Why the Flask Is Perfectly Suited for Pandemic Drinking

Who needs a bar when I can walk around with some whiskey in my pocket?

November 5, 2020 11:50 am
My trusty old Barbour flask
My trusty old Barbour flask

I am a cornball. I have no problem admitting that. My flannels and Carhartt beanies were taken out of summer storage weeks ago. The Red Wing boots are polished, my Orvis barn coat has already seen some mileage and I recently dialed up Robert Frost Reading His Own Poems while going on a short hike in Hudson. I am Mr. Autumn Man and I’m fine admitting this. I’ve put summer far behind me and I’m ready to embrace all things cozy.

Yet there is one thing I picked up over the last few months that has become a vital part of all my walks, whether it’s a late-night dog stroll through my Brooklyn neighborhood or sitting around a small fire in the woods contemplating the universe and all that jazz. These days, I hardly go anywhere without a flask.

Now, before I go any further, no, I don’t take my flask with me when I’m running to grab my morning bagel or while I type out words into the InsideHook mainframe. Nope. I’m strictly a 5 p.m. (or 4:45, depending on the day) drinker during the week and maybe a light afternoon nip or two during the weekends. I have some rules. I’m not Kinglsey Amis over here.

But after 5, all bets are off. And while I’m usually able to crack open a beer or mix something up in the comfort of my own home, at some point I need to go outside for something or another. Maybe we’re cooking something and I need cumin or I just need to divert my eyes from the news for a little bit; I walk out the door with my keys, wallet, watch and my flask.

How I feel at the end of the day as I’m about to take the first swig from my flask.
Getty Images

Humans have spent, well, all of humanity trying to move the things we eat and drink from one place to another. I’m sure there was a caveman who realized he could pour whatever elixir got his mind off running away from woolly mammoths or trying to invent fire into a sheep bladder, and hence the first flask was born.

Things change over time, and by the 18th century, the gentry were riding around on horseback, chasing foxes and stopping every so often to take a swig from the little metal flask attached to their hip. Not long after that, Americans and our love for booze needed an easier way to move around. We needed our hooch when we wanted it, whether we were near a saloon or not. As one article tells it, the 1700s were an era of flask innovation, as some were made with glass, metal, leather, cork, wood, crystal, ivory and even reptile skin, which sounds like it tastes disgusting, but is also quite baller.

In somewhat more modern times, the flask became a symbol for hiding your booze. You watch some old movie showing gangsters and Fitzgeraldian types drinking during Prohibition, and some flapper will probably pull a flask out from under her slip and say something like, “Here you go, hon, this will fix you right up.” You see midcentury guys pulling a flask from their breast pocket when they’re canned from their job at some advertising firm. The flask is often portrayed as a last resort, something a groomsman pulls out when the bar at a wedding is cash only, or some guy sitting on a curb presses to his lips after he got dumped. But that shouldn’t be the case — the flask, especially in these pandemic days, is your little escape. You don’t need to drink too much of it; you just need enough.

And that’s the beautiful thing, the lost art of The Nip. Something to keep you warm, to remind you that the day is behind you. Remember a year ago when you used to have a drink and you maybe had to drink it in a bar, and then you had another and another, because you wanted to keep up with company? Sure, I miss that. I miss drinking socially, but I have also found myself looking at my nightly nip of whiskey like that first sip of coffee in the morning.

I’ve started collecting flasks. I had started out with two: one I picked up from Barbour a few years ago, and another one lined in tartan. The latter is my normal flask, but I’ve also found myself adding more to the collection, like some vintage ones I’ll never use but look cool as hell in my office.

The trick I’ve found is that you also don’t want to fill up the flask these days. I put enough in for maybe a couple of good swigs, just a taste. Whenever I leave whisky in there for more than a couple days, it ends up tasting metallic, and nobody wants that. I’ve also been pretty on top of what I put in my flask. Depending on the day, it’s either something like Wild Grouse or Redbreast 12. Yes, I’m a sucker for any whisky with a bird in the name, but I also like how those two go down neat. InsideHook’s resident booze lord, Kirk Miller, has somewhat similar feelings.

“I usually go for something smoother here. Basil Hayden’s, an Irish whiskey like Kilbeggan or a non peaty Scotch. No ryes, cask strength, peat or anything harsh. Also a good spot for something with a unique cask finish so it has more of a mixed-drink feel,” he tells me.

So avoid a rye. As much as you want to polish off that bottle, it’s not really the right choice for your little sip. Be smooth, man.

But most of all, let the flask be your little present to yourself. A way to get out of your head for even a few minutes. Bring it with you as the sun starts to set, take a little drink, breathe, then walk. Maybe take another swig along the way and then reward yourself when you get back home. Maybe pour whatever is left into a little cocktail, or pour it over some ice. Either way, embrace the flask life, your little traveling bar that could.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.