The Fizz: Moxie

You’re most likely to get your mitts on a bottle of Moxie in New England, though its fans sneak it around the country. That’s how loyal they are to this Moxie131-year-old descendant of Moxie Nerve Food, a patent medicine of the 1870s.

Dr. Augustin Thompson, a native of Maine working in Lowell, Mass., mixed his elixir with soda water, as drugstores of the time did with other formulas. Out came Moxie soda, containing the extract of an unnamed South American plant that was the active ingredient in the medicine.

That plant was gentian, and the extract came from its root. Bartenders know it as the bitter ingredient in Angostura bitters. Although modern medicine sees no health benefit in gentian root, it has been used to ease a variety of digestive complaints.

The gentian flavor creates fans and foes of Moxie. The foes dislike the aftertaste, which one reviewer described as “pennies, dirt and unsweetened envelope glue.” The fans can’t get enough of it; baseball great Ted Williams was one of them and even appeared in Moxie ads. If you’re a fan or you’d like to test your taste buds, it’s not too late to plan to pop some caps at the Moxie Festival in Lisbon, Maine, from July 10-12.

What’s in it: Carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, sodium benzoate (a preservative), gentian root extractives, phosphoric acid, caffeine, citric acid.

Appearance: Rich brown with energetic bubbles.

Aroma: Herbal, reminiscent of root beer.

Flavor: Rooty; not too sweet.

Finish: Sweet; slightly bitter at the back of the tongue.

Pairings: Turkey or ham sandwich on robust bread with cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Notes: The bottle sports a retro-style label depicting a man in a lab coat pointing his finger at the reader. The beverage is now produced in Bedford, N.H., for the Coca Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England.

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June 2023
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