Moxie is getting sold, but it isn’t going anywhere.

Coca-Cola says Moxie will still be made in Londonderry, N.H., saying “true to its Northeastern roots.”

That should please the fans of the unusual soft drink, which has a strong connection to Maine even though it was never produced here.

Ownership is transferring from a New Hampshire Coca-Cola bottler to Coca-Cola itself, the Atlanta-based beverage behemoth.

Coca-Cola said in a statement Tuesday that Moxie will continue to be made in Londonderry, New Hampshire, near its market base of northern New England.

The company said it wants to make sure Moxie “stays true to its Northeastern roots,” and that it has no immediate plans to change the “distribution footprint.”

Fans of the bitter drink don’t seem worried about the sale, given that its gentian root formula won’t change and it will still be bottled in northern New England.

“The explanation is that Coke is purchasing the name, but there’s a guarantee that (Moxie) will continue in name and taste,” said a relieved Gary Crocker, a Maine humorist and self-described lifetime member of “the New England Moxie Congress.”

‘IT’S AN ACQUIRED TASTE’

Like its new corporate owner, Moxie was initially marketed as a cure-all. Beginning in 1885, it was cooked up by a Lowell, Massachusetts, doctor: Augustine Thompson, a Maine native. But it never really caught on outside of New England, according to Moxie’s official history. Thompson said the name came from a Lt. Moxie, who discovered gentian root in South America, although the company has since admitted the lieutenant was part of marketing fiction created to promote the drink.

Moxie, the noun, meaning determination or nerve, overtook Moxie, the beverage, in the lexicon of most of the country. But say “Moxie” in these parts and many will assume you’re referring to the drink, a reference that causes a lot of people to wrinkle their noses in disgust.

“It’s an acquired taste,” said Crocker, who started drinking it as a child, when his grandfather would bring some cans home on weekends.

“I was the only grandson who took to it,” he said. “It takes some time and most people don’t give it time. They try it and then say, ‘Give me something to wash my mouth out with.’ ”

Clare Blechman of Somerville, Massachusetts, tweeted her disappointment over the sale with a crying emoji Tuesday morning, but said she will continue to drink Moxie, although she wishes it had been sold to an employee-owned group rather than a multinational conglomerate.

“I love the taste – it’s great!” said Blechman, digital asset manager for the Peabody Essex Museum, who said she’s “30-something.”

Blechman said she tried Moxie when she moved to the Boston area from New York in 2007 and became an instant fan, although her friends were sharply divided.

“Now I try to make my friends that come from out of town drink it,” she said, offering them a shot glass of Moxie, rather than a full bottle or can, in case they don’t take to it.

Her friends, she said, “remain highly ambivalent” about Moxie, but it makes an impression on those who taste it for the first time.

“They may not like it as much as I do, but they say, ‘That sure is a drink,’ ” Blechman said.

HUMBLE PRODUCTION

Nick Martin, spokesman for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England, said the sale came out of talks between the Bedford, New Hampshire, bottling company and the Atlanta corporate headquarters over bottling and distribution territories.

Coca-Cola wants to separate its bottling operations from its corporate umbrella and sold some territory to the New Hampshire bottler, Martin said. During those discussions, the issue of the Moxie brand came up, he said, and both sides agreed it made sense to transfer ownership of the brand to the Atlanta company.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Moxie isn’t a big seller for the bottling company, Martin said. Last year, the company produced about 225,000 cases of the soft drink at its Londonderry factory, a small fraction of the 80 million cases of beverages the company bottles annually.

IN MAINE, AN EXALTED STATUS

But here in Maine, the beverage enjoys exalted status.

Peggy Rotundo, a former legislator from Lewiston, said she encountered some opposition in 2005 when she introduced the bill to make Moxie the official beverage of Maine. But that was mostly because some lawmakers wanted the official beverage to be something that actually comes from Maine, like milk, she said.

Her proposal won the day, she said, because “there was a sense among legislators that Moxie had roots here in the state and Maine people felt very connected to it and saw Moxie as the iconic beverage for the state.”

Lisbon continues to hold a Moxie festival every year that draws thousands.

At the bill signing, she said, people showed support for Moxie by wearing a bright shade of orange – the distinctive color of Moxie’s cans.

“I never saw more orange in my life,” Rotundo said.

Rotundo noted that she spent 16 years as a lawmaker, including more than a dozen on the Appropriations Committee, repeatedly voting out budgets that were unanimously supported, a significant achievement in partisan times.

But, she added ruefully, she is known more for “my Moxie bill” than any other achievement.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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