Through history, there have been some important developments in the transportation of liquids. Before the modern era, alcohol was useful for its preservation and sterilization properties when clean drinking water was hard to find. Drinking alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine fermented from local crops, was first foremost a practical health measure. One needed to carry trustworthy liquids with them and as a result, nearly every culture developed their own form of a flask.
Some say it all started with the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari, in Southern Africa, 60,000 years ago: they used ostrich eggshells as canteens. Earthenware containers evolved around 2000 BC and were eventually replaced with more modern materials such as glass and metal. From approximately 500AD to the Middle Ages, Pilgrim flasks were created by the thousands for Christian pilgrims to take home water or oil from a sacred place.
The modern flask – a sleek beverage bottle – may have started with the advent of the pocket watch. The notion of carrying something in an easy and practical way developed in the 18th century in England, but followed different ways: the landed gentry adopted the pocket watch and the workers started carrying the hip flask.
It’s not exactly known when, but it was approximately at this juncture when the flask was beginning to take the modern shape with a rounded rectangular body that was curved to match the contours of the body. This shape makes it less visible in the pocket than a square-edged shape.
What should you put in it? The experts are unanimous: hard liquor only, which means 80 proof and above. Whiskey, bourbon, rum, gin, brandy (Cognac, Armagnac) are fine. Lower alcohol beverages such as beer or wine don’t keep well in a flask, nor do cocktails, cream liqueurs, or citrus-based liquids. They will deteriorate or mix badly with the flask material, and some may even damage it. Flavored alcohol will not stay fresh, either. Port wine is a possible exception to the 80-proof rule, especially if you plan to smoke a cigarwith it.
The truth of flask etiquette is that there are very few scenarios in which it is appropriate to carry and drink from a flask. Just consider how flasks are depicted on TV: they are almost always used by a character who is reliably inappropriate, often drunk, or disrespectful of social norms. There simply aren’t many social situations in which bringing your own supply of liquor is encouraged or acceptable. Furthermore, the “need” to bring a flask implies that the scenario is one in which you shouldn’t be drinking.
Our advice is to choose carefully when you carry and drink from a flask.
Here are a few flask Dos and DON’Ts:
One of the all-time favorite gent’s accessories, the popularity of the hip flask shows no sign of abating.