r.i.p. three martini lunch

Thursday, April 15, 2010

As anyone who watches “Mad Men” can attest, the two (or three) martini lunch was de rigeur back in the day. In fact, my own father was a Madison Avenue ad man in his younger days, and a pitcher of martinis was always his evening companion. I don’t suppose it was his first pitcher of the day either.

So what has happened? As MagnumGourmet commented recently, “wine is still viewed as a luxury (special occasion) item by most of the country. Two major changes must take place to really increase consumption in the States. First, people need to move away from the idea that wine is a Friday/Saturday drink with dinner. Second, is that it needs to become acceptable to have that 3oz glass of wine with lunch (whether you’re at the office or not).”

Casual observation seems to confirm that for the average (non-wine industry) office worker, any alcohol consumption at lunch is out. It’s either directly forbidden by office policy, or the potential stigma of being seen as a lunchtime drinker scares the heck out of anyone who would like to imbibe.

That is a huge change from having several hard alcohol cocktails and then heading back to work. And it’s a change that is rooted in the cultural shifts that permeate the workplace. Work is harder these days. Hours are longer. Deadlines shorter. Competition more fierce. Expectations for performance higher and higher. There is a fear factor that affects everyone’s performance.

So it seems to me that any hope that even a return to modest wine consumption at the mid-day meal will become the norm seems far-fetched at best, in this country at least. If you work in an office environment, you are probably being watched closely for how much lunch time you take. Your expense account has been trimmed to the bone. Unless you travel to Asia on business, where late night drink-a-thons are still mandatory, you don’t drink at work. And if you are among the self-unemployed, as are Mrs. G and I, you eat “lunch” – if at all – at your computer, doing things such as writing your blog.


WineBoy said...

I drink wine with lunch on my on time, but would never think of drinking wine as part of a workday lunch. It is not a part of our work culture. In addition to most of the factors that you cited, I would add that many folks just don't consider having an alcoholic beverage with lunch as professional. I can recite any number of past incidents at my work where people had too much fun at lunch, and their subsequent behavior back at the office was out of bounds.

Anonymous said...

I've spent some time working in the UK, where a pint (or two) at lunch is not uncommon. I find that after even a single beer, I'm much less effective at work in the afternoon. It's mostly a matter of drowsiness, not intoxication. So, as much as I love wine (and beer), even without any stigma, I don't really want to drink at lunch on a work day.

Anonymous said...

I know of one more option...


One of the best reasons for wine in warmer weather is a picnic. A picnic is a special
occasion in itself. Add a couple a good
stops and a cool picnic destination, and
it is even more special. And what a great thing
to do in the NorthWest, where there are so many
beautiful places to spread out your checked
table cloth on the grass.

Wine Tonite! said...

Paul, great point. The US is a very conservative country regardless of who is in office and the liability of having employees drinking during lunch has HR managers cringing. However, just a few years ago I was in South Africa working with a bank in Johannesburg who still allowed an occasional drink during the work day. As a matter of fact, while the rest of the employees rushed to their cars to enter rush hour, many of the managers hit the break room to down a scotch or a lager while the traffic died down. It was interesting to see and experience, and I feel that, in moderation, a little nip of wine could do good for the mind to battel the 2nd half of the day, no?

PaulG said...

It does seem that in most other countries where wine is a part of daily life, there is no stigma attached to having it with the mid-day meal. Here, it's quite different. We are so wrapped up in productivity that we sacrifice what used to be considered "civilized" pleasures - the hallmarks of a life well-lived.

MagnumGourmet said...

Paul, thanks for the call out. I often will take a lunch or two out of the office in a given week and stop by my local wine shop to chat up the owner. He is very generous and offers to have me taste along with him if there is a distributor rep at the shop. And even though I spit as a rule when "tasting", the fear of being seen back at the office with purple teeth keeps me from helping him on his inventory selection 95% of the time. I'd probably be better off drinking the martini.

Richard Sentner said...

I grew up in Europe, and often times my mother/grandmother would pour a drop of wine into my water glass to make us kids feel like we were grownups having our own wine glass. My wife and I have a bottle of wine everynight with dinner (without water).

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