No, not that Doc Brown
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Celery is about as sexy as an erectile dysfunction commercial so who would have thought that it would replace the Acai Berry as today’s super food. Thanks to a few
celebrities, IG influencers and even a famous medium, celery juice is now all the rage. It’s surprising to me that the same limp green stalk that I had to camouflage with peanut butter and raisins just to swallow is the new “it” veggie, but it turns out that this isn’t celery’s first time in the limelight.
According to Wikipedia, which means it has to be true, in the late 1800’s celery was the third most popular item on New York City restaurant menus, even more expensive than caviar. It was lauded at that time for its healing abilities and medicinal benefits. So much so, that in 1869, the Schoneberger & Noble soda company created a celery flavored tonic and sold it as a therapeutic under the clever brand name Dr. Brown’s. Thanks