One fine day in 1876, Dr. Augustin Thompson entered his laboratory and shut the door behind him. It was time to think. It was time to experiment. It was time to invent a nerve tonic that would cure paralysis, softening of the brain, and nervousness. Dr. Thompson himself was nervous. Why? He had just sunk his life’s savings-$15,000 ($35,000 by current standards) – into his project. He mixed gentian root into liquid and took a sip. It tasted terrible, but maybe…just maybe he was onto something. Thompson bottled and marketed it as a tonic certain to cure anything that ails you. He gave it the name Moxie and sold it to local apothecary shops. Instructions read, “take it by the spoonful”. Why? Even Dr. Thompson agreed it tasted terrible. In fact, it left a bitter aftertaste. Still, consumers bought Moxie nerve tonic by the hundreds.
Buoyed by his success, Thompson added carbonation in the form of soda water. The year was 1884. Bingo! Moxie drinkers loved the fizz and seemed to get used to the bitter taste. Experts say it takes three sips before you want to spit it out. I have yet to pass that stage.
Along with lighthouses, the rocky coast, and ear muffs,Moxie is quintessential Maine. To drink an entire can requires inner fortitude, much like surviving a long Maine winter.
Frank Anicetti, curator of the Moxie Museum in Lisbon Falls states “nothing can compare to the taste of Moxie.” Notice he doesn’t say that it tastes good. Despite the bitter aftertaste, Moxie boasts thousands of loyal followers. Carbonated Moxiewas first sold in 1884, making it the oldest carbonated drink in the country.
Every year Lisbon Falls, Maine celebrates The Moxie Festival on the second weekend of July, complete with parade, fireworks and a recipe contest.