Dr. Jacoby, Laura Palmer’s psychiatrist on Twin Peaks, was a Hawaii native who periodically retreated from the drizzly environs of Washington State back to Hanalei Bay. He wore aloha shirts (and 3D glasses of a sort, along with a fish-shaped necktie) and kept his house decorated with vistas of palms.
This is what I can’t get out of my head while sitting facing the trompe l’oeil palms on the wall at Louie’s Gen-Gen Room, the cocktail bar on the lower level of Liholiho Yacht Club. At 24 seats and more or less reservation-only, it’s a fully self-contained space, possibly a recipe proving ground. You can’t order off of chef Ravi Kapur’s menu from Liholiho upstairs; you can’t sit upstairs and order drinks from Louie’s.
What you can get, though, are a range of $12 to $15 drinks that studiously avoid going overboard in any way. Dr. Jacoby wrote important memos to himself on cocktail umbrellas, but the Last Mango in Paris (Lillet, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, mango, and lemon) is the closest thing to tiki — and even then, it’s a wide berth. Falernum — that Caribbean cousin of or geat syrup — is where tiki and highfalutin mixology intersect, and it appears in the Young Coconut along with the single-sourced Avuá Cachaça, coconut water, lime, and green Chartreuse. The Gen-Gen Room isn’t big on ornamentation, as this cloudy-white glass forces you to focus. (It’s not as coconut-forward as it looks.)
The General is almost comically understated. A Boulevardier variation made with Nikka Pure Malt Whisky, Carpano Antica, and Cynar, it comes ungarnished and cube-less in a tumbler. (This glass if half-full, literally and figuratively.) Round things out with an El Nino — Arette Tequila, grappa-based Amaro Nonino, guava, and lime — as it displays a certain amount of finesse, each of the four ingredients held in balance and rooted in a basic taste.
The food menu is mostly bar bites, but if you’ve gotten comfy, you could easily make this work as dinner. The 5 spice jerky is nice and nothing like the leathery stuff that asks a lot of one’s premolars and isn’t really ideal for polite company. But the avocado waffle is both amusing and well-executed, a wink on a ubiquitous menu item that’s made with buckwheat, tastes like pumpernickel, and comes studded with furikake. It’s basically a Belgian waffle that’s also an umami-a-thon.
There’s a hint of mystery here, too. You can Google the hell out of the name to ascertain its etymology — I was convinced it was a reference to something — but it’s a gentle in-joke. The staff was leaning toward calling it “The Genuine” but went with something goofier. And on the receipt, the server was listed as “Louie.” Not so genuine, really, but the cocktails are.
Louie’s Gen-Gen Room, inside Liholiho Yacht Club 871 Sutter St., 415-440-5446 or liholihoyachtclub.com/gengen