Great Moments in Moxie #1

It's a new year, and time for some new series, and one I've been wanting to do for a long time is an ongoing tribute to the mysterious beverage whose logo rests to the lower right of this page.

Obviously it's a bit of an obsession with me--my campus/community radio show on CKDU 97.5 FM is currently titled Moxieland--and my pursuit and endorsement of the former "nerve tonic" dates back to roughly my high school years. Back then I had heard of Moxie, due in large part to frequent references in MAD Magazine, and its inclusion in the Harvard Lampoon parody of Lord of the Rings (titled Bored of the Rings), where the hobbits Merry and Pippin were renamed Moxie and Pepsi. But it wasn't until a family cross-border shopping trip to Bangor, Maine that I spied an actual can of the stuff on a store shelf, which I immediately bought and sampled, and was instantly hooked on that brown, bittersweet brew.

I'll discuss my fascination with Moxie and its sometimes bizarre history in future posts, but for now here's the original label of the first mass market version of the soft drink, which predates Coca-Cola by a few years.
"A Wholesome Tonic Beverage Carbonated: MOXIE is a clean, sparkling, bitter-sweet tonic beverage, prepared under hygenic conditions. It should be thoroughly cooled before serving to have it at its best."
They're not kidding about the cool part. If it's not chilled to near-frozen state, it can taste like drinking a glass of pennies. But if you develop a taste for that odd blend of cola, root beer (gentian root, in this case) with just a hint of cough syrup (hey it worked in the Flaming Homer), you're hooked for life.


Flickhead said...

In the 70's, I used to spend summers in Maine. Coming from New York, I'd never heard of Moxie. I immediately tried it, despite the warnings of the locals -- who all seemed to hate the stuff. I never saw a Maine native drink it. But the Moxie ads were all over truck stops and diners. I liked it, but you're right: if it's not cold, it tastes pretty weird. I didn't know it came in cans; I would imagine it would get colder faster that way.

I'm looking forward to this new series on the blog. That Moxie Man with his finger pointing to me was an icon of my youth!

Richard Gibson said...

Well, as they say you learn something new every day. I've never heard of this stuff. Funny that they are also headquartered in Atlanta, GA - same as that other soft drink whose name escapes me.
Bet you can get that somewhere in London at some US Expat shop, I'm gonna ask my American friends, I gotta try some of this stuff.

New Year, new series - I like it.

swac said...

It rarely gets exported, you certainly can't buy it in Canada, although I live not too far from the Maine border and always stock up when I'm passing through.

Usually I go a place in Lisbon Falls called, I kid you not, The Moxie Store, which has ample supplies of the stuff in bottles and cans (the bottles go flat faster, ugh), plus assorted Moxie memorabilia.

There's also a West Coast version of Moxie, but I understand they just appropriated the brand name for its nostalgia value, and just use it to market a line of different flavoured beverages like root beer and cream soda and so on.

I hear you on the Maine natives. Moxie is viewed there as "an old man's drink" and when I buy my stack of cases, I always get a weird look from the cashier. And for a while it was hard to find in cans, but I've since learned that I can get cases of 24 cans at the dreaded Wal-Marts in Maine. So I swallow my principles on this one occasion, when I can't get down to Lisbon Falls.

Vanwall said...

I can get it locally in San Diego on occaision, and it's the real Moxie flavor like I had tried when I was kid. I don't drink the other "Moxie" flavors.


Sam said...

Two summers ago, I found two cans of Moxie at a restaurant my friend had just opened. The cans were in the storeroom and looked fresh enough, so I took them home and placed them in the fridge. The next day, I opened up the can and it fizzed with cold joy and promptly took a swig. Let me tell you, it was the finest soda I had ever had. It's taste reminded me of Jagermiester without the alcohol count and was quite refreshing. It's sad that you can't find Moxie here in the south, or for that case anywhere else. I wish you the best with this new project, Tom. I think the world deserves a little Moxie once in a while.

Richard Gibson said...

I saw a Nancy Sinatra TV special, sponsored by Royal Crown Cola. Nancy sings "Hey C'mon over, to Royal Crown Cola". So being from UK I'd never heard of this (we only have C & P) so I was suprised to see a sign (might have been an old one) when I was in New Orleans.

I suppose the closest thing we have to regional soft drinks (soda's) in UK is Irn Bru which is a Scottish thing and as the TV commercials used to say "Brewed in Scotland from girders!".

Other drinks from Barr are 'Tizer', I'm now wondering if this 'Moxie' tastes a bit like 'Irn Bru'.

mwl said...

ha ha
right on.

swac said...

I knew you'd appreciate this one Mark...

I've had Irn Bru...but it doesn't really taste like Moxie. It's as unique in its own way as Moxie is in its own. Supposedly, you can approximate Moxie by mixing root beer and angostura bitters, but I've got enough of the real thing here that I don't have to experiment.

As for RC Cola, it's been around for years, and you can still get it, even up here in Canada. And that Nancy Sinatra special is available on DVD (I've got it) and has all the ads, including one with Art Linklater and another with Dino, Desi and Billy.

slyboots2 said...

Call me a creeker- but in Montana, we had the Strawberry Shasta soda. Perfect rocket fuel for the little ones. We weren't allowed to graduate to the cola family of beveriges until we were in our pre-teens.

And I hear that the YooHoo phenomenon is similar to what you describe of the Moxie thing- only YooHoo is much more widespread, and icky.

swac said...

YooHoo is, frankly, nothing short of disgusting.

I remember Shasta from crossborder jaunts when we lived in Alberta. Tasty stuff as I recall.

And then there's Fanta, which was supposedly Coca Cola's fake name for its Nazi Germany beverages, but was later brought Stateside for its orange, grape and root beer flavours.

Tim Lucas said...

I love Moxie and always pick up a few bottles when I visit the Party Source in Newport, Kentucky.

I also detect a hint of bubble gum in its bouquet.