Wednesday, June 11, 2003

soda jerk: moxie

A hardy survivor of the soft drink wars, Moxie was one of the earliest to be widely available, dating from 1884. Originally sold as "nerve food", this gentian-root based drink (whatever gentian root is) was popular in the early half of the 20th century, especially in the Northeast. One of the first soft drink to mass-merchandise itself, especially through postcards. Most of the websites out there concerning Moxie deal with these items and their collectors.

Moxie's last great claim to fame was as a running joke in Mad Magazine in the late 50s-early 60s. In one of the magazine's rare attempts at soliciting advertising, publisher William Gaines reached an agreement to feature Moxie's logo in the background of articles, using it as one of the magazine's running-joke names, like "potrzebie", "veeblefetzer" and "cowznofski". Results couldn't have been too successful for either side, as the name (usually imposed on a blimp) soon disappeared from Mad's pages (as would any advertising until the 21st Century arrived).

DESIGN: A clear-cut Madison Avenue-type pointing his finger at the drinker like Uncle Sam - an updated version of the drink's young man mascot of the 1920s. Eye-pleasing orange/blue colour scheme, all the better to lure in the uninitiated.

TASTE: The first slurp isn't bad, like a pleasant root beer. Five seconds later the aftertaste kicks in, which you'll like or hate depending on how much bitterness your tastebuds can stand (mine can't). Only two out of the dozen people I tested it on claimed not to mind it.

The closest approximation I can think of is chinotto, but without its hint of fruit. If you can't stand Brio, stay far, far away from Moxie.

AVAILABILITY: Have only seen it in grocery stores in New England. Check the web to order some if you're daring enough.

VERDICT: Must really, really, really have an appreciation for bitterness. If not, move to the next drink on the shelf. Too bad the can looks great.

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