Day in the Life: Daily Beast’s head of cocktails on drinking on the job

With the title chief cocktail correspondent, Noah Rothbaum has to dispel a myth often.

“People think I’m drunk all day,” he said. “They think I start drinking at 9 a.m. and don’t stop.”

The head of the Daily Beast’s new food and drink vertical spends most of his days writing and editing stories, producing a weekly Facebook Live video and leading a team of writers. And, yes, there are also drinks.

Noah Rothbaum
Noah Rothbaum

Rothbaum, a 20-year veteran of reporting on the industry, traces his specific interest in cocktails to a lunch meeting at Blackbird restaurant in the late 1990s, where he tried a cocktail by Dale DeGroff, the reputed “father of the rebirth of cocktails.” “Dale was doing stuff nobody was doing,” Rothbaum said. “He was digging into all these old cocktail recipes that were 60 to 100 years old.”

Here’s what Rothbaum, 38, did on a typical recent day. It’s been lightly edited for clarity.

7:00 a.m.: Wake up and I’m still dealing with the side effects of spending most of last week in New Orleans for our big industry conference, Tales of the Cocktail. Early mornings, multiple seminars, book signings, and late nights have left me with a gravely voice and a summer cold. But the show must go on.

8:30 a.m.: Ride the subway with my wife and son. After they get off to go to his school, I continue downtown and read Mark Brown’s Industry News Update on my phone. He’s the president and CEO of Buffalo Trace and first thing every weekday he sends out an email with a roundup of alcohol-related articles from publications around the world. It’s a must read if you work in this industry.

9:00 a.m.: It’s never too early to start thinking about the holidays. Seriously. Checked out a barware and kitchen tool product showcase at a midtown hotel. Got a few story ideas to run in a few months’ time.

9:30 a.m.: Get some work done on the subway. One of my favorite places to write is standing by the train doors and using the notes function of my phone. There are no calls, emails, or other distractions.

9:45 a.m.: As I walk to the office from the subway, I return calls, including one to Allen Katz, the co-founder of the New York Distilling Company.

10:00 a.m.: Arrive at my desk to find a box of business cards for our new drinks columnist David Wondrich. After 17 years of writing for Esquire, he recently came to The Daily Beast. It’s still exciting to see his name next to our logo. I check and answer emails, and go over the stories I’m working on for the day.

10:30 a.m.: Gong sounds! It’s time for our daily editorial meeting in the big conference room. It runs a bit shorter than usual because much of the staff is in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention.

11:00 a.m.: Briefly meet with Mike Dyer, The Daily Beast’s president and publisher, for a conference debrief. There’s a lot of exciting news to share and much to follow up on.

11:45 a.m.: My videographer Joseph stops by to return some equipment and to discuss a few upcoming projects.

12:00 a.m.: I head up to the ninth floor to see what restaurant is selling food today. We’re in luck! I scarf down a plate of rice, beans and squash from a local Cuban restaurant while enjoying the epic views of the Hudson River and New Jersey.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch is all done and I’m already back at my desk. I begin working and editing stories that will run later in the week, or next week. Some of the stories are written by me, and others are edited. Today, I’m editing David Wondrich’s column, “Tales of a Boozy Indiana Jones: Dean Ivan Lamb.” Then I focus on a story I’m working on about the history of art in bars to run next week.

2:00 p.m.: I’m doing a Facebook Live segment with Food52 on Friday, so I need to finish creating the cocktail recipe that I’ll make on air. Stir, sip, adjust. Back to working on those two stories.

3:00 p.m.: I have a call with one of my lead writers, Max Watman. His story for me about inadvertently creating the flavored moonshine trend did very well last week. We catch up and refine the ideas for his next two stories.

3:30 p.m.: Working on more stories for later in the week. Most of my day is spent assigning stories, editing, reporting stories, and fielding pictures. People also send in pitches and I go through them to figure out if they’re appropriate for our section.

5:00 p.m.: My old friends Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey’s master distillers, are in Williamsburg at the Fresh Kills bar. Jimmy is a living legend, having worked for the brand for more than 61 years. No matter how much I know about American whiskey, I always learn something from him. This is my first taste of bourbon since leaving Nola! I also get a tutorial on ice from Fresh Kills owner Richie Boccato, who also runs boutique ice company Hundredweight.

6:00 p.m.: Sneak out of Fresh Kills to head back into Manhattan to pick up my son at school and hustle him home. I don’t feel too guilty about dipping out a little early, since I just did an episode of my Facebook Live show with Boccato and got to try my hand at cutting ice then. On the way to the Bedford Street L subway stop, I run into Charlotte Voisey, William Grant’s director of advocacy. You would never know she’s just had her most busy and stressful week of the year as one of the stars of Tales of the Cocktail.

8:30 p.m.: After feeding, changing and reading, my son falls soundly asleep and it’s dinnertime for the adults. For a minute, I contemplate opening a small bottle of bubbly or fixing a cocktail, but decide to go with a non-alcoholic twist on the Dark and Stormy: Gosling’s Ginger Beer, fresh lime juice and a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.

10:00 p.m.: After dinner and watching a bit of TV (mostly the convention), I work on a few odds and ends and answer/send some late-night emails.

11:30 p.m.: Check my email for the last time and go to sleep.

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