started stepping up, they realised how good it was and suddenly everyone wanted it. We served 1,000 of them in three days.”
The bar generally gives their bartenders a lot of freedom and as a result, they are able to fully experiment and push boundaries.
Jaslynn, 25, is the assistant manager at Hopscotch and she specialises in savoury concoctions such as alcoholic chicken soup, which was the “brothtail” that won her first place in the Youngest and Fiercest competition held at FRESH!
At first glance, one might think that would be a terrible combination but Jaslynn who loves to experiment with savoury drinks, pulls it off with ease.
“I steam the chicken and use the juice as the stock. Then I have to make sure everything is at the right temperature so the alcohol doesn’t burn off. I usually serve this towards the end of the night when people are slowing down and are hungry, perhaps they want supper or some comfort food. This is warm, tasty and comforting,” she said.
“Though it does have an entire shot of alcohol in it,” Jaslynn added with a smirk.
One of the bar’s most famous concoctions is their Mad Man Long Island Tea. This was a drink that was created for one of the bar’s regulars.
Nicholas said of the drink: “He came in one day with his girlfriend and said that he had tried a deconstructed Long Island Tea somewhere. He said it was very good and asked if we could recreate it. We decided to do our own version with a twist and he absolutely loved it. We also put a spin on it by making it blue. His girlfriend tasted it and told us we should call it the Mad Man because of how much alcohol was in it and the name stuck.
He continued by saying that people were drawn to the blue colouring of the drink and started to ask about it and order it. The drink has now become sort of a secret menu item that regulars order.
The bartenders also go to great efforts to present their drinks in a pretty and Instagrammable way.
“We don’t use particularly unique items when serving drinks but we use these ordinary items in special ways.” Nicholas said as he gestured to a alcoholic berry sorbet which was blended with dry ice and served in a giant clam shell.
When asked if the bar had any future plans to expand, Nicholas only said that they were looking into opening the bar up for the lunch crowd.
“Right now we just want to focus on making Hopscotch the best that it can be. We want to dedicate all our efforts into getting this bar off the ground.”