Noah Rothbaum is the right person to talk to when you need a drink. He’s the founding editor of Liquor.com, has written books about the booze business and is heading up a new food and drink vertical on The Daily Beast as Chief Cocktail Correspondent.
His first book, The Business of Spirits, explored how the liquor industry works and how entrepreneurs and large corporations have changed the way small distilleries’ wares arrive on your store shelf. Then in The Art of American Whiskey Rothbaum looked at the bottles themselves — how whiskey is packaged and labelled, from the the apocryphal XXX jug to ‘medicinal’ spirits during prohibition and the nostalgic aesthetic that seems almost inherent to whiskey.
Now he’s with The Daily Beast to explore the continuing evolution of cocktail and culinary culture. We spoke with Rothbaum to learn a little about how he works — and what he drinks.
Location: New York, NY
Current Gig: The Daily Beast’s Chief Cocktail Correspondent
One word that best describes how you work: Methodically
Current mobile device: An old iPhone. I have a new one in the box on a shelf. Just need to find time to back up my current model and go to the store to get my account transferred.
Current computer: I have a MacBook Pro at work and a MacBook Air at home.
What apps, software or tools can’t you live without?
Besides all the regular software (Word, Safari and so on), I love using the “Look Inside” function on Amazon. Often, even if I own a paper copy of the book I’m interested in, Amazon’s search is the best way to find the section, recipe or quote I’m hunting for.
What’s your workspace setup like? Coffee shop with laptop and headphones? Home office with a standing desk?
A desk at The Daily Beast’s headquarters with a big monitor, external keyboard and a mouse. I have a bookcase with doors that lock, which I use as a liquor cabinet to hold all my samples. If I need inspiration, my desk overlooks the Hudson River and New Jersey. If I swivel around, I can see the Statue of Liberty on a clear day. Helps to put things in perspective.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
While it sounds weird, I almost compulsively make lists on my phone’s notepad. I also like to write stories or presentations on it, too — especially if I’m on the subway. It’s easier for me to get writing done that way than at my desk with all the typical office distractions.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
As I mentioned above, I like to use the notepad function on my phone to make lists, but I also use good old-fashioned Post-it notes. There are few things in life as satisfying as crossing off everything on a to-do list, crumbling the Post-it note into a ball and firing it into the garbage can.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget or tool can’t you live without and why?
My Chef’n FreshForce hand juicer gets more juice out of lime or a lemon than any other hand juicer I’ve ever found. Besides that, I love Tovolo’s silicone ice trays that make big jumbo cubes. And Cocktail Kingdom’s Yarai Mixing Glass and gunmetal black Hoffman barspoon make me feel like the world’s best bartender.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of the day? Top shelf stuff or something simple?
Ha! It can go from an extremely rare single malt Scotch to a glass of domestic sparkling wine to a small-batch bourbon. It often depends upon what I’ve been writing about that day.
Are you more of a craft brewery or a cheap beer kind of guy?
While I appreciate hoppy or bitter beers, on a warm summer day all I want is something refreshing. That includes everything from the Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace to an Italian Peroni to a Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider.
Out of curiosity, does writing about food and drink ever detract from enjoy culinary experiences outside of work?
If I’ve been, say, tasting scotch all afternoon for a story, I’d rather drink cocktails, wine or beer that night. But to be honest, it can actually be hard sometimes to unwind with a drink at night when I’ve been thinking about — and writing about — liquor all day.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
My head is kind of a steel trap: I remember everything.
What do you listen to while you work? Got a favourite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?
What are you currently reading? A novel, comic book, website, magazine?
I try to read every issue of the New Yorker cover to cover. Some weeks I’m more successful than others. I’m also reading a new edition of George Plimpton’s Shadow Box, Richard Goldstein’s Another Little Piece of My Heart and Emily Bingham’s Irrepressible. I like to read at least two different books at all times.
How do you recharge?
Consistent running and the occasional short trip.
What’s your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?
By nature, I would work until 2 or 3 in the morning and then sleep until 9:30 or 10. Alas, my toddler son and my office are on a different schedule. I’m usually asleep by 11:30PM, though I’m known to occasionally doze off on the couch in front of the TV and stumble into bed around 1:30AM. Generally, I try to make my way through a few pages of a book or a New Yorker article before drifting off. While we have a fancy Tivoli radio/alarm clock, we generally use the alarm clock feature on my wife’s phone.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Hunter S. Thompson
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Measure twice, cut once”- Norm Abram, This Old House.
We’ve asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? [contact text=”Let us know.”]