Three-martini lunch

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Three martinis with olives as a garnish Bright-Field Lighting.jpg
Three martinis with olives as a garnish
A martini: gin, vermouth, olive Dry Martini.jpg
A martini: gin, vermouth, olive

The three-martini lunch or noontime three-martini is a term used in the United States to describe a leisurely, indulgent lunch enjoyed by businesspeople or lawyers. [1] It refers to a common belief that many people in the above-mentioned professions have enough leisure time and wherewithal to consume more than one martini during the work day. The 3-martini lunch became particularly identified in popular culture with Madison Avenue advertising executives in the 1960s and 1970s, who supposedly became more creative after such lunchtime libations. [2]


The term is sometimes used in political debates on tax deductibility of business meals in the US. [3]


The three-martini lunch is no longer common practice for several reasons, including the implementation of "fitness for duty" programs by numerous companies, the decreased tolerance of alcohol use, [4] a general decrease in available leisure time for business executives [5] and an increase in the size of the martini. [6]

President John F. Kennedy called for a crackdown on such tax breaks in 1961, but nothing was done at the time. [7] Jimmy Carter condemned the practice during the 1976 presidential campaign. [6] Carter portrayed it as part of the unfairness in the nation's tax laws, claiming that the working class was subsidizing the "$50 martini lunch". [8] A "rich businessman" could write off this type of lunch as a business expense, thereby reducing the cost by his effective tax rate. His opponent, Gerald Ford, in a 1978 speech to the National Restaurant Association, responded with: "The three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful and a snootful at the same time?" [6] [9] [10]

Recent times

It was once popular in Washington, D.C., but has declined since the early 1990s. [11] The practice has also been affected by changing views on alcohol consumption, while others have chosen to go with new drinks like the vodka martini and Cosmopolitan. [12] The cost of some drinks has increased three times faster than the inflation rate. [13]

The entertainment deduction, which includes meals, was reduced to 80 percent in 1987 [14] and to 50 percent in 1994. [15]

Comedian George Carlin once commented that the crackdown on the three-martini lunch "shouldn't affect the working man's two-joint coffee break". [16]

See also

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  1. "Lunch with a twist: one writer asks what became of the noontime three-martini extravaganza-and discovers what happens when you try it". June 1, 2010.
  2. Edwards, Jim (August 2, 2010). "Will a 3-Martini Lunch Make You More Creative at Work?". CBS News. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  3. ""Three-martini lunch" tax break draws outrage. It also may fall short for restaurants". Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  4. Sorich, Sonya (October 26, 2006). "Business drinkers walk fine line". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer . Archived from the original on February 6, 2007. Internet Archive; URL last accessed June 4, 2010).
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  7. Jonathan Gruber (December 21, 2004). Public Finance and Public Policy. Macmillan. p. 500.
  8. Stratton, Jeremy (January 2, 2006). "The decline of the three-martini lunch". Downtown Journal. Minneapolis-St. Paul. Archived from the original on October 3, 2015. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  9. Gray, W. Blake (December 2, 2004). "Trends change but the martini is always cool". San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. Andrew F. Smith (May 1, 2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press. p. 367.
  11. "The Three-Martini Lunch: It Used to Happen". April 2, 2002. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018.(subscription required)
  12. "A new twist on the three-martini lunch: Times have changed and so have attitudes toward drinking and then going back to work". July 16, 2006. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018.(subscription required)
  13. "Nowadays, a three martini lunch puts you in the poor house.(News)". December 1, 2005. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018.(subscription required)
  14. "CHANGES IN TAX LAWS DILUTE THE THREE-MARTINI LUNCH". July 4, 1988.[ dead link ](subscription required)
  15. Alison Mitchell (July 24, 1999). "House Puts 'Three-Martini Lunch' Tax Break Back on the Table". The New York Times . Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  16. Donnelly, Laura (January 24, 2012). "Seasons by the Sea: South Fork Power Lunch". The East Hampton Star . Archived from the original on December 21, 2016.