Three-martini lunch

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Three martinis with olives as a garnish
A martini: gin, vermouth, olive

In the United States, the three-martini lunch or noontime three-martini is a leisurely, indulgent lunch enjoyed by businesspeople or lawyers.[1] It is named from the 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 United States.[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[edit]

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[edit]


  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).
  5. ^ Drummond, Mike (March 14, 2005). "What Ever Happened to the 3 Martini Lunch?". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved October 30, 2006.
  6. ^ a b c Kuntzman, Gersh, "Martinis for Victory!", Newsweek, October 22, 2006 (URL last accessed March 13, 2008). Archived March 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  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.