Coffee Talk with Leif Huckman of Donna Cocktail Club
Once upon a time on a cold day in Brooklyn, I stumbled into what would soon become my favorite spot in the area (yeah, sometimes I play favorites). I strolled (read, walked briskly—I don't actually stroll) from the J train past cafés, bakeries and boutiques, only to arrive at corner coffee shop-slash-bar, Donna.
Walking in, it hit me (in a totally not as dramatic as it sounds way) that this is why I started City Brewed in the first place. To discover (and share!) some of the best sipping spots in NYC. It's places like Donna that make my excitement for the city renewed, and my need for an apartment makeover completely and utterly (...and unnecessarily) needed. From locally-made bakery goods (and candles!) to a walk up to-go coffee window, it felt like I had finally found my coffee shop spirit animal (I swear, I've never actually said that before).
Continue reading to meet the team behind Donna, and learn a bit more about your new favorite Saturday haunt. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Name, Location, Occupation:
Leif Huckman; 27 Broadway; Owner, Donna Cocktail Club
Donna has become a community for “well dressed cocktails for a casual crowd.” Can you tell us a bit more about this idea?
We believe that you shouldn't have to put on a suit and tie and expect to drop your whole paycheck to get a well-made cocktail. Donna is a beautiful, elegant space that we want our guests to feel comfortable inside of, to get a value for their dollars spent, and most importantly to HAVE FUN!
Donna Daytime is a recent addition. Can you tell us about the scene at Donna on a Saturday morning or afternoon?
Creatives working on laptops enjoying our generous top ups of brewed coffee, a mom who home-schools her children and orders them a pastry while she enjoys her tea and goes over a recent lesson, and a group of guys whose jaws drop when they find out that for $15 they can get two tacos, a coffee and cocktail for brunch. Daytime is wonderfully diverse, and the environment is so lovely and inviting in the sunshine.
Cocktails on tap?! Tell us what to expect, and how this concept works.
We were interested in finding a way to get around two of the most common complaints from the newbies to a cocktail bar: 1. It takes too long to get a drink. 2. They're too expensive! Cocktails on tap offered us a way to amplify the volume of drinks we could expect out of our expert bar keeps while controlling the quality by batching them ahead of time, and in doing so being able to offer those drinks at a lower price point. It's a total win-win and we are already seeing more of it all over town.
I’m in serious need of some awesome Tacos. What should I order?
I'm really into the new Slow Roasted Chicken Taco, cooked in banana leaf with just the right amount of Chipotle spice. And the marinated Basa fish taco is full of flavor with a lovely crunch from house-pickled cabbage.
The coffee is (obviously) one of my favorite aspects of Donna. Can you tell us a bit about the coffee and espresso beans you’re brewing?
We use Café Integral Coffee, a company started by our friend Cesar Vega. Cesar, native to Nicaragua (next door to my mother's homeland of Honduras) sourced the best expressions of Nicaraguan coffee beans and created relationships with the farmers to support and hone their craft so he could share it abroad. The coffee is roasted locally, delivered fresh and (we think) tastes superior.
You’re all about bringing coffee and lifestyle full circle. How are you making this happen?
I believe that we are never really selling food and beverage in the service industry, we are selling an experience. The product and it's quality is an important aspect of that experience, but the most important thing is the way you feel once you walk in the door. Our space, the coffee, the cocktails, the tacos are all supplemental to the goal of creating a unique meeting place for our friends and neighbors that feels inviting, comfortable and transportive.
Most importantly, what’s your coffee order?
I have learned to love the Cortado. Just the right amount of milk against the rich espresso, it's the perfect start to the day.
Visit Donna at 27 Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
In 2013, Donna suffered a devastating fire that destroyed the space. Watch a timelapse above as they rebuilt and came back even stronger.