Picture an unshaven, threadbare, teetering panhandler. Propped against a wall, he mutters something about a shopping cart and how a pack of homing pigeons made off with his car keys before he takes a long draw from the top end of a paper bag.
You make a wide berth and finger your pocket for the reassuring bulge of keys and cash.
Now picture your office Christmas party where some folks are huddled benumbed around the punch bowl, a few are smoking in the break room, several are pitching after hour proposals at management in an attempt to leverage brownie points and one guy has scored the key to the boss’s private liquor cabinet and is looking for a few willing and daring delinquents to join him.
Which person are you likely to make a beeline toward for comfort and succor?
None of them.
The guy you want is the fellow leaning casually against a wall just on the outskirts, the one with the Don Draper attitude—slick and dangerous with a doesn’t-give-a-damn gaze. The one who sips from a polished hip flask, camouflaged only by a heavy layer of natty swank that remains indistinct to the uninitiated wannabes.
What’s the difference between the two swillers?
Probably nothing more than a little savoir faire.
Okay, and maybe good luck, a healthy bank account, a wife who didn’t cheat on him, that four year stint at Harvard, a summer house in the Hamptons, parents with a yacht. Yeah, I get it. But they’re both outliers and both doing the same act. Yet one of them is a magnet and praised for his finesse.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is what a hip flask brings. STYLE.
Who do we have to thank for this touch of elegance? Ancient pilgrims and pioneers, trailblazing tourists who’d never live to see the opening of the first 7-Eleven and the ready availability of The Big Gulp. They had to prepare for the road and a trot across the globe.
First drafts of these finely cut containers received reviews from the public that would have surely put manufacturers out of business had those with the “can do” attitude not gone back to the proverbial drawing board.
Pig’s bladders were reliable, but persuading a pig to hand his over required a grace that many lacked and usually a fight ensued.
Glass was helpful in that you could see the amount of liquid you still possessed, but so could your traveling companions, and that left you out of luck in the “I don’t think there’s any left to share” fib one relies upon in a do or die desert situation when sight-seeing across sand.
Eventually metal makers threw a K-Mart Blue Light Special, and folks tested the gamut of available options. Copper tasted tangy, tin made everything blue, and if it was pewter, you had to take your chances with a little lead poisoning and could reduce your chances of arriving to your final destination.
The answer was sterling silver. The Medieval Times printed rave reviews and suddenly villagers all across Europe knew what they’d be getting their friends for Saturnalia.
Still, the population was plagued with the slightly annoying problem of shape and form. Again, over the years, Middle Aged scientists went to work in their labs, consulting with each other. Horses voted for a design that wouldn’t leave them with an agitated flesh wound, the result of the flask swinging back and forth on their hide for hundreds of jaunty miles, and most men wanted something that was slimming and ultimately wouldn’t add pounds onto their hips (because wayfarers know it’s hard to make good food choices when eating on the bridle path).
Women were the easiest to please in that they knew petticoats hid a multitude of sins. They could hide their cake and drink it too.
And over the years, whether strapped to the thigh of a thoroughly modern Millie who’s simply biding her time through Prohibition, securely stationed in the top left breast pocket of myriad soldiers who refer to engraved inscriptions for remembered love and the contents for liquid courage, or used by Mad-Eye Moody to store his Polyjuice potion, the hip flask has retained a constant, but quiet presence in the world of spirits.
Raise your glass in toast to a nip of the tipple. Hip, hip, hooray!