Extracted from Unfiltered #70
Words: Gavin D Smith
From pigs’ bladders to pewter, the humble hip flask has had an essential role for drinkers through the ages, finds Gavin D Smith.
Hip flask origins
This aspect of the hip flask really came into its own during the period of American prohibition, between 1920 and 1933, and the US authorities went so far as to ban the sale of hip flasks, when figures showed that within six months of prohibition being enacted, more flasks were sold than in the previous decade! This was the golden age of cocktails, and cocktail shakers were also banned from sale in the States. Some hip flasks at the time were designed with three chambers – one for gin, one for sweet vermouth and one for dry vermouth.
Two words which entered the English language, and have remained there ever since, were coined during prohibition. The first was ‘hipster’, referring to one who carried a hip flask in contravention of the law, and the second was ‘bootlegger’, as many men and women concealed their hip flasks in the top of their boots. The latter term became synonymous with the smuggling of alcohol into, and within, the US, and later was used in relation to activities such as the release of ‘bootleg’ music albums.
Filling the flask — size and suitability
Which brings us to an interesting tale told by the inimitable Charlie MacLean. When undertaking sensory evaluation training in the early 90s with Sheila Burtles (see March and April 2022 issues of Unfiltered) Charlie invited her to lunch at the Arts Club in Edinburgh.
There he introduced her to an old acquaintance, the retired judge Lord (Jock) Cameron, who had been born in 1900. At the mention of whisky, his Lordship declared that his father wouldn’t have peaty Islay whiskies in the house. “Don’t misunderstand me,” he added, “he’d have them in the cellar, but he felt they were for drinking out of doors, from a flask, not in the drawing room.”
Nothing quite like it
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