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Vacation Soda

July 18, 2018

One summer, when I was sailing with my family around the northeast, there was this tent set up in town near the marina. It was off limits to me, but somehow I got the gist of what was going on inside.

People were lining up for free tastes of two different sodas, and they would have to say which one they preferred. Yes, that’s right. This was The Pepsi Challenge.

Maybe I’m dating myself. But I was young. And I didn’t care that I was unable to participate. My preference was firmly set. I was a Coke drinker. Pepsi was disgusting. I still remember the sticky feeling on my teeth that remained after drinking a Pepsi. “How could anyone prefer that?” I thought at the time. And as we sailed away, I thoughtfully sipped my Coke trying to lock in the taste memory, lest someone try to fool me in a blind tasting.

Little did I know that before too long, my classic Coca Cola would be scrapped for New Coke based on the tainted results of these tastings.

But this is a story with a happy ending.

Mostly because soda should be a happy thing. It’s like liquid candy, and I think we would all be better off remembering that. It’s a treat. It’s an indulgence. It’s a confection.

There was that one vacation where I remember drinking bottles of grape Nehi soda out of glass bottles. Those were really special. And my family had a long tradition with the brand dating all the way back to my father’s ill fated appearance on Rootie Kazootie.

Actually, I have memories of all kinds of different sodas from different vacations over time. There was the Orange Crush and Sunkist period. The Mountain Dew era. For a while I discovered Mr. Pibb was better than Dr. Pepper. At one sleep away camp, I became partial to Cherry Coke because it was rumored to use the old Coke formula as a base instead of the insipid “New Coke”. Another sleep away camp inspired a cultish devotion to a fruit punch soda called Tahitian Treat.

Well, on this vacation, I’m a good bit older. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy a soda.

Someone at the house discovered an ancient brand called Moxie, which is apparently how the word came to exist in the English language. What is so interesting about Moxie is that it’s actually bitter!

Oh, it’s sweet. It’s super sweet. However, it’s also made with gentian root, which can be found in many formulations for cocktail bitters. And there is no mistaking the fact that this soda has a hard bitter edge to it. For an American soda, that makes it mighty unique.

If you told me there was a bitter Italian soda, I’d believe you. But a bitter American soda? Who would have thunk it. Plus it’s made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. And as an added bonus, Moxie is caffeinated!

Where has this been hiding all these years?

I guess in Vermont. Although it was first formulated in Massachusetts. In Maine it is also celebrated as it was created by one of the state’s native sons. Maybe it has been hiding in plain sight on grocery store shelves in New York. If that were the case, surely Mr. Dave would let us know.

Without a doubt, this was love at first sip. Surely, there is some cocktail that would benefit from a splash of the bittersweet Moxie. But I enjoyed it in an ice cream float. The creamy sweetness of the melting ice cream helped to balance some of the bracing bitterness from the gentian root.

In some ways its assertive flavor profile reminds me a bit of Vernors, which I also love. But that was just something we kept around the house when I was a kid, and not tied into vacations.

Hey, soda can be a treat whenever. Now I need to try and load up on Maple Creemees.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2018 6:17 am

    Omg❤️I couldn’t stop reading! This is a wonderful post on Sodas though I’ve only had Pepsi, Coke and Monutain Dew, but I don’t find a difference between Coke and Pepsi, idkw!

  2. July 18, 2018 10:11 am

    Get some Adirondack cola in you.

  3. -R. permalink
    July 18, 2018 11:46 am

    Although I never touch the stuff nowadays (it’s liquid poison), my first word according to my parents was ‘soda’. My mother was a huge RC Cola fan, and there’s no doubt that aside from milk, RC was one of my very first beverages. We’d go though a case of 12, one quart RC Cola glass bottles per week. This was well before the 5 cent deposit law, but these bottles had to be returned (along with their respective wooden case) every week. Cost per case back then: $3.69

    Never had Moxie, may have to sample it one day.

  4. B. Maggi permalink
    July 18, 2018 3:53 pm

    Ironic that in America more people prefer the taste of Pepsi when asked to do a taste test, but Coke sells more. I prefer Pepsi both will drink either in a pinch.

    The wife and I went to Maine last year on a trip and tried Moxie. Foul stuff! Good until the aftertaste sets in. I guess the Maine people are too proud to try revising the formula into something better.

  5. July 19, 2018 5:57 pm

    Pretty sure I saw Moxie the last time I was in Fresh Market.

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