The three-martini lunch has gone out of vogue in the recent years, but maybe, just maybe, it's time to return to the time-honored, vermouth- and gin-soaked tradition of the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
Going back to the liver-pickling lunch tradition may improve the creativity and problem-solving abilities of America's professionals while helping to offset some of the pain caused by the post-recession hangover. Moreover, the art of the martini has never been more alive in our great metropolises than it is today. What better time is there to experience great art than during your lunch break?
The Martini Will Shake Up Creativity
The three-martini lunch's detractors' first line of attack against those brave tipplers seeking to revive it will likely be that three martinis is enough to destroy even the most dedicated boozer's afternoon productivity. "A resurgence of the three-martini lunch could destroy the nation's fledgling economic recovery," the fearful martini lunch antagonists might say. "Just think of the hours of work productivity that would be lost!"
Yet recent research published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition shows that a certain level of intoxication can actually improve creative problem-solving. In their article "Uncorking the Muse: Alcohol Intoxication Facilitates Creative Problem-Solving," researchers at the University of Illinois found that intoxicated individuals solved more problems on a Remote Associations Test than sober people. Moreover, the soused participants solved their problems faster, "and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of sudden insight."
"The use of alcohol in particular (alone or in combination with other substances) has been linked to the accomplishments of many great individuals including Beethoven, Poe, Hemingway, Coleridge, Pollock and Socrates," the study said. The authors do caution, though, that alcohol enhances creative problem solving "characterized by more divergent, associational or discontinuous solution processes," rather than "analytical problem solving" that requires computational algorithms or incremental analytic procedures.
In other words, there's a reason why Don Draper and his compatriots are guzzling booze at 9 a.m. on "Mad Men" to get their creative advertising juices moving, but you never see physicists doing keg stands before testing out the Saturn V.
Economic Stimulus and Quantitative Easing of the Wallet
Beyond the boost for the nation's creative professionals, the revival of the three-martini lunch could help the national economy and many service employees. The most obvious winners are gin and vermouth makers, and vodka-makers to a lesser extent, as well as restaurants and bars. The average martini has around three shots of alcohol in it -- vermouth and either gin or vodka. That's nine shots of alcohol per-person during a three-martini lunch. A 750ml bottle (a standard size for alcohol) contains 17 shots. So a party of two on a three-martini lunch would drink the equivalent of an entire bottle of alcohol, assuming they didn't get a fourth for the road.
In the state of New York alone there were almost 9 million people employed on non-farm payrolls in the month of May. If a tenth of them, around 900,000 people, went for a three-martini lunch once a week, it would result in an additional 23.4 million bottles of gin, vermouth and vodka being sold each year. A 750 ml bottle of Beefeater Gin, an old standard for martinis, retails at $16.49 online, meaning the annual expense for three-martini lunches in New York State would reach a staggering $3.86 billion, and that doesn't even include food or tips, or markup.
Obviously, a return to the three-martini lunch would be a huge economic boon for liquor produces, restaurants and bars, but it would also indirectly benefit many other workers and industries. Bartenders and waitresses would get more tips, producers and importers of olives, lemons, cocktail onions and various other garnishes would see a spike in sales, and the number of people needing midday cab fares would also skyrocket. When considering the economic impact of the three-martini lunch, it's tempting to blame Prohibition for the Great Depression. Perhaps the solution to the current Great Recession is for everyone to get a drink with lunch.
The three-martini lunch was at its heyday in the 1950s, the most prosperous decade in the nation's history. A coincidence?
"In the '50s, people absolutely used to drink more. Now people are more careful. Especially during lunch. People have a soft drink or maybe one drink, and they used to have two or three drinks at least," 78-year-old Manny Aguirre, bartender at Musso and Frank Grill in Hollywood, Calif. said in a recent interview with Esquire.
So Many Cocktails, So Little Time
Now is certainly the time to revive the three-martini lunch. Not only could the economy use some hair of the dog to get it moving again, but there has never been a better time for the martini-lover to live a little. The teens of the 21st century are shaping up to be a modern Renaissance for the martini. From old standards like the gin martini with a twist of lemon or a dirty martini loaded up with olives and their salty brine to new favorites like a martini muddled with basil or with even more exotic ingredients like orange Curacao or Angostura bitters.
Cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are hubs for martini-lovers in search of a creative or unusual drink. A brief look at the New York Times' summer drink generator demonstrates that there are a plethora of unusual martinis and cocktails waiting to be sampled, and new ones are created all the time. Reviving the three-martini lunch would provide a path to discovery for those who feel like they are missing out on the revivification of the classiest drinks. Carpe diem! Seize the day! And sample some of the gifts of fermentation on your next lunch break.
A word of warning: Please be aware that your employer may not appreciate it if you come back from lunch totally smashed. Likewise, don't operate heavy machinery, go on live TV, or engage in risky bets on the commodities market after a three-martini lunch. While it might help creativity, being hammered won't help your coordination, speech, or quantitative ability, and three martinis is enough to get pretty much anyone completely snozzled.