We fully the support the carrying of flasks wherever you might need them—that’s just smart preparation.
But flasks are so much more than just an insurance policy against weddings with bad drinks (or none at all). Kentucky-based journalist Sarah Baird has carried a flask for years. It’s almost like a good-luck charm for her. “I’ve always considered flasks to be like those talismans that you carry around,” she says. And like any good-luck charm, over time her flask has developed a rich patina of stories from the places it’s been and the debauchery it’s seen.
Baird is the author of the newly released Flask: 41 Cocktails to Drink Anywhere ($16, Chronicle Books). It’s the essential guide to packing mixed drinks for backpacking, fishing trips, and any adventure that might demand some celebration.
“A flask cocktail can get nasty so fast,” she says. When developing the recipes for her book, her conditions were strict. “It can’t mold, or rot, or curdle, or taste bad at room temp.” That meant no dairy and no frothy flips made with an egg white. Even muddled fruit is a no-go. “There were a lot of physical constraints, but it’s neat to have to work within those constraints,” she says.
There are enough recipes that you’ll definitely find a drink you love, but don’t skip the first few pages of basic instruction. The intro gives you the dos and don’ts of creating your own flask concoctions. It’s essential reading so that you understand what will and won’t work. (Plus, there’s good stuff about how to clean your flask.)
For example, some citrus juices react with the walls of a metal flask, causing a metallic taste as you drink. Instead, Baird suggests using expressed (squeezed) lemon or lime peels to get that citrus flavor without the tinny tang that reverberates off your dental fillings. Another great tip: honey seems like it should be a safe ingredient, since it doesn’t need to stay cold, but Baird warns that it will coagulate at the bottom of your drink—your cocktail won’t be sweet until the last gooey nip.
Each recipe makes either a single flask-size portion (six ounces) or a thermos-size batch (17 ounces). Baird wrote some of the recipes herself, but others are from mixologists at watering holes around the country. By asking around—and then publishing those recipes verbatim—Baird has curated a more diverse ensemble than any one author could create on their own.
Outside readers will dig the section devoted to cocktails for the great outdoors. When camping, “you want something that’s a little gussied up, but is easy to put together,” Baird writes. Her main rule was that the ingredients had to be readily available. “The last thing you want to do is have to find a specialty liqueur as you’re packing for your camping trip,” says Baird, who is also an avid hiker. For example, the Sasquatch calls for honey whiskey. My immediate reaction was to think, Now where am I going to get that? Turns out that Baird has figured out how to make a whiskey and honey infusion, and the honey won’t settle on the bottom as you hike. If you have honey and whiskey in your pantry, you’re all set.
Even if you don’t tuck a flask into your backpack, this is a fun book for anyone who likes making cocktails with straightforward and shelf-stable ingredients. If you get annoyed at having to buy an entire crate of passion fruits just to muddle one into a martini, this is the guide for you. The fact that you can take any of these recipes into the backcountry and still have them taste great three days later is an added bonus.
The Buckskin Playmate
This recipe is from Paul Calvert and Greg Best of the Ticonderoga Club in Atlanta. While it’s not technically in the outdoors section of the book, Baird says it’s her go-to for hiking trips to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. It percolates all day with no ill effects, and then, she says, “We usually split it while eating pizza at Miguels, a legendary pizza spot for hikers and climbers that’s in a dry county.”
- 2 thinly sliced lemon peels
- 2 dashes Herbsaint
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 ounce Rainwater Madeira
- 1 ounce Bourbon
- 1 ounce rye whiskey
- 1 ounce Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Fill a cocktail tin (or a large measuring cup) halfway with ice, and add all the ingredients. Stir for 45 seconds to a minute, or until all ingredients are mixed, chilled, and diluted. Funnel into your flask, lemon peel and all.