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Flask History | Why Were Drinking Flasks Invented?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019 11:48:27 Europe/London News , By George Finney

Flask History | Why Were Drinking Flasks Invented?


A hip flask on a wooden table next to two shot glasses


Most of us have taken a sip from a flask at one point or another, but have you ever stopped to think about why they were invented? It's more interesting than you might think….

Drinking flasks have been around since prehistoric times, they were popular with the Romans, and they have a dark past with the Mafia.

Where do you think the term “hipster” comes from?


 

Holding a drinking flask out over a mountain range


When were drinking flasks invented?

Drinking flasks are as old as the stone age; nobody knows exactly what year though. They were very different from the flasks we see today, usually made from animal skins and bladders...


Cave painting on a wall


Have drinking flasks always looked the same?

No, they’ve been through many evolutions to become the flasks we recognise today.

In the stone age, they were made from animal skins, the Romans used glass, and creative drinkers in the middle ages would cut away the insides of fruits and fill them with alcohol.  

They've been made from almost every material you can think of. That includes earthenwares, wood, bronze, pewter, glass and silver, plastic and stainless steel.

Some modern flasks are still made using plastic and can avoid detection by metal detectors...


An antique drinking flask with a smoking pipe resting on top of it


Top Tip

Don’t leave alcohol in a metal flask for more than three days, or it might acquire a metallic taste.

If you have a bit of time on your hands, say 20 years or so, use an oak flask. Oak flasks will “oak age” any liquid put in them if left for long enough, which improves the quality of the alcohol.


A Fisherman drinking from a hip flask sat on a log over a river


When were hip flasks invented?

The curved designs you see today were invented in the 18th century. They were popular with the gentry (the elite social class of the time). High-quality flasks were made from silver and glass, but cheaper ones made from pewter were also available.

Pewter contains dangerously high levels of lead. Unfortunately for some, the dangerous metal was leaking into their containers and causing brain damage. You can still buy pewter flasks, but thankfully, they no longer include lead...


A pewter flask on a white background


Before their invention, women used to smuggle makeshift flasks (often made from pigs bladders) onto British warships. They would fill them with alcohol and hide them under their petticoats.

Why were hip flasks invented?

Hip flasks were invented to make smuggling alcohol easier. Their curved shape makes them easy to carry against your hip or thigh without anybody noticing. Most flasks also have a captive top with a hinge which prevents you from losing the small lid….


People drinking and dancing at a speakeasy


Is carrying a hip flask illegal?

In the UK, it is not illegal to carry or drink from a hip flask in public places. In America, it is illegal in some places due to open container laws.

Hip flasks and the Prohibition

During the U.S prohibition in the 1930s, the US government banned the sale of both hip flasks and cocktail shakers.

The ban was put in place because more people purchased a hip flask within the first six months of the prohibition than they had in the last 10 years.

Why did the prohibition start?

Alcohol was banned completely in America between 1920-1933. This was driven by various religious organisations who thought banning alcohol would reduce crime and violence rates, and raise religious quality in America.

It didn't work…

Banning alcohol did not go the way the US government had hoped.... it led to lost government revenue from alcohol tax and caused a lot of people to move on to heavier substances instead.

Throughout the prohibition, alcohol consumption gradually rose back to around the same level as it was before the ban anyway.

But it did give us some great stories and rich history...

The high demand for alcohol birthed many dangerous and gangs and gangsters, including Al Capone, who is infamous for illegally brewing, distilling and distributing beer and liquor. It also led to the creation of speakeasies, illegal bars where people would drink alcohol in secret.


A glass of whisky on a wooden table


Hipsters & Bootleggers

Due to the high tensions and serious penalties surrounding alcohol usage, many people used hip flasks to hide their drinks from officials.

People who carried hip flasks were referred to as “hipsters”.

A lot of men and women would conceal their flasks within their boots, which is where the phrase “bootlegger” comes from too.


Prohibition ends on a newspaper headline


What do you put in a hip flask?

Hip flasks are ideal for spirits like whiskey, bourbon, rum, gin and brandy.

Wines, cocktails and beer type beverages do not keep well in hip flasks.


Alcohol pouring out of a hip flask


How much liquid do hip flasks hold?

A regular sized hip flask holds 8oz of alcohol, which equates to just over five shots.

However, they are available in a huge range of sizes from 1.5oz (one shot) to as big as you can pay someone to make one for you.

The worlds biggest hip flask currently in production can hold two gallons of liquid, that’s just over 170 shots worth!


Three different sized drinking flasks on a white background


How do you clean a hip flask?

You should always clean your flask before you first use it to remove out any residue left over from production. You should also clean it after every few uses to keep it hygienic.

You shouldn't use soap as the residue may affect the taste of your alcohol.

To clean it, fill the flask with equal amounts of hot water, lemon juice and vinegar then fasten the lid and shake well. Leave the flask to soak for five minutes and rinse thoroughly.  

Buy your flask today

At Jackson trophies, we have a great selection of hip flasks. Finished with classic patterns personalised engraving, they make ideal gifts and awards for friends, family and colleagues. Click here to head over to our hip flask section.  


 

Top of a hinged lid hip flask