What Are You Drinking, Noah Rothbaum?

What Are You Drinking?

Checking in with drinks industry folks—booze-writers, distillers, brewers, bartenders, and winemakers—about what drinks they're excited about now.


Our Drinks editor recently shared a bit about what her daily life is like, which made us curious about the lives (and drinking habits) of other editors of drink-related websites. Today we check in with Noah Rothbaum, the editor-in-chief of Liquor.com. He's also the author of The Business of Spirits: How Savvy Marketers, Innovative Distillers, and Entrepreneurs Changed How We Drink.

Shall we get started?

What are you drinking these days, Noah Rothbaum?

For me, the holidays are all about punch. On Thanksgiving/Chanukah, my wife and I hosted the big meal and I made the historic Martha Washington Punch but with bourbon instead of the traditional rum. I also added some Employees Only Grenadine, which gave it a rich, fruity note that paired very well with the turkey and latkes. I just made cocktail historian Dave Wondrich's Classic Rum-Brandy Punch for a friend's party, which is no-fail and was a big hit. I plan to whip up a big bubbly bowl for New Year's Eve.

What does your workday at Liquor.com look like?

It contains way less drinking than most people think. My day usually starts with coffee and not cocktails. The first task of the day is reading and answering emails. Then usually I check to see how our content is doing and what comments or questions we've gotten from our readers. Since many of my colleagues are based in San Francisco (I'm in New York), the mornings are fairly quiet and are when I do a lot of my editing, writing, and proofing of stories. That sometimes includes tastings of spirits and recipe testing. The afternoons are often filled with meetings and interviews. At night I like to go to a tasting or check out a new bar, usually several a week.

If a friend was looking to stock up their bar on a budget, what bottles would you recommend?

While prices for spirits are no doubt getting ever more expensive, there are still many bargains to be found on liquor-store shelves. Rittenhouse Rye and W. L. Weller Bourbon are steals at about $20. Beefeater Gin, which is even cheaper, is hard to beat. Same goes for unflavored Absolut, Reyka and Tito's vodkas.

There are definitely many more deals to be had when it comes to rum, including Cruzan Black Strap and Plantation Grande Reserve Barbados Rum, which both can be found for less than $20. Tequila has certainly gotten very pricy, but at around $20, Espolón is a pretty good place to start, since it's made from 100 percent blue agave. When it comes to entry- level single malt Scotches, there aren't too many options. If you can find it, try Ardmore, which had historically been used exclusively for Teacher's Highland Cream (a blended Scotch) and is available in some stores for under $30.

What expensive booze do you think is totally worth the price?

Very good question. Highland Park 18-Year-Old at about $120 is definitely worth the price. (I used to like it even more when it sold for $85.) The Laphroaig 25-Year-Old ($500) from a few years ago is amazing. At that age, the peat has mellowed a bit and the whisky just comes together perfectly. The 1969 Glenlivet Cellar Collection, which—if you can find it—sells for about $800, is exceptional. The Delamain line of cognacs is delicious and might actually be under-priced, which is also true of The Glenrothes' vintage Scotches.

What was the coolest cocktail you've had lately?

I had a great cocktail, at New York's PDT recently, the One-Two Punch, which was created by the talented Jeff Bell and called for Johnnie Walker Double Black, grapefruit and pilsner beer. It was a truly refreshing mix, and I was impressed that Jeff used such a peaty, smoky Scotch as the drink's base. I wish there were more Scotch cocktails on bar menus.

What cocktail trends are you tired of?

Overly complicated cocktails. At the end of the day, nobody cares how many ingredients are in a drink. It just needs to taste good. Bartending legend Dale DeGroff is predicting a return to simpler drinks, and really I hope that happens.

Any other cocktail trends you're predicting?

Think you're paying a lot for drinks now? Prices are going to continue to rise for fine spirits and craft cocktails in 2014. In the new year, you'll also see more cocktails on tap and more high-end pre-bottled cocktail lines, like Crafthouse from James Beard Award- winning bartender Charles Joly. That's not to mention an increasingly large selection of Scotch-like whiskies made around the globe.

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