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Attaboy Bartender Haley Traub is Currently Obsessed with Hygge

Tucked discreetly behind an unmarked metal door on Eldridge Street on New York’s Lower East Side, Attaboy is the definition of coziness. A mere 450-square feet and lit largely by candles, the bar’s one potential source of distress is that it has no set cocktail menu. Guests give bartenders the ultimate decision on what they’ll be drinking—a responsibility bartender Haley Traub takes very seriously.

“We start the conversation with all of our guests with, ‘What do you feel like drinking?,’” says Traub, who’s worked at Attaboy for about a year-and-a-half. “For some people that conversation is a lot easier than for others. Some people are very scared of that conversation.”

One of the things that helps Traub put guests at ease is her newfound love of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), a concept of Danish living that values finding daily happiness from coziness, togetherness, being present and the regular enjoyment of little pleasures. According to The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, hygge comes from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being” and has been around since at least the early 1800s. His book touches on everything from light (“No recipe for hygge is complete without candles”) to food and drink.

Hygge is “what I’ve been sort of obsessed with and really focused on as more of a concept in my work,” says Traub, winner of the Speed Rack bartending competition in 2018. “I realized how much it’s actually had an effect on my work and my thought process over this past year. It’s really reinvigorated my work.”

Though Traub had heard of hygge, she first experienced it in practice during a trip to Scandinavia earlier this year. Travelling with her mother, sister and grandmother, they spent a week in Norway—where her family has roots—and then Traub continued on by herself to Copenhagen. On her first night in the Danish metropolis, she met up for dinner with a group of friends she’d met during her three-year tenure at New York bar Dutch Kills

“I had this group of Danish tourists come in on a Sunday night, and they sat in front of my bar for, it had to have been, like six hours,” says Traub. “A few of them worked in the spirits world in Denmark and we just exchanged Instagram handles and stayed in touch.”

When she knew she’d be in Copenhagen, they made plans to meet up. The first night of her stay, her friends welcomed her to one of their apartments for a dinner party. 

It was “myself and nine Danish men in this absolutely spectacular Scandinavian apartment,” says Traub. “You feel like you’re walking into an Ikea showroom because it’s just so perfectly put together. It’s very simple, very beautiful.”

Throughout the rest of her trip, this concept of hygge continued to fascinate and inspire her. When she returned to New York, she took the opportunity to incorporate hygge into her own life, personally and professionally.

“I came back home from [the trip] and spent the summer really working my butt off,” she says. “I started realizing more and more how much this idea of coziness and conviviality was really sort of making me look at my work in a different way.”

At Attaboy, that’s inspired her to try to connect people with her work on a more meaningful level by serving them something they’ve never had before, but at the same time offering them an element of comfort.