October 1, 2023


“It’s sort of this indescribable, indistinguishable thriller in your soda, and that’s sort of what makes you retain wanting some extra, as a result of you may’t fairly put your finger on it.”

Moxie, the official state mushy drink of Maine, continues to confound generations of New Englanders with its polarizing taste. Abby Patkin/Boston.com Workers

Frank Anicetti had a golden rule when it got here to making an attempt Moxie, New England’s home-grown — and peculiarly polarizing — carbonated beverage. 

“On the primary style, you could wish to spit it out and throw it away. On the second style, you could wish to do the identical, however don’t. Look forward to that third style to permit the true taste of Moxie to tickle the style buds,” Anicetti, recognized affectionately to Mainers as “Mr. Moxie,” as soon as mentioned.

Whereas it’s the official state mushy drink of Maine, Moxie’s origins can truly be traced again to Lowell, Massachusetts, the place Maine native Dr. Augustin Thompson invented “Moxie Nerve Meals” as a patent medication in 1876. The important thing ingredient was gentian root, an herb historically used to help digestion and irritation. 

“They initially mentioned that it could treatment the whole lot from halitosis to hangnails,” cracked Merrill Lewis, a longtime Moxie fan and former president of the New England Moxie Congress — a fan membership of types.

In accordance with the College of Massachusetts Lowell, the drink was first bottled and offered commercially in 1884, and the carbonation got here a 12 months later. Now owned by Coca-Cola, Moxie proclaims itself the oldest frequently produced mushy drink within the U.S. 

Nowadays, Moxie taste-testing movies abound on-line, the place one particular person on TikTok described the drink’s scent as “root beer blended with cleansing resolution.” One other on YouTube mentioned Moxie “smells like a post-Civil Warfare hospital, earlier than anesthesia was invented,” and described notes of anise and fennel seed.

And the flavour? Because the soda’s tagline places it, “Distinctively totally different.”

‘Make mine Moxie!’

Alongside the way in which, the model turned recognized for its electric-orange packaging, quirky promoting, and “Moxie Boy” mascot. There was even the Moxie Horsemobile, a life-sized horse statue mounted to a automotive in an uncommon feat of auto — or equine? — engineering. 

“Any individual got here up with the brilliant thought of mounting a horse on prime of a automotive and driving it round,” Lewis defined. “It was an promoting gimmick, they usually had a fleet of those horsemobiles proper up via the Nineteen Thirties or so.”

There have been Moxie endorsements from Purple Sox icon Ted Williams, President Calvin Coolidge, and creator E. B. White, who is claimed to have written, “Moxie accommodates gentian root, which is the trail to the nice life.”

And there was Frank Anicetti, a person who championed Moxie till his demise in 2017 and beloved the drink sufficient to create the Moxie Competition in Lisbon, Maine, in 1982. 

Nonetheless going sturdy greater than 40 years later, the annual competition attracts tens of 1000’s of individuals with actions that embrace a parade, recipe contest, chugging contest, and even a Moxie 5K highway race. 

“Individuals sort of prefer it as a result of it’s a difficult race, and Moxie is a difficult taste, so it sort of goes hand in hand,” defined Kate Madore, assistant director of Lisbon Parks & Recreation, which runs the competition. 

As a cultural phenomenon, she defined, Moxie is nearly a celebration of life in all its quirky, inventive, offbeat, and mysterious methods. 

“When you’re someone who doesn’t wish to go together with the mainstream, you’re gonna say, ‘You already know that brilliant orange bottle with a phrase that no person actually is aware of what it means? That’s for me.’ It’s unapologetic.” 

OK, however what does Moxie style like? 

The components record, which mentions “gentian root extractives” and “pure and synthetic flavors,” provides few clues to Moxie’s style.

“Individuals are going to let you know that it tastes like castor oil,” Madore mentioned. “Lots of people describe it as having sort of a licorice taste, however that may be off-putting for some individuals who don’t like licorice. I’ve heard it described as like an natural or a bit bit extra medicinal root beer.”

Lewis provided the same description: “One in every of our members describes it as root beer on steroids,” he mentioned. “There’s a bittersweet part to it.”

The bitterness, a results of the gentian root, has softened a bit over time as the quantity of sweetener within the formulation fluctuated, he mentioned. 

However, Lewis added, “it’s nonetheless obtained a bit little bit of a kick and an aftertaste that individuals both say is improbable or blech.” (For the file, he finds Weight loss plan Moxie superior in style.)

Moxie’s taste continues to confound almost 150 years after its creation, although Madore mentioned a latest dialog turned up one of many extra correct descriptions she’s heard. 

“They mentioned, ‘It’s like a cola with a thriller,’” she recounted. “And that thriller is what Moxie is — it’s sort of this indescribable, indistinguishable thriller in your soda, and that’s sort of what makes you retain wanting some extra, as a result of you may’t fairly put your finger on it.”