Today, you will not encounter a hip flask very often, and if you see someone sneaking a crafty nip from one, chances are that you will think the worst. Who could possibly be so dependent on alcohol that they would carry a private supply around with them?
Well, the answer is that not everyone who carries a hip flask is a recalcitrant dipsomaniac (stubborn old drunk). There are times – admittedly not all that frequent – when having a ready supply of the hard stuff to hand is a major benefit. Think in terms of cold windy moors, cold windy mountains, or just cold wind. And when poor Daphne needs some serious shelter from the storm, and there is no cosy pub to hand, she will be amazed and duly grateful when you bring forth an elegantly contoured hip flask, full to the brim with an expensive single malt whose name you cannot pronounce.
Marilyn Monroe in the 1959 Movie 'Some like it Hot'
So where did the hip flask first see the light of day? The smart money goes to the eighteenth century – an era when all that was mad, bad and dangerous was espoused with gay abandon. There are rumours on the Interweb that the hip flask originated with ladies of easy virtue who smuggled gin onto Royal Navy ships in pigs’ bladders. But these were neither flasks, nor were they necessarily worn on the hip (use your imagination here).
As is so often the case, the truth is probably a lot less romantic. Hard liquor has long been available in different sizes: a full bottle, half bottle and quarter bottle. The quarter bottle was very handy in an emergency, and being small was easily carried. However, drinking straight from a bottle was, well, frowned upon. So, it was a much better idea to decant it into an elegant, ergonomically rounded flask, made from glass, silver or stainless steel. And strangely enough, the 8 oz cognac bottle is often shaped into the sexy contour of the classic hip flask.
The hip flask really came into its own in the prohibition era in the United States. In the twenties, you could buy hard liquor almost anywhere, but drinking it in public was a different matter. So, a carefully moulded, hip-hugging flask was a perfect way of transferring dubious moonshine into an innocent tea cup, or for taking a quick bracer in your Duesenberg on the way to the next jazz and bullets rave.
Speakeasies of the Prohibition Era
The hip flask is still around today, and is actually an indispensable accessory for any man who wants to style himself as mad, bad and dangerous to know. However, it does not necessarily need to contain overproof rum or an arcane highland malt. Just top it up with barley water or the non-alcoholic beverage of your choice and no one will be any the wiser. Just make sure that the flask is elegant, and withdrawn from your person with a suitably devil-may-care flourish. Daphne will be highly impressed.