Serious Studies

The 8 Proper Properties of Business Booze

Wine at Work


We're all drinking a lot less for business reasons now, because... well, I don't really know why. We just are. You go to lunch and a proud phalanx of sparkling water bottles festoons the room, and everybody is munching on salads like giraffes. This is sad for two reasons. First, sobriety is not a congenial condition in which to do serious business, and second, this leaves far more drinking to be done on personal time. As far as I'm concerned, this is ass-backwards. There are solid reasons why the majority of imbibing should be done on company time.

Here, in my view, are the excellent functions alcohol provides within a business context:

  1. Grease the wheels: It is a well-known fact that growth rates have plummeted since we all stopped drinking at meals, particularly breakfast and lunch. In the 1980s, many a fine deal was hammered out while we were.
  2. Builds friendships that last a lifetime: How many of us are really interested in the stuff that our peers are involved in? My pal builds boats. Do I care about boats? I assure you I don't. I, on the other hand, collect ancient guitars that once sold in Montgomery-Ward for $2.99. Does he have the slightest interest in that? But put us together with a couple of beers, three or four scotches and a few after dinner drinks and I assure you we love each other, and have for almost 20 years now.
  3. Makes golf possible: Think of what that stupid game would be like if we didn't have booze before, during and after it?
  4. Meeting facilitator: Okay, you don't need a couple of stiff ones to survive a two-hour meeting with PowerPoint. But these all-day things they put us through a couple of times a year at least, or the annual squeeze-fest with 300 senior managers in Boca? Without booze? You sit in those things and the martini in your mind coalesces at about 10 AM and stays there all day, a beacon of hope amid the gloom and forced collegiality.
  5. All-purpose topic of conversation: The tedious things that business people talk about! Lord! Interest rates! GAAP. Monetizing prospective revenue streams! Phooey! But when the conversation moves around to wine? Or single malt scotches? Or what booze goes well with mongoosse? Everybody's an expert in one way or another, and even those who are not can quietly watch the blowhards blow while tending to an aggressive cab with a big nose and huge shoulders.
  6. Anesthetic: As we get on in years, or engage in sports no human was ever meant to pursue, our bodies begin to attack us. Shoulders ache from improper employment of a 9-iron. Elbows throb from repetitive tennis activity. Me, I've been wracked with some kind of back pain brought on by over-use of my mouse. You could take percodan and blow up like the Hindenburg, like Jerry Lewis did, or blow your mind on other crazy substances now popular in Los Angeles, but a warm glass of gin never met an ailment it couldn't soothe. A few weeks ago, a small flagon of warm port cured my flu. I report that fact now in hopes it will be picked up by medical authorities and pursued with responsible vigor.
  7. Sleeping potion: Right after that, I fell asleep, by the way. True, those who use booze for this purpose are likely to awaken at 3 AM when its effects wear off. This is different than the usual waking at 3 AM, which I do every night anyway. In the latter case, it's harder to fall back asleep.
  8. Excuse: You can't do it too often, of course. You get a reputation for yourself that can make people doubt your stamina and probity. Unless, of course, it's a recourse shared by your entire corporate culture. Which is probably why I miss all the guys I came up with at Westinghouse.

Hi, guys! Remember the good old days? On second thought, I bet you don't!

26 Comments Add Comment

OMG that was soooooo funny and yet so true to many an older corporate type. What happened to those booze filled lunches at the strip cabaret down the street from work. Oh yeah, it was deemed politically incorrect to take female co-workers over to the strip bar for lunch. I personally have never met a cocktail I didn't like during the noon hour.

It might be polically incorrect to assume that your female coworkers will not enjoy the strip club

Re #4: Strictly speaking, no, I don't NEED a couple of stiff ones to survive a two-hour meeting with PowerPoint...

... but it sure would help...

