Sunday, March 21, 2010

M is for . . .

When I was a little girl, one of my mum's friends used to say to me, "Gigi, you've got moxie."  She meant that I had pep, verve, chutzpah, a general can-do attitude.  I loved that she said it, because her saying it made me believe it.  Ah, the power of a word.  

This particular word, moxie, is an Americanism borrowed from the trademark name of a 19th-century drink that was originally sold as a health tonic, but, like Coca-Cola, it soon became popular less for its medicinal purposes and more for its distinct flavor.  Unlike Coca-Cola, at no point in Moxie's history did it ever contain cocaine as an ingredient.  Also unlike Coke, it obviously never attained worldwide popularity.  Why it didn't is a mystery to me.    Some folks (my husband and almost everyone else I know) claim Moxie is an acquired taste.  If so, it's one I acquired at birth.  Maybe that's because I grew up in Maine, the state where its inventor, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born.  Sealing the deal on my Moxie adoration birthright is the fact that I now live in the very city where Dr. Thompson invented his patent medicine, "Moxie Nerve Food" in 1876.  Yup.  Lowell, Massachusetts, is famous for a few things: it's the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, Bette Davis, and Ed MacMahon; for years it was the home of Prince (not the singer, the pasta company--we still have a neighborhood in Lowell called Spaghettiville); and it is the birthplace of delicious and refreshing Moxie. 
Moxie isn't widely enjoyed or even known outside of New England, but if you can get your hands on a bottle or can, or better yet, a case, I guarantee you will find it an especially useful treatment of "paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia".  Okay, maybe I can't guarantee all of Dr. Thompson's claims, but I will tell you that when I have a tummy ache, Moxie makes it feel better.  I think it's the Gentian root extract that does the trick.  It's also the Gentian root extract that makes it taste so good, "good" being a highly subjective term.  Others say the Gentian root makes it taste like tar.  They are wrong, of course.  Todd used to say this, but he is now a Moxie convert, I am proud to say.  It only took him nineteen years to acquire the taste.   

I am not a soda drinker.  I don't like really sugary drinks.  On occasion, though, maybe once every couple of months, I will have a can of Moxie.  I hate it in these newfangled plastic bottles; they wreck the flavor.  I say this, of course, in my orneriest old-duffer voice.  Back in the day we bought it in thick 8-ounce glass bottles with a picture of the Moxie Man on the front--a fellow in a white lab coat pointing at us like some cross between a clean-cut country doctor and Uncle Sam.  You took one look at the Moxie Man and you just knew this drink had to be good for you.  These days he's still on the plastic bottles, but they've taken him off the cans, at least the cans I can find in my area.  I've photographed the current cans above, along with a glass of Moxie on the rocks (Moxie on the Roxies, I called it as a kid).  I miss Dr. Moxie, but I'm just glad this old-fashioned drink is still around.  It gives me pep.  It gives me vigor.  It gives me know-how and a can-do (forgive the pun) attitude.  Others may like their Coke and their Pepsi, and even their Dr. Pepper, but I'm with Dr. Thompson, who always said, "Make Mine a Moxie."   

For more information on Moxie, visit here.  
For information on the annual Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls, Maine (you know you want to go!), visit here.


  1. Funny, I've never heard of Moxie. The drinkable kind, I mean. I'd like to try it. Anything that supposedly helps with "softening of the brain"... well, that's for me!
    The elderly lady I wrote about last week once told me that I had "guts", which is, I suppose, close to the same thing.

  2. Oh thanks Gigi for that sterling recommendation of Moxie...which I've never heard of before today! I love that it took Todd only nineteen years to acquire the taste....quite the persistent chap!

  3. Gigi,
    Now I'm curious to try a 'swig' of Moxie! But mainly, I just love how powerful a word can make one feel ~ the confidence to take on the world! I'm going to borrow this for the crumb and tell her she's got Moxie - ha! :)
    Have a wonderful week!

  4. Dear Gigi,
    Being English, I obviously have never heard of this, but it will be the first thing I drink if I'm ever in your area. You've sold it to me !!
    When I was young, there was a man at the market who used to make 'sasperilla' and we all used to drink it and think that we were really cool !!
    I think that your Moxie is the key to your poetic and literary skills and that it should be given to all children at school to help them with their English !!
    Have a great week, Gigi and not too much of the Moxie !! XXXX

  5. Would you believe that up until this moment I didn't know that Moxie came in a liquid form--just word form?! ;o) Seriously, I didn't know it was sweet drink! I'd be curious to taste it too, though I'm not crazy about soda or sugary-sweet drinks either--but I'll try anything at least once! Thanks for this fun one, Gigi! Happy Week ((HUGS))

  6. what does it taste like besides tar? lol

    being a southern girl - i'm seriously addicted to dr. pepper but have limited myself to one per day. *sigh* and coke - real coke - not that sissy stuff like pepsi. :)

  7. I have seen this soda before but passed it up!! Grrr!! I wish I had tried it and wish I could remember where in the world I saw it!! Thank you for sharing the history of it. If and when I find it again--I will try it.

    I love your site! You are Moxie, Gigi! :) (I couldn't resist saying it!)

