NEW YORK (MainStreet)—It's finally happened: Science supports drinking at work!

Sort of.

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Since the end of the Don Draper era, three martini lunches have pretty much gone the way of Commie hunts and hats on men: it still happens from time to time but not that often. These days, we tend to see day drinkers less as three piece power lunchers and more as either alcoholics or college students. Business is supposed to be handled in the office, not over exclusive drinks at the club.

The question is, should it be? In a recent Moneybox article, Slate's Matthew Yglesias took a look at whether having a few drinks with lunch actually does hurt worker productivity.

The surprising result is a solid "maybe." Despite the impression of drinking with lunch as the first step toward court-ordered meetings, according to recent research, it turns out that moderate amounts of alcohol can actually improve your performance on some tasks.

At least, that's according to the University of Chicago's Andrew Jarosz, Gregory Colflesh and Jennifer Wiley in "Uncorking the Muse":

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"That alcohol provides a benefit to creative processes has long been assumed by popular culture, but to date has not been tested. The current experiment tested the effects of moderate alcohol intoxication on a common creative problem solving task, the remote Associates Test (RAT)... Intoxicated individuals solved more RAT items, in less time, and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight."

For the purposes of this study, the researchers tested "intoxication" at .075 blood alcohol level. The upshot is that, for people working on something creative or problem solving, a drink or two with lunch might not only not hurt but could actually help job performance.

Unfortunately, given what they actually do on a regular basis, this doesn't mean a return to the good old days for most lawyers and bankers out there. More importantly, it's worth remembering that perception is still important: whether or not drinking actually makes you dumber, people still think it does.

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It's called the imbibing idiot bias: people who see you holding a drink automatically assume you're dumber regardless of evidence or context.

In fact, when researchers tested this during job interviews, candidates who ordered a glass of wine with their dinner were consistently ranked as less intelligent than someone who ordered a soda.

The moral of the story, maybe enjoy a beer if you're catching up over a Saturday evening, but be careful about ordering that margarita around your boss.

--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.