That, in a nutshell, is why the Mason jar has become emblematic of gentrification: Holding a cocktail or a Slurpee, it's removed from its original context—which is rooted in functionality—and made into an icon of ironic contrast. Used to serve a drink in Hackney Wick, the Mason jar becomes a vacant signifier. It's meaningful in its evacuation of meaning—a far cry from delivering the pleasures of summer in the dead of winter, or ensuring that, in a time of need, there will still be enough.
In the early 20th century, mass production made Mason jars ubiquitous in America. One of the most prolific manufacturers was the Ball Corporation. One often sees jars etched with this name, in lilting cursive, opposite an engraved cornucopia and measurement markers. Printed discreetly near the bottom is the label: "Made in U.S.A." Particularly useful for people who lived in areas with short growing seasons, canning and Mason jars were integral elements of farming culture, where jams and pickles were judged and awarded prizes at fairs and festivals. In these contests, color and beauty were often scored—a glinting ruby red, for example, was a testament not only to the quality of the fruit but the integrity and sophistication of the labor that went into transforming this fruit into jam. Jams and pickles and various kinds of sauces were also exchanged as gifts, and vestiges of that culture remain in the jars of preserved goods people sometimes give each other at holidays.