Out and About with Moxie

by Stewart Engesser

Moxie, the official Maine State Beverage, is a carbonated soft drink so uniquely weird tasting that even die-hard fans find it difficult to describe. “All I can say is it tastes like root beer on steroids,” says Merrill Lewis, President of the Moxie Congress, an informal band of Moxie enthusiasts and historians  who gathered recently at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport.

When I gave my six-year old daughter a sip, she told me “it tastes like medicine fire,” which seems about right. To me the flavor is evocative of NyQuil Original on ice mixed with soda water – although the effects are less interesting.

Distinctive in its bright orange packaging, Moxie is a gentian-root-based concoction that was first developed in Union, Maine in 1884 by Dr. Augustin Thompson. Originally marketed as Moxie Nerve Food, it was proscribed to cure imbecility, insomnia, loss of manliness, and softening of the brain. While Moxie has changed recipes several times over the years, and is no longer promoted as a tonic for brain softening, it retains the oddly medicinal aftertaste that makes it so distinctive – and so loved by its cheerfully iconoclastic fans.

“It’s more than a beverage,” Merrill Lewis told me. “It’s not for everyone and it’s not supposed to be. It’s its own thing. It’s got spunk. And that’s what appeals to a lot of people.”

I asked Mr. Lewis if he could recommend some unique ways to enjoy Moxie, beyond just sipping it over ice. He thought for a moment, and after explaining that typically Moxie isn’t used as a mixer, he passed on a few ideas. So to honor a Maine institution – and a product that has come to symbolize a rugged disregard for the mainstream – I offer you Moxie Three Ways.

Please bear in mind, however, that the word ‘moxie’ actually comes from Moxie – you need some moxie to drink Moxie. The following drinks will not please most palates, nor will they address any imbecility or lack of manliness you may be feeling.

They will, however, make your tongue feel numb.

Moxie Cooler

1 ½ Mt. Gay Rum
4 ½ oz Diet Moxie (preferred due to its flavor profile which experts believe more closely matches the original)
Juice from ½ a lime
Plenty of ice
Lime wedge to garnish

This drink is an odd little number. I can’t tell you it’s good – it’s not quite – but it is intoxicating.

Moxie and Milk

6 oz Moxie
6 oz Whole milk

Pour Moxie into tall glass. Add milk. Stir.

Have you ever wanted a milk shake, but all you had lying around was cough syrup and milk? Trust me, I’ve been there. Now you can experience the joys of cough syrup milk shakes – without the cough syrup. You will also spare yourself many of the unpredictable hallucinations.

Moxie Float

12 oz Diet Moxie
Three scoops vanilla ice cream
Cherry as garnish

Moxie is all about fun. And what’s more fun a root beer float that tastes as if its been conjured up by pepper-breathed demons? Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! Don’t forget to lick the bowl!

Photo by Jon Levitt.