Thursday, June 14, 2012

Modern Moxie

Recently at a specialty candy and beverage shop, I had the opportunity to buy a bottle of Moxie and drink it. Let it never be said that when such an opportunity arises, I don't have Moxie. I'd never had the drink before, which is a regional beverage associated with New England — Maine especially. I've read that it's considered "bitter," but I found it mildly sweet (its second ingredient is cane sugar) and not bad at all.

These days Moxie is made by the Cornucopia Beverage Co. of Bedford, NH, but like some other sodas, it apparently began as a patent medicine, meaning that descriptions of its early days are bound to be as much murky lore as history. Here's a short history anyway, courtesy the Marietta Soda Museum. Moxie lost the early cola wars, according to the site, which notes, "until 1920 Moxie was outselling Coca-Cola, but Moxie made the same decision that a lot of soft drink producers made when sugar prices skyrocketed. They bought large quantities to protect themselves from future price increases.

"Unfortunately, prices collapsed and they were forced to sell their product at a loss. This also meant that they didn't have the money for advertising so they cut back dramatically. They should have borrowed the money, because without advertising sales also declined dramatically and they never recovered."

According to the bottle, the unusual ingredient to modern Moxie is "gentian root extractives," another food term I had to look up, which took me from the murky world of 19th-century patent medicines to the murky world of 21st-century health web sites. As near as I can tell, gentian is a large genus of plants that grow a lot of places, some of which are considered good for what ails ya. It also flavors various drinks, mostly of European origin, that aren't Moxie.

One more thing: another part of the Moxie experience is listening to the "Moxie One-Step," evidently written to promote the beverage during those long-lost days when it was a rival of Coca-cola.



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