If you have ever been to New England or met someone from Maine and had a conversation about soda, there is a good chance you’ve heard of Moxie. If not, Moxie is a uniquely New England soda that has been around for over a century. It is actually where the English word moxie, meaning “courage, spunk, or spirit,” comes from.
Moxie is a soda that is more bitter and less sweet than typical colas produced today. It is bittered by gentian root (the same ingredient that makes many bitters and digestifs so bitter) and the soda was traditionally sold as a medicinal tonic. In the late 1800s, it was sold under the name “Moxie Nerve Food.” While the drink’s ties to the state of Maine aren’t a monopoly (the drink was invented in Massachusetts and is currently produced by a company in New Hampshire), its identity rests predominately in Maine. It is the official soft drink of Maine and a festival has been held every year in Lisbon Falls, Maine, for over 25 years celebrating all things Moxie.
As a cultural touchstone, Moxie has inspired and kept comfort to many a Mainer. The drinks and names developed around Moxie stand second only to the alcoholic Allen’s Coffee Brandy. As a cocktail ingredient, it is a wonderful alternative to the sickly-sweet sodas and colas you typically find and it allows you to find balance in a cocktail, as well as bring something unique to the glass.
Stupid simple to make, the only difficulty with this drink is sourcing Moxie (but now that Coca Cola bought it, it may soon bar easier). It is essential to the Foxy Boxer. The combination of two off-beat, bitter ingredients makes for a really tasty cocktail that strangely isn’t too bitter at all. (Perhaps it’s because both Moxie and Fernet Branca are both bittered with gentian root.) In any case, this unusual combination just works! In that way, it reminds us of the classic Spanish red wine and coca cola combo, Kalamotxo. I like to drink this while cracking open a tin or two of sardines in front of the fireplace and playing Backgammon. It’s the perfect drink for a night at home once the kids are in bed.
Yield: 1 drink
Note: If you are hosting a crowd, I see no reason to not just set the Fernet and Moxie on the table and let your guests serve themselves. It’s almost impossible to screw this one up.
1.5 ounce Fernet Branca
4 ounces Moxie
Pour the Fernet into a tumbler and add ice. Fill to the top with Moxie. That’s it!