In the Prohibition era, knocking one back—or two, or three, for that matter—was about more than just getting sloshed on a Saturday night. “The defiant rebel with his pocket flask had become an almost irresistible symbol of dignity, courage, manhood, and liberation from hypocrisy and pigheaded repression … a symbol which could elevate drinking into a sacrament of true individualism,” Norman Clark wrote in Deliver Us from Evil.
The repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment largely stripped the act of drinking of its appealing “Fuck the Man” quality. But there’s still something that we can take away from Clarke’s defiant rebel: his flask. Prohibition may have gone the way of the flapper and the Charleston, but even in 2010, the flask is as classy as ever. And it’s time we brought the flask back.
This only applies, of course, if the flask is used in the proper setting. Your internship on the Hill, for example, is not the best place to be surreptitiously stealing swigs of Scotch. Same for your 8:50 micro class, or that dinner with your girlfriend and her parents.
When used judiciously, the benefits of a tumbler full of the good stuff in the right setting are legion. A well-deployed flask at a packed rooftop party, for example, can allow you to enjoy some fine bourbon while avoiding the herd of thirsty freshman crowding the keg. And forget about worrying when the jungle juice is going to run out. Your flask lets you maintain a pleasant buzz throughout the evening with no fear of becoming sober or blotto.
Though the flask might seem like the accessory of the loner, when passed among a group of friends standing in the cold, each taking a hit of rough whiskey, it can create a bond similar to that between smokers who bum cigarettes from each other. (And without the lung cancer!) There’s nothing like a shared vice and a bit of generosity to bring people together.
Before you rush off to buy your own little stainless steel flask, there are a few questions for prospective flask-owners that should be answered.
What alcohol should be put in a flask?
Good alcohol—I prefer scotch or whiskey, or maybe even a nice rum. The booze can be used for spiking drinks, but it’s primarily meant to be swigged. Considering this, the type of alcohol really doesn’t matter too much as long as you can drink it straight without grimacing like Muhammad Ali just punched you in the liver. Also, on a more personal note, I’d also avoid high proof alcohol like Bacardi 151—the extra bang might be a bit more than you bargained for.
What kind of flask should I get?
I’d recommend a basic stainless steel flask, small enough to be discrete, but not so small that you run dry half an hour after refilling. Sparse decorations on the outside—get your initials engraved if you must. If you’re in the mood to splurge, you can get a flask with a glass lining inside, which should keep your booze from taking on an unpleasant metallic taste.
Where should I buy my flask?
Where do you buy anything else? Online. Amazon has a fair selection of basic flasks for as little as five bucks. If you can’t wait to have one shipped to you, Georgetown Tobacco carries a variety of stainless steel, chrome, and leather bound flasks, though they’re more expensive than their online counterparts.
One last note: flasks aren’t just for men anymore. For women, too, a flask can now be an irresistible symbol of dignity, courage, liberation from hypocrisy, and … well, you get the idea.
So men and women alike, carry your flasks proudly, knowing that next time the keg runs dry or the cold is too much to bear, you can just reach for your inside pocket. Drink up, friends. Here’s to true individualism.
Tell Sam where to hide his flask at firstname.lastname@example.org