Moxie was one of the first mass produced carbonated drinks made in the USA.
Photo by Vermont – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74241482
Invented by Dr. Augustin Thompson in 1876, the drink has a sweet flavor with a bitter aftertaste. Originally patented as a medicinal product called ‘Moxie Nerve Food’, its unique flavor comes from the gentian root – a South American plant traditionally used in herbal medicine.
Thompson claimed his ‘Nerve Food’ was especially effective at treating “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia”. He also claimed that he named the beverage after a purported friend of his named Lieutenant Moxie. Thompson credited this supposed friend with discovering the gentian root and using it as a cure-all. This story is unlikely to be true, but Thompson’s company continued to spread the legendary story about the ‘miraculous’ Moxie. The name Moxie is thought to come from an Abenaki word meaning “dark water” that is found in lake and river names in Maine, where Thompson grew up.
A few years after its invention, Thompson added soda water to his recipe to make ‘Beverage Moxie Nerve Food’. Both President Calvin Coolidge and Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams enjoyed the drink, with the latter endorsing it in print and on the radio.
Thompson died in 1903.
Moxie suffered a decline in sales during the 1930s. Eventually, Diet Moxie was introduced in 1962. This coincided with Mad Magazine putting the Moxie logo in the background of its articles to raise public awareness. These efforts helped sales increase again. They also used a unique advertising tool – the Moxie Horsemobiles. First introduced in 1918, the horsemobiles consisted of a modified automobile with the driver sitting on a large model horse.
Photo by Jayron32 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11048556
The Moxie brand was bought by the Monarch Beverage Company of Atlanta in 1966. In 2007 Monarch sold it to Cornucopia Beverages (owned by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England). Cornucopia created a website site called drinkmoxie.com to promote Moxie. The site includes a list of recipes using the drink.
In 2018 the Atlanta based Coca-Cola Company announced that its buying Moxie from the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England.
Moxie has featured in several popular culture settings. What follows is just a few of them:
The word moxie, derived from the drink, has become a noun in American English maning ‘courage, daring, or determination’.
In the 1942 musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy, George Cohen (played by James Cagney) asks Eddie Foy what his favorite drink is. Foy replies “Oh, Moxie”.
Moxie is mentioned in two of writer Stephen King’s novels – ‘Salem’s Lot’ and ‘11/22/63’.
In the novel A Time of Torment by John Connolly, there is a lawyer nicknamed Moxie because of how much he loves the drink.
In the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Ballot Box Bunny’, Bugs puts out Moxie at a picnic.
MagicianPenn Jillette’s daughter is named ‘Moxie CrimeFighter’.
Every summer there is a Moxie Festival held in Lisbon Falls, Maine.