  8. Thanks, Evielena! I hope you do find it again! Perhaps you'll hate it, but it's always fun to try, right?

    Char, I know what you mean about Pepsi. Hate the stuff. I like Coke, but never drink it anymore with the exception of the occasional--I mean very occasional diet Coke. There's this one Mexican restaurant I like for lunch, and nothing tastes as good to me with their food as Diet Coke with lime!

    Moxie tastes a bit like Dr. Pepper's bigger, meaner older brother. It has a darker taste, with some bitter blended with the sweet. It's certainly a flavor cousin of sodas like root beer and sarsaparilla (I know it's a crazy spelling, but it's pronounced "sass-parilla"), only, again, it's much darker and not as sweet. If you like darkly sweet things like molasses or black licorice, you might just like Moxie.

    By the way, my father and many other people where I grew up called soda--all soda-- "tonic," which I think was leftover from the "medicinal" roots of so many soft drinks, including, I'm guessing, Dr. Pepper!

    Thanks for all your great notes! You all have moxie!!!

  9. One great New England product deserves another, I have repro of an old Moxie sign featuring Ted Williams hanging in my shed. Two weeks to baseball....go Sox!

  10. Yay, Brad! Yes, Williams was a big fan of Moxie. I've seen some of those cool signs. You must be getting excited for the season. We were out in Boston over the weekend; the weather was warm and just about every guy I saw had something Sox on. I think Red Sox Nation is gearing up!

    Thinking of you often! I WILL send you a message soon--a real one. This writing project I'm working on has swallowed me whole. Hope you're well! xoxo Gigi

  11. Drinking anything out of a plastic cup or bottle ruins it!
    I will keep my eyes open for this drink!
    And why am I not surprised at all to hear you've had 'moxie' all along....? xoxo

  12. Hi GiGi, What a great topic. My Ex Husband lived in Lawrence and had friends that lived in Lowell. I used to love to go to Bishops for Lamb chops ,greek salad and thoses fries in a huge platter, I heard they closed down. We were there maybe 10 yrs ago and the town of Lawrence was awful. Tried Moxie, bhurrr
    I'll stick to Dr. Pepper,, Yvonne

  13. Yes, Yvonne, Lawrence is awful still. Lowell, however, has come a long way. All the old mills are being turned into lofts and artist studios, and there is a lively cultural scene. It's becoming a wonderful place.

    I never got to try Bishops. Sounds like it was a great place! xo

  14. Hello! Found your blog via a comment you left on Milkmoon (and Gigi is my mum's favourite film) so that meant I had to follow. :)

    Really enjoyed this post, and discovering 'Moxie'. Never heard of it before, but I wish I could taste it! Sadly I don't think it makes my shores. We have a drink called Irn-Bru (pronounced 'iron brew'), which isn't marketed as a 'nerve food' (at least, I don't think so) but it definitely has pep-me up abilities! Their tag line said it was made from iron girders in Scotland, I seem to remember.

  15. Gigi~
    Dr. Thompson is buried in the Lowell Cemetery, a beautiful garden style cemetery with lovely flower beds, statuary, and trees from around the world. Take a walk some sunny day, or a historical tour the first week in May, and visit his grave, just inside the Knapp Avenue gate near Shedd Park.

  16. Thanks, Dixie! I've been to Lowell Cemetery, but I've never visited Dr. Thompson's grave. I will do just that the next time I go there!

  17. Gigi, I never have acquired a taste for Moxie. Every so often I buy a can and check to see if I like it yet. But it kind of reminds me of horehound candy, which not everyone knows about either. Fun post Gigi, I enjoyed learning more about Moxie. ~Lili

  18. I would love to try Moxie! We have a store in town that sells all sorts of sodas from all over the world. I am going to try to find some!

  19. by all the descriptions of the taste, i think i will like it. next time im in new england for sure.
    moxie has mojo ! :)

  20. Oh, my. I'm afraid that I arrived a little late in the alphabet. This is very interesting. Also, Spaghettiville sounds like a wonderful place to live!

  21. You almost had me convinced until you said it tastes like tar...I don't even like Dr. Pepper! I suppose if I ever see it, I will have to try it now!

    I've had a dose of real life, so I'm having some trouble keeping up around here.


  22. I have never heard of Moxie...but it definitely sounds like something that I need to try!

    Loving your new header! Have a fabulous week, Gigi! xxoo :)

  23. Moxie. Never heard of the drink... Wonder where I can find it.

  24. What an awesome post! I honestly had never heard of Moxie, and now you have me wanting to go to the annual Moxie Festival! :) Seriously, I'm not a soda drinker either, but you've piqued my interest - the next time I'm in New England, I'm searching near and far for a can of Moxie.

  25. I'm sure Jackie has covered what I think too!! You've definitely got MOXIE though - and thanks for expanding my vocabulary by one new word. My girls are going to love it!

  26. I have a brother who has the same intermittent addiction that you have....except its for a local drink they call 'Tanora'...a tangerine flavoured drink that can only be acquired in our native city...guaranteed to cure any hangover with its tangy taste and explosion of bubbles in your system. The funny thing is that he lives in the Czech Rep at the mo and is having serious withdrawals. You'll always know when my brother is in town....a fesh cool bottle of 'Tanora' in the fridge...

  27. Tastes like tar hmmm?
    Now I am intrigued. I wish it was available up here in Canada so I could have a wee taste. It can't be as bad as Buckley's right?


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