Have Yourself A Sloppy Li'l Xmas
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – People are so damn sober these days that you don't know what to do with them. They stumble into the office grim-faced, high on nothing but anxiety and coffee. They go to their stoic lunches, munching on greenery like starving llamas and bolting down enough mineral water to float a midsized dinghy. After work they repair to watering holes for more water, unless somebody in authority is having something, in which case they might join the boss in a moderate quaff. "No more for me, I'm driving" has replaced "Set 'em up, Joe!" as the anthem of the management class.

At dinner and afterward, things are just as bad, as people sniff and honk and roll their wine around in their mouth until it's the temperature of a crowded gymnasium, often ordering the kind of stuff that costs too much to swill, let alone tipple.

I'll be honest with you. I hate people who don't drink too much, at least now and then, except of course for recovering alcoholics, who are excused from this censure and have my sympathy, and people who are intent on driving, obviously. Excessive sobriety is even more irritating at holiday time, when the spirit of giving meets the passion for having, and everybody dances around the bonfire, and we all wake up with headaches for a couple of weeks, and love conquers all someplace in there. None of that happens without sufficient wassail.

To help you along in this merry season, I'll go through the libations available and what business function each can provide.

First, vodka. Of all drinks you can consume during a business day, vodka is the least detectable and most acceptable at breakfast. While few of you will dispense a tumbler of clear, cold Stoli and pour it down the hatch first thing in the day, there are substances that, while they spoil the taste of the vodka, can be used to disguise it and render it socially acceptable. They include orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, and lingonberry juice. Any one will do, frankly. Champagne may be introduced into an orange-juice-and-vodka melange to create a sissy-poo beverage called a mimosa.

This tactic of diluting good wholesome vodka with obnoxious fluids may continue into the afternoon, when the drink may be allowed to confront the consumer as its own proud self, neat or with a little tonic. By then, though, other options are available.

At lunch and dinner, for example, wine is a permissible holiday indulgence, even though it is frowned upon during the school year. Wine comes in two primary colors--red and white. Red is better, but white is okay if there is no red around.

There are many people who know a lot about wine, and jolly good for them. It is possible, however, to know too much about the subject and thereby turn into a gomer. When you are seated with somebody sucking his cheeks and huffing and puffing about wood and oak and big shoulders and noses and such, the best thing to do, if he outranks you, is to nod sagely and continue to fill your glass.

Here's all you really need to know. Red wine goes well with meats, cheeses, and heavy gruels, and may also be taken between shots of hard liquor instead of beer. White wine should be drunk very cold and is best enjoyed with fish, light salads, and scores from Broadway musicals. Very sweet whites are also good with desserts if there is no sambuca available.

Speaking of which, as evening arrives, many a corporate drinker heads for the stuff that makes the festive heart grow full, principally the heavy brown liquors that look so good in a broad-bottomed glass. Chief among them are the whiskeys, including scotch, bourbon, rye, and Irish whiskey, which is often ruined with coffee. For me, true Kentucky bourbon is the best and most economical, because after an evening spent in its company, I am generally intoxicated for several days afterward. There is also rum, if you are a pirate, and tequila, if you're trying to have sex with someone you may not need to remember afterward.

Brown or white, green or purple, all those drinks are very good for you, build strong bodies at least 12 ways, and make you philosophical and happy if taken slowly throughout an evening.

Finally, a word about gin. Gin is really terrible stuff. If you drink too much of it, you reek of the substance afterward as it seeps out of your pores. I once knew a guy who lived in a cloud of it day and night. He is retired now, having outlived about a dozen of his peers. But that's beside the point. Gin is a destroyer of souls, unless you mix it with a tiny bit of vermouth and put it into a large, conical glass. Add an olive or two, and you have the spirit of the season all year round.

Have a merry party season, my friends. May the road rise up to meet you and your limos always arrive on time.


Stanley Bing is an executive at a FORTUNE 500 company he would rather not name. He is the author of a new book, The Big Bing, a collection of essays. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.