An American cultural icon the humble flask is a necessary companion to any liquor-imbibing gentleman. Flask up, men!
The alcohol flask dates back to the 18th century. It was a way for society’s gentry to always have some brandy, cognac, or whiskey handy while on the move. In cold weather, alcohol was thought to keep you warm when all it actually did was numb you to how cold you actually were. Back then, bars weren’t as common and a member of proper society wouldn’t be seen dead in certain establishments known for being the kind of places only the lower class frequented.
A decent flask is generally made of silver, pewter, or steel. Cheaper ones are made of glass or plastic. Some of the antique stuff in silver is worth a tidy sum to collectors.
The Flask Versus the Prohibition: Booze Will Find A Way
Back in the 18th century, America was pretty religious too, so drinking in public was banned almost everywhere. Yet, people being people, still found a way to smuggle spirits around with them as the need arose.
When Prohibition came with the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, possession of alcohol by anyone was criminalized.
As the act stated, “No person shall on or after the date when the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States goes into effect, manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, furnish or possess any intoxicating liquor …”
This banned any beverage containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol. Some of the supporters of prohibition were even surprised it went that far. Sure, they wanted “Demon Whiskey” banned but thought wine and beer were kinda harmless. Now it was all gone.
Some states, like Indiana, even banned possession of a flask — empty or not.
Nevertheless, flasks became very popular during Prohibition. All the bars were gone, so, if you wanted to drink socially at a party or private dinner you had to bring your own. A flask was the ideal method of clandestine booze transportation.
The flask’s concave shape was designed to allow it to fit in a back or front pocket and flatten against the thigh or buttocks, making it harder to see. You could also slip it into a boot and have it rest comfortably against your calf muscle.
During Prohibition, I expect that tens of thousands of gallons of hard spirits were moving around every day in this country concealed in flasks. When Prohibition was repealed and the bars re-opened most of the country went on a 90 day bender. However, certain habits die harder than even drinking and hip flasks remained a part of American culture even now, almost 100 years after Prohibition made them an Every Day Carry item for men, and even women.
And the Tradition Remains Strong
Oddly enough, flasks with booze inside are still banned in cars since they are categorized as “opened alcohol containers.” They can also only be carried on airliners if empty. But they are pretty good to travel with, especially if you are unsure whether your destination will have your favorite scotch or whiskey.
Today, the flask is still popular at outdoor events, especially football games. It’s also now more socially acceptable to drink from one discretely since most carry a modest six ounces or so of alcohol. It’s all about appearances: A man looks one way taking a slug from an open bourbon bottle but looks an entirely different way taking a sip from a flask.
It is also a tradition in weddings for the groom to gift to each of his groomsmen a flask filled with alcohol. Probably an Irish custom.
If you don’t own a propper flask yourself, allow us to suggest a good one from the Loadout Room Store. Our flasks made by Roxbury are steel and feature a “Captive Cap” design so you don’t lose the cap unscrewing it. They come with a funnel for filling and a canvas bag. They can also be engraved with a map of your hometown or state. You know, a map on how to get back home could come in mighty handy on a flask. Just thinking out loud here.
You can check them out by clicking on the box below: