My First Moxie
By Tanya Mitchell
Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit that Moxie has deep roots in Maine.
Dr. Augustin Thompson of Union, initially marketed Moxie as a type of elixir to cure a variety of odd ailments, including "loss of manhood, paralysis and softening of the brain."
I have to tell you, had I been a consumer back in 1876 (when Moxie was introduced in Lowell, Mass.), I don't think I would have been overly concerned about the whole loss of manhood thing, being a woman and all. I suppose, however, the idea that there was some imminent danger that paralysis - or worse, that pesky softening of the brain - would occur, well then bring on the gray matter hardener, you know?
So, props to the ad wizard who came up with that campaign - a gentleman named Frank M. Archer, who began with the Moxie business as a clerk and worked his way up to spearheading the country's first mass marketed soft drink. Interestingly enough, it was also rumored that Archer served as the model for the Moxie Man.
The Moxie World website (www.moxieworld.com) is also a great resource for collectors of Moxie-related paraphernalia of all types, from t-shirts and key chains to yardsticks and clocks. There are even photos of Moxie vehicles, the oddest one I found being the Moxie Horsemobile. (… something that looks like a Rolls Royce, with a painted metal horse situated in the center of the inside of the car and serving as the new driver's seat.)
Moxie lovers are also encouraged to join the Moxie Militia, whose focus is to promote the drink through interesting, yet unconventional ways. Rick Seferian and Doug Richards spawned the idea when they gave an area farm stand a fresh coat of orange paint, complete with black lettering. Of course, they had permission from the owner (he was wearing a Moxie shirt when Rick and Doug stopped in one day).
Most people I asked said they didn't care for the taste of it, but that strong taste has its benefits, as well: One girl had poured vodka into her Moxie bottle one summer night shortly after her high school graduation. Walking through town, she eventually ran into a local police officer, who had suspected she was carrying an open container and asked her to hand over the bottle. He took the bottle, gave the top of it a sniff and, unassuming, handed it back to its drinker!
Then it occurred to me: I had never had a Moxie before. I never really drank the stuff myself, growing up, but I remember my grandmother being quite fond of it. I recall being offered a taste of it once when I was a kid, and I think I would have been fine had I not taken a whiff of it prior to taking my first-ever swig.
"Nope," I said with a wrinkled nose, and handed it back.
Since that experience as a youth, I had always assumed it would taste as medicine-y (AKA, yucky) as I can remember it smelling. But then I figured, what kind of Moxie column would this be if the author has never tried it before? After all, there are lots of things that I thought were repulsive as a kid that I now eat constantly (like cottage cheese, for example).
So one day, last month, when the sun was finally shining after all of that rain, I decided to "Make it a Moxie" as I was heading to a friend's house for a spirited game of Frisbee.
At first, I just held the bottle in my hand, wondering whether this stuff was going to make me wretch. But a strange thing happened as I raised the bottle and took a big, meaningful honk off it - I liked it, and a lot.
The flavor was sort of like black licorice, with a smattering of a Dr. Pepper-esque after taste.
As a matter of fact, I proceeded to chug the entire bottle throughout our game. I offered the chance to try out my new favorite soda to all my friends on the lawn, too. Turns out, most of them didn't like it - fine, more for me.
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