It’s the classic conundrum: “what came first?”
In this case it’s not the chicken or the egg in question.
Did Moxie, now the official drink of Maine come first or did the definition of moxie inspire the moniker for this medicinal Yankee Dr. Pepper?
This Examiner discovered Moxie, an artisanal soda, in Jacksonville, Florida, of all places.
Like a pirate’s treasure, a foodie friend’s Ponte Verde Café, where fresh and delicious seafood rules, the milieu there is much more than a first lookbook peek.
The charming cooking couple, Jennifer and her salt of the earth New England chef husband, Roger, run A La Carte, a curiosity of a seafood spot that is equal parts take out meals, in-house and deck dining. With the lightest, fresh clams and calamari, batter-dipped to golden perfection, and New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Rolls to roil any Back Bay salt or Kennebunkport chowder head all is delicious.
It is also part movie set and museum – with a needlepoint room (somebody has to do it!) and a Moxie curated collectable display that rivals the recently-ended “Lunch in New York” (http://www.examiner.com/article/lunch-new-york) exhibit at the NY Public Library, complete with photos, text and Moxie mementos.
And Moxie soda to enjoy.
As one handout proclaims, “This is the story of Moxie. In 1876, Dr. Augustin Thomas, a physician from Lowell, Mass, produced “Moxie Nerve Food.”
A bitter syrup created as a treatment to be taken by the spoonsful before meals as an aid to digestion.
A decade later he brewed and carbonated his syrup to become the nation’s #1 soft drink, outselling Coca Cola. While similarly crafted as a nerve and brain tonic and a medical, ahem, elixir with its concoction of lime, cinnamon, coca leaves, and seeds of a Brazilian shrub, Coca Cola had some catching up to do as it was launched two years after Moxie grabbed America’s attention.
Moxie still has a hold on their heartstrings.
Moxie has been described by some as bitter. It is not.
It is refreshing, robust and tasty – with hints of root beer and sassafras overtones. It is a unique flavor – and delicious. The soda is also available in cherry cola, orange cream and other flavors.
So what came first?
Through extensive advertising, the neologism – or made up word – (as an aside, the word “neologism” is itself sounding like a made up word in an age of the ubiquitous “awesome” and “amazing” that works for every sentence! Just like in our monoculture food and drink world, we have come to rely on very few word selections picked from our very rich, fertile language.)
In its pioneering advertising, Moxie used “Make Mine Moxie!” the slogan “Just Make It Moxie for Mine,” and featured a “Moxie Man” logo up till 2010.
If the Clio’s were around then, Moxie would have aced the advertising awards.
So much so, because it ushered in the use of the slang word Moxie, based on its brand value of nerve, to suggest aggressive energy, fortitude and determination and the ability to face difficulties with spirit.
From cinema to pop culture, someone who has moxie is understood to have "courage, daring."
While Moxie soda has had a storied past and now enjoys regional popularity, the trend toward local, artisanal sodas is increasingly on the rise.
After all, if we embrace locavore beer, cheese, and honey, why not soda.
The bad rap on soda, as even Mayor Bloomberg could attest, is the high fructose corn syrup and other manufactured “ingredients” rather than using natural, seasonal, ingredients.
Here’s a radical idea – replace those biiiiggg soda jugs in schools and markets that destroy with their fake, fattening “sugar” with real, local, craft sodas!
Let’s see more old-fashioned, fresh-made soda fountains at local restaurants.
Here is a short list of outstanding, tasty, refreshing and good-for-you sodas that have been concocted not unlike those early doctors and chemists who launched Moxie and Coke.
aka “Grown-up Soda,” claims to be the first soda “made truly for adult palates.” This soda sophisticate is made with cane sugar and pure, happy fruit flavors, including Meyer lemon, grapefruit, and black currant. Not unlike Moxie, the taste is drier than sweet but always satisfying and refreshing. Not cloying. www.drinkgus.com
According to the company, “The idea for this company was born in founder Jordan Silbert’s Brooklyn backyard in 2004, as he sat drinking G&Ts with a couple of friends. Bristling at the high fructose and preservatives listed on a bottle of tonic water, he resolved to make a version worthy of Tanqueray gin. Four year later, he had perfected an artisan incarnation made with Peruvian quinine and organic Mexican agave.”
This Examiner and her husband were introduced to Q Tonic some years ago at a nearby West Village restaurant and have been proselytizers ever since, even encouraging family and friends in Florida and Wisconsin to demand Q Tonic!
A gin and tonic mixed with Hendricks Gin and its rose petal ingredients (part of the cucumber family), is wowsy good. Just add a slice of the family cucumber rather than a lime and you’re in for a treat. www.qdrinks.com
Speaking of cucumber, Brooklyn Soda Works works a cuke lime and sea salt into their magical, non-alcoholic sodas, made from fresh fruit.
While the artisanal soda makers offer new flavors every week, they claim fans’ favorites sparkle with these curious combinations:
◦ Cucumber, Lime & Sea Salt
◦ Red Currant & Shiso
◦ Grapefruit, Jalapeno & Honey ◦ Concord Grape & Fennel Seed
◦ Strawberry, Hops & Pink Peppercorn
◦ Raspberry & Green Peppercorn
P&H Soda Co:
An early pioneer in the making of craft sodas is the Greenpoint, Brooklyn P&H Soda, using soda syrup made from fresh all natural ingredients. www.NonaBrooklyn.com
The Adventures of the Littlest Lobsterboat
By Roger F. Plouff
Illustrated by Shawna Malone
The other thing and lucky strike extra at the Plouff’s seafood café, is to also discover that super talent chef Roger has penned a delightful children’s book based on his experience with New England lobsters and fishing.
I told you those lobster rolls were sincere and sweet!
Roger hails from Massachusetts and spent more than a few years in Maine. So he knows his sailing yarns and can tell a story worth sharing – and repeating.
It all makes for more than a “wicked” coincidence that a Yankee should be a collector of Moxie paraphernalia and collectibles.
Jennifer recalled how Roger created the story at a bar in Newport, Rhode Island, overlooking the harbor. She scribbled the notes on bar napkins as fast he spun the fishing tale.
When he finished, the nearby, eavesdropping patrons applauded and encouraged Roger and Jennifer to produce a children’s book. How’s that for on the spot focus group feedback?!
The resulting instant classic, children’s book won a 2006 Dragon Pencil of the Year award!
The book is brimming with bright primary colors: yellow, blue, and red, beautiful illustrations, and sports a shiny, hard cover.
The smiling boats, the “sounds” of slap, slap (oh, by the way, there is an audio cd included in the book, with Roger narrating the book.)
Children and their parents will especially love the way the adventure story shows the loving relationship between lobster boat captain Bob and his happy, smiling lobster boat as they work together to check on their lobster traps.
Particularly charming is how Captain Bob cleans the Littlest Lobsterboat with sudsy wash, hose and brush. The lobster boat says, “Gosh, Captain Bob, that feels really, really good.”
There is also the delightful, colorful, double page spread where the lobster boat is looking for their own buoys: blue on top, a red stripe and white on bottom that signify their own lobster traps.
The best part shows how Captain Bob returns a “mommy to be” lobster and another too-small crustacean back to the water. His responsible care demonstrates respect and is a learning moment about environmental awareness in a fun and easy to understand way.
Captain Bob and his lobster boat tell the story of fishing, adventure and work and love and respect with more than a dose of – well, moxie.