From the 1920’s through the 50’s, a man would rather be without his tie than his flask. And women routinely kept them stashed away in their purse (or in a few cases, tucked into their garter belts).
Sadly, times have changed, and the once stalwart companion was left on the wayside, a novelty prop used in television and movies by the “classic drunk” character.
Until very recently. Now the “hipsters” with their nearly-brimless fedoras, scarves paired with t-shirts, horn-rimmed glasses, etc, have embraced the hip flask, thinking it “retro-cool.” BUT, though I may dislike hipsters in general, I must thank them for bringing hip flasks back (somewhat) into fashion.
So, rather than allow what was once an essential accessory fade into the mists of history, it’s well past time for you to get a hip flask of your own.
The basic definition of a hip flask is “a small metal container typically used for discreetly carrying liquor. It is small enough to fit in a trouser or coat pocket without being seen.” Based on this, we can choose the flask that’s right for you.
Traditionally, a hip flask was made out of pewter, silver, or glass; however, modern flasks tend to be made from stainless steel or even plastic. Let’s run though these options, and see what the pros and cons are for each one.
- Pewter: A beautiful metal, more affordable than silver, fairly strong and reasonably lightweight. But I don’t recommend it because it tarnishes fairly easily, scratches at a glance, tends to developing leaks after just a year or two of use, and is usually sealed along its seams with lead. You really don’t want to poison yourself when you’re just grabbing a quick sip!
- Silver: Another beauty. Heavier than pewter, but vastly more expensive, and with the same faults. Again, not recommended.
- Glass: Able to be blown into many decorative shapes, same weight as silver, and guaranteed leakproof. Also guaranteed to be extremely fragile. The only upside of a glass hip flask is that the alcohol you put inside it will sterilize the wound when (not if) you break it while it’s in your pocket. You want to avoid this.
- Stainless Steel: Heavier that the other metals (and glass), but welded so it will never leak (until the seal gives out in the cap, more on that later), and is food-grade material, so no chance of poisoning yourself. This I recommend above all others.
- Plastic: No. Just no. I may be cheap, but even I’m not THAT cheap.
So, stainless steel it is! Now that we have our choice of materials narrowed down, we can decide on a size.
Modern hip flasks range in size from 2 ounces (emergency supply) up to a whopping 64 ounces (yes, literally a half-gallon), with 8 ounces being the most common size. So you want an 8 ounce stainless steel hip flask, right? WRONG. And here’s why.
Stop and think about when you’ll be using the flask the most. While you’re at home in your den/man cave/living room? No, you have your liquor cabinet for that. At a party? Maybe, but if that’s the case, why not just bring a bottle and share with everyone? At a bar? Sure, you do that. And we’ll see how far you can fly with an assist from the bartender’s right foot, too.
Unlike any of the above, you aren’t looking for a full drink. You’re looking for just a quick sip. A taste. Something to “steady the nerves” (NOTE: I am NOT saying that alcohol is a good medical analgesic, although it does numb the body’s reaction to pain. It also dulls awareness, so sip sparingly, and NEVER when driving).
No, you’ll be using your flask when you’re out and about, where alcohol isn’t normally available. During the long boring wedding ceremony your wife/husband/significant other dragged you to, waiting your turn on the tee at the 7th hole, or when you’re stumbling along through four feet of snow during a blizzard after your car gave out at 3 in the morning on the way home from the grocery because your wife/husband/significant other demanded you run out and fetch them ice cream (don’t ask).
Now, a standard shot is 1.5 ounces. That’s the default measure for a “shot of whiskey”, and is used as the basis for all recipes. Keep that in mind.
Perhaps you’re still thinking “Well, the 8 ounce IS the standard, so I’ll just go with it.” Don’t make me smack it out of your hands! Remember, a flask is for occasional use while out and about! On average, you’ll find a suitable time and place to use your flask twice, maybe three times a week. And the average “sip” is just a hair under an ounce. So do you really want to lug around 8 ounces of alcohol (plus the weight of the flask itself: another 4-6 ounces) just to end up drinking 2 to 3 ounces from it? And before you start in with the whole “But you always say that alcohol should be shared liberally with friends.” That still doesn’t measure up. Assuming you share with your best friend, that’s still at most 4 to 5 ounces a week. And while yes, I say to share liberally with friends, only a close friend should be sipping at your flask. A flask is like a toothbrush or your underwear. Very personal, indeed.
So what is the right size? I HIGHLY suggest a 4 to 6 ounce flask. Small enough for a pocket or purse, decently sized for yourself and a friend, with a bit of leeway.
…leave it on the wall of the liquor store or bar where you found it.
So now what do we have? We know we’re looking for a stainless steel 4 to 6 ounce hip flask. Now that we know what TYPE of stalwart companion to look for, we need to know what they look like!
As I’d mentioned above, a flask is like a toothbrush or your underwear, very personal. And thanks to today’s modern age, it’s very possible to find a flask that’s as unique as you are.
You’ll notice that a couple of names were mentioned in the captions above, Maxam and Visol. Those are the two BEST metal working companies in the world when it comes to flasks. You can’t go wrong with either of them.
One final note about choosing your hip flask. You’ll notice that all the flasks pictured in this article have a little arm/bar/hinge thingy holding the cap in place.
That’s called an “attached cap” and is a feature you definitely want, above all else! It keeps the cap from going flying when you unscrew it. Because a flask without its cap is just a fancy looking tumbler.
So you’ve chosen your perfect hip flask from the millions available. You know what material, size, appearance, and features you want. But what do you put in it? Why, the answer to that is simple!
With, of course, a few exceptions…
- You don’t want to put anything that needs refrigeration, or is adverse to temperature changes (remember, it’s going to be in your pocket, and is likely to get warm from body heat, and cooled by weather).
- Nothing overly acidic (no screwdrivers!). Juices will eat through the steel and cause it to corrode.
- The lower the sugar content, the better. Really sweet liqueurs will tend to cause sugar to crystallize in the threads of the cap, causing it to cement tightly. A cruel fate, when you can’t get your flask open.
The classic choice is, of course, whiskey. Tequila, gin, or some of the white rums (assuming you clean the flask more often!) are also good choices.
Now a few words on how to care for your new companion: When you first buy your flask, WASH IT THOROUGHLY BEFORE FILLING IT UP! It’s not been sealed yet, so anything could be in there!
Also, drain, and wash it OFTEN. Most flasks will come with an instruction sheet saying to empty and wash it every three days. From personal experience, I’d say about two weeks is more accurate, unless you’re filling it with a fairly sweet alcohol (like Buttershots), in which case I’d say every three to five days is right.
When you fill it, use a funnel (most flasks come with one), and don’t fill it all the way to the top! Again, temperature changes, so leave a bit of space for expansion/contraction. Wipe off the threads carefully, and hand tighten the cap securely, but not too tight. After all, you want to be able to get it open again, soon!
One last note before you go off to buy yourself a flask.
Technically speaking, a hip flask counts as an “open container” in every state. But remember the definition of a hip flask way up at the top of this article: “a small metal container typically used for discreetly carrying liquor.” Based on my personal experience, as long as you treat it like a penis (or the way you SHOULD treat religion), you’ll be perfectly fine.
In fact, the ONLY time I’ve been busted with a flask by a police officer, it went like this:
Officer: “What’s in the flask?”
Me: “Four Roses, sir.”
Officer: “Uh, mind if I confirm that?”
Me: “By all means, be my guest!”
A quick sip, a caution to travel safely, and I was happily on my way (as was the officer).
So with all that said and done, go find your own stalwart companion. And may you be happy together for many a year!