That way, the next time I'm at a meeting completely irrelevant to me or anything I do, and one of my bosses asks a completely off-topic question just to hear themselves talk, I could lapse into alcohol-induced indifference or even contentment, rather than caffeine-induced aggravation and anxiety.

When I was a mere cad just starting out, I worked for a family owned construction company. Nearly every day, the entire office went together for lunch. Lunch was, by definition, a two drink minimum.
One day one of the subcontractors was having lunch in the same resturant and stopped by our table to suck up a little.
In the course of this he said to my Dad; "Bob, I don't understand how you can go back to work after two Martini's."
My Dad responded; "Hell Bill, I don't know how you can go back to work without having two Martinis."
Words I lived by for many years.
This PC crap has gone way too far.

Breaking news: "Detroit radio station 104.3 WOMC" is playing a song written expecially for Wessley Snipes. One line in it goes like this: "I'll spend the next three years of my life being another man's wife"; it can also be accessed on their web-site.

I'm sure that where ever libations are poured, that song is sure to resonate.

When I was a "steel worker" for the better part of eight years until I switched careers because of "automation" in "Bethlehem Steel", the "working man's bar" was the place of solace and comfort.

I was in the "open hearth" labor gang. Steel cooks at 2700 to 3200 degrees. If you went third helping or if you tore down hot "open hearths" to rebuild them, all one would think about is a "shot" and a "cold frosted beer".

Many would sit quietly in the bar with a wad of "mail pouch" in their cheek and washing the soot, silica dust, asbestess, and powdered graphite down the esophagus with a "shot" and an "ice cold frosted beer"; you could hear aahhh with that first swig of revitalizer.

There was one, two or even three bars on every block, but then we rode the street car to work and back; then staggered home from the bar.

If that were true today, we'd need to quadruple our jail capacity; DUI offenders would cause severe traffic jams on the highways with police running sobriety tests every quarter mile.

Today, I imagine most drinkers sit quietly in front of the "big screen high definition T.V. and fade in and out of la la land until that treacherous morning commute.

O.M.G., what can we do to rescue Wesley Snipes? He's a star! How will this affect his image?

I'm still hoping that somebody from Westinghouse will get in touch.

For the "just got out of college" type: There was very little in college I did without some alcohol in my system. Now they expect me to be sober at work? I think my productivity would increase with a drink at my desk.

Westinghouse is dead (victim of the original rogue trader as I recall).

Long live GE.

Bing, I couldnt help but read your blog here and identify with a few things. My father who is the corporate executive type likes to pass information on how to get ahead in the business world and how to act professionally. He says that when ordering food, always order a salad and water. I almost died of laughter when I read your gripe about that. It is being extremely concervative but also covering all the bases to make sure you dont get that promotion because you got the lobster on the company dime while someone else got the chicken salad. Also, I guess it is becoming taboo to let your co-workers and bosses know that you drink, or see you drinking. I assume it is associated with immaturity or god forbid you have a drink at lunch, being an alcoholic. Too many negative stereotypes I see as being the reason this is the case. It is kind of a shame because in my experience, I get what I want a lot more when I am having a good time with a person rather than when I am being a boring drone whose only focus is annoying someone with what I want and that is my only interaction with the person.

Alcohol is the devils brew and will lead you down the path of imorality and sin.

Having said that my concience is clear, and I may imbibe from time to time, during work, after work and especially when I'm in female company.
A certain amount of booze seem to make the ladies seem more female.

I must warn others than if you are mellowed out a bit by the booze, females have been known to take advantage of you, had it happen to me a few times, been drinking ever since to see if it would happen again, strictly for research purposes I can assure you.

I am not the easy trollop the office girls make me out to be.

I have business ethics, morals and scruples, I just don't carry them with me all the time.

Dear Mr. Bing:

Every time you mention The Circle Bar W Funny Farm – either in your books or columns – I would wonder what division you were with. As a 13-year ‘alum,’ I feel related in a way. It was a great fraternity – and some of the best people (WNES) I worked with in my whole career. Bye the by, the SoCal work scene couldn’t hold a candle to those folks in Monroeville!

