Search & Distill: How to Hold Your Flask

You’re not in college anymore.

The flask is back. I've witnessed enough stealthy sipping and under-the-table mixing over the past month to call it. As cocktail prices approach $10 and wines by the glass edge beyond the ridiculous, who can blame us? I mean, them. Think of it as a portable pre-func that you forgot to finish. Times is hard, and for the establishments you're patronizing, some business is better than no business. Whatever your justification, the flask carries certain etiquette rules and advisable behaviors. If you don't have a flask, put some effort into finding the right one. You want a glass or stainless inside, no exceptions, because you're not in college anymore. I only have flasks with glass insides because stainless adds a funny metallic taste to my already mildly acerbic rye—though I realize I very well could be the princess overreacting to a boozy pea. Consider usage and clothing when buying a flask; going for maximum storage won't do much good if you can't fit it in your pockets. A six-ounce flask may carry you where you want to go, but how are you going to carry it? Assuming you're not loading yourself down for bear, a three-and-a-half-ounce flask fits far more comfortably in a pants or coat pocket. When giving the gift of flask, custom dictates the flask be filled with the receiver's favorite alcohol. Giving an empty flask is bad luck and bad form, and, like giving a box of empty chocolate wrappers, cruel. As far as the liquor going in the flask, keep it hard and simple. You're only working with a few ounces, after all, so make it count and go for 80-proof liquor. Stay away from anything too sugary or fruity; you don't want to find that stuff in a flask days or weeks later and have to clean it out. Same with anything milky. Outside of the classic brown-liquor option, consider something to bring warm fuzzies but that isn't overpolluting, like Madeira or an amaro. Other than the everyday imbibing that's completely your own business, flask-appropriate places involve cover charges as a general rule. Arbitrary or not, it's just too farfetched to imagine mixing your own vodka tonic in the middle of a restaurant. Include those clubs and venues that make you struggle to achieve a two-drink minimum, even with the best intentions, without missing part of the show. Be discreet, keep it low and quiet. Bringing a flask doesn't absolve you from buying drinks, however; treat places with cover charges as if they have a one-and-a-half- or two-drink minimum. Two beers cost $5 in most joints; so spend $8 to $10 on beverages and you're home (and guilt) free. Maybe I'm just older, or maybe I've got too much residual Irish Catholicness to not pony up the minimum. Even someone who didn't drink would order a Coke or two; you just happen to be lacing yours with Mount Gay rum. You still have to grease the wheels of the establishment, or else everyone would bring in outside refreshment and ergo no more show. Of course with this column I'm now setting myself up as a target of enforcement. By helping you, I am hurting me. I'm generous that way. Not that I pack a flask everywhere I go. Let's just say it comes in handy when my reach sometimes exceeds my expense account's grasp.

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