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Moxie: The Official Soft Drink of Maine

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Drive up towards Maine from Massachusetts, and right about the time you pass Ogunquit you start seeing orange cans and bottles in the coolers at gas stations. One of the oldest commercial soft drinks, Moxie's got a strong New England following. It starts out tasting like cola or root beer, but quickly moves on to a more medicinal bent with notes of wintergreen and bitters. Not surprising, as its main flavoring is gentian root, where many bitters get their characteristic, well, bitterness.

It's the aftertaste the really gets to you: a dry bitterness that sits on the back of your tongue that's not unlike that of vermouth. It's not all that unpleasant once you get used to it, but it's certainly a shock at first.

I suppose the appeal comes with the somewhat medicinal nature of the drink. You can easily imagine that the stuff is slowly fortifying your muscles and subtly upping your mettle. It's a manly soft-drink, to say the least, and Mainers seem to value manliness. In 2005, it was named the state's official soft drink. The manly appeal of it has even inspired the phrase "The kid's got Moxie!," making it perhaps the only drink which has become a noun used to describe character. You'll never hear a coach exclaim to their team, "Show 'em some Pepsi!" or, "Get the Cheerwine out!"

So tell us, Serious Eaters. Any of you out there got Moxie? What do you like about it?

TIL: The New Englander Cocktail is 3 parts Moxie and 1 part gin served over ice with a squeeze of lime and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. It's been scientifically proven to put at least four extra hairs on your chest. I believe a tasting is in order.

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