Also, several great bars in the area there…

A coworker and I were sharing stories of 'back in the day' and I told about a 3 martooni lunch with raw oysters, then trolleying back to the office. She was flabbergasted. I still haven't figured out if it was because of the martoonies or the oysters.
The rest of work was pretty pleasant that day.

Although, a social drinker myself, I found your piece disgusting and totally unprofessional. If you are unable to conduct business without cocktails, I believe you are either in the wrong industry or lack the professional skills necessary to close a deal.


Being a sober business person for over 25 years, I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to watch and laugh at those that "need" a drink over a nooner lunch. I also love when associates get nervous when I do have a seltzer at lunch...kind of like being a kid going to the zoo.

Soap box aside - I wonder how many old time lunch gluggers killed someone on their ride back to the office...

Hey, Victor. Lighten up. If you knew how many drunks I've seen close a deal you'd never stop throwing up.

I believe you are either in the wrong industry or lack the professional skills necessary to close a deal.


Professional skills are more than technical know how and letter writing.
I can close a deal on the phone and get information from people that other people can't get past the receptioist of that person.

It's called social networking , people don't have to like you but they do have to trust you and know you are consistent.
Remember "your reputation gets there before you do".
And the person you cannot trust is the person who trusts nobody.

A man who doesn't drink is a man who doesn't trust himself.

Like Bogie once said, the problem with the world is that everyone's a few drinks behind.

Having a drink with colleagues never did anything but help team morale. Too often the business environment doesn't allow for people to really get to know and bond with those around them. Cheers to having drinks before, during and after is truly the only sport where it is acceptable to do this, even at 9 in the morning.

Clearly the funniest piece I've read lately. And how true, in all places of business. I like a cocktail, or two, and enjoy them with many professional women in my community and find that what we all have in common is the desire to have fun in a high paced and dreary corporate environment, all in good taste and humor. Hey Bing, we're meeting tonite at the wine guyz, care to join us?

Very nice Bing. Let's do lunch.

Oh- Bing...

How I adore your acrid sarcasm. It's often the light in what would be an otherwise dreary workplace- let alone a dreary lifetime.

But in this case I think you may be wrong. True- I can recount thousands of times social lubricant, when applied properly caused the good times to flow. BUT- constant drinking increases your levels of blood sugar, which in turn creates high levels of insulin, which in turn creates high levels of cortisol to counteract the insulin- and cortisol eats away at protiens and tissues... Like the ones in your back. ;-)

I'm with Bing on this... I can get more done during a 2-hour lunch with drinks that I could ever get done in a "proper" meeting. Ideas flow, people share, and decision get made. Many a career has been made during a "late" Friday afternoon lunch. Fortunately, my company's culture is fueled by ego and machinsmo, so most of the PC crap goes out the window.

I'm trying to think of a clever response that makes me sound as smart, intelligent and funny as the article is written, but I can't.

So I'll say that booze just makes things better...

as explained by Cliff Clavin, of Cheers.
One afternoon at Cheers, Cliff Clavin was explaining the Buffalo Theory
to his buddy Norm.
Here's how it went:

"Well ya see, Norm, it's like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

PROZAC, smozac, have you forgotten about a Martini?

First time on this blog, but this was a great thread that I felt compelled to comment on almost 8 months later.

The Westinghouse tradition of drinking lunch is very much alive when you're in the good company of customers or co-workers. Someone posted a comment about Westinghouse being dead (update GE Consumer & Industrial division is for sale!), but some of the old traditions and ideology remains with us. I am fortunate to work with many Westinghouse alumni from the DCBU division.

That being said, I agree with your 8 point analysis and would like to add one more:

Alcohol may not solve any problems or make them go away, but it sure helps make them more tolerable. Especially when you finished up your round over 100 and stumble back to your golf cart ;0