HopsScotch’s Peter Duca


Is there a difference between a bartender and a mixologist?
I think the biggest difference is that a mixologist can create cocktails, whereas a bartender can create them AND execute them. I don’t consider myself a mixologist, even though I create and imagine different types of cocktails. Personally, I hate the term. As a bartender you go by emotion and someone’s soul. I can make someone feel better after a bad day, or add that little extra to make a great night even better. I love what I do. A true bartender can do everything and anything behind the bar, which is way more than just throwing some ice and spirit in a glass and calling it a day. You give it that little extra. That’s the difference between the two.

There are so many interesting new craft cocktails. Do you have a personal favorite?
I am a classic guy. I love a well made old fashioned, a Negroni or a Manhattan, just to name a few. Those types of drinks are true to my soul. I do love to go to craft cocktail bars in New York City, and there are some really amazing, imaginative drinks out there. If I had to pick, I would choose the Flapjack Old Fashioned from Pouring Ribbons. They serve it in a syrup canister and it has nuances of maple and sugar. It has just the right amount of sweet to compliment the bourbon. They also change their cocktail menu every season so they usually surprise me with what they have to offer.

Can you share one that you personally created?
This cocktail is pretty popular and I make it frequently for guests at HopsScotch. It will be featured on our new cocktail menu that will be rolling out in the next week or so.

Jersey City Sour:
Pow-Wow Botanical Rye
Hibiscus simple syrup
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Egg white
Pinot Noir float
Spritz aromatic bitters

The spiciness of the saffron in the rye play very well with the egg white and hibiscus simple syrup! It makes a well balanced cocktail of sweet, spice, and sour.

Gin, vodka, whiskey or rum: which is more popular?
Vodka is still king, but in the past few years whiskey has become more popular due to the explosion of more whiskeys being made. It’s reaching a higher level of popularity because of places like HopsScotch and other cocktail bars. This coincides with one of my favorite quotes when teaching new bartenders about whiskey, “All scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is scotch.” It’s a mindfuck. The world of whiskey is pretty complex, intense, and can take anyone anywhere.

Have you ever had to look up a requested cocktail?
Looking up requested cocktails happens all of the time. It’s totally fine, except for when people request signature cocktails from other restaurants. Any bartender that says they’ve never looked up a cocktail is definitely lying.

Do you think about cocktails all of the time?
Absolutely. I am always thinking about cocktails and different, new approaches to old classics.

What’s the secret to a perfect dirty martini?
The secret to the perfect dirty martini is not overpowering the other ingredients with olive brine. Too many people overload the drink with it. It should be a dash of dry vermouth, gin, and just enough olive brine to pull it all together.

Best hangover cure?
I’m all about prevention. Drink water while you are drinking and then pound a Gatorade right before bed.

You have an interesting bartender star look. Any groupies?
I don’t think I would say I have groupies. I definitely have people who appreciate what I do and the care I put into their cocktails.

We have to ask…how the hell do you make that beard of yours look so perfect?
I actually get this question all the time behind the bar. First off, you have to keep it clean. That’s the most important part. On top of that, I condition it, comb it, and use some beard cream. It’s a lot easier than people think.

HopsScotch is located at 286 Washington Street in
Jersey City, NJ 07302.
You can also reach them at
(201) 451-4677.

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