Dear Readers, I have been remiss in my mixology duties! Perhaps while I am in New England, spending a month in four different states, I will have time to do the research and alchemy to produce new concoctions, or riff on the old ones.
Today, in honor of Maine, Rusticators on the Rocks, with Moxie.
The Road To Wellville
In the early 20th century, the gentry came to Maine in summer for the bucolic life and healthy air. They were known as “Rusticators.” The particularly well-heeled and well-endowed built “cottages” in Bar Harbor, so named because, while they might have between 30 and 60 rooms, they did not have ballrooms. Such sacrifice for the simple country life!
A Little Winery In The Woods (And Rum!)
In Gouldsboro, on the Schoodic Scenic Byway, adjacent to the Schoodic Woods in Acadia National Park, is Bartlett Winery. In 1983 it was the first winery in the state of Maine, and it produces nearly 7,000 cases a year of dry of blueberry reds, pear-apple whites, sweet blackberry dessert wines, and honey meads.
While in Bar Harbor I also heard about their latest achievement: Rusticator Rum, which they began producing in 2013, distilling in a German-made, copper pot still from organic molasses, then aging it in French oak barrels for two years.
My first thought upon seeing the bottle was that the rum looked a tad “thin,” the caramel color appearing watery and not warm. But, the rum’s flavor is surprisingly complex, despite its young age; I tasted primarily vanilla and fruits, like pear and banana, with a semi-smooth finish. To my taste it is not so smooth to drink neat, but nevertheless a good mixing rum. The price point is a bit high, at $44 for 750 ml.
That Kid’s Got Moxie!
In 2005, Moxie soda was named the official drink of Maine. It’s a curious development, as the company that makes Moxie is in New Hampshire. On one of my first nights in Bar Harbor, sitting around the campfire with the camp host and his wife, he offered me a Moxie. Others enjoying the fire chuckled, mumbling words and phrases like “cough syrup,” “tree bark,” and “transmission fluid.”
Sitting there in the dark, unable to read the ingredients,* the taste of Moxie was dumbfounding. It tasted a bit like root beer, but with a surprisingly bitter and dry aftertaste reminiscent of sweet vermouth! How very odd. I took to the Internet for my research.
Here is the rundown, from Wikipedia:
Moxie is a brand of carbonated beverage that was among the first mass-produced soft drinks in the United States. It continues to be regionally popular today. It is produced by the Moxie Beverage Company of Bedford, New Hampshire. As a result of widespread brand advertising, the brand name has become the word “moxie” in the English language, meaning “courage, daring, or spirit.”
Moxie is flavored with gentian root extract, an extremely bitter substance which was reputed to possess medicinal properties. It originated around 1876 as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food”.
Moxie is closely associated with the state of Maine. Its creator, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born in Union, Maine, but Moxie was created and first produced in Lowell, Massachusetts.
The Cocktail: Rusticators On The Rocks, With Moxie
The name of the drink can be taken literally, and/or and conjures images of cityfolk of old with pluck, scaling stones.
This ain’t no every day Rum and Coke! The bitter flavor of Moxie, combined with the sweet molasses of the rum, makes for a very interesting flavor profile. I mixed it 2:1 Moxie to Rum. While I would not drink either one by itself, together they make a noteworthy combination.
If you’re interested, Moxie’s website has a running list of cocktails made with the stuff.
*Moxie ain’t exactly the good ole recipe of yesteryear. It now contains high fructose corn syrup, FYI. There is also a diet variety, which I did not try.