Bloomberg.com on Hip Flasks

A hip flask seems like the perfect gift, or so it must have to the three people who gave you one for Thanksgivukkah or who are about to give you one for Christmas.

It's a trend. "A hip flask is esoteric and easy to customize," they figured, "and I don't think he owns one."

That's right. You don't. Well, now you do.



So now you can loiter on a park bench hissing, as you have longed to, or pour mezcal down your gullet while holding the flask aloft on a burro, or was that Jake in Spain with a wine-skin in the Hemingway?

It appears a little history is in order.

"You get variations on carryable flasks that would be used either for water or alcohol basically going back to prehistory," says Leslie Grigsby, a senior curator at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, in Wilmington, Delaware, who recently organized the show "Uncorked! Wine, Objects, and Tradition."

"It's a modern phenomenon that flasks are used almost exclusively for alcohol," she says. "You get them being produced on a fairly large scale in times when people are traveling great distances and might not have easy access to alcohol." She cites Winterthur's collection of 19th-century glass flasks from the Gold Rush, and the perception of alcohol as a medicinal pick-me-up among adventurers.

"There's the traditional idea of a dog coming to the rescue with a small cask on its neck. It's a little bit of a cousin to this idea," Grigsby says. She adds that "a lot of modern people associate flasks with hunters, which is a little bit scary."

To recap, flasks have been used to:

  • Transport drinking water
  • Loosen up with a loaded firearm in your hands
  • Degrade your decision-making capacity on long, uncertain journeys
  • Trek up through 10,000 feet with dulled reflexes
  • Make sure loved ones have three of them for Christmas
What does this gift mean? What do these people you thought you knew think they know about who you are? Perhaps you should climb Mont Blanc drunk, or run with the bulls in Spain, or fall asleep in your seat at a Jets game, or go hissing in the park.

More likely, you go to work in the morning, leave work in the evening and then either go home, where you can drink, or meet up with friends at a bar or gallery or concert, where you can drink. The point is, where you're going, or staying, and everywhere in between, there are vessels.

Now, repeat after us:

A hip flask! Hey! Thanks!

Very good.

Authored by James Tarmy who writes the Loot blog for Bloomberg.com's Good Life channel. His original blog can be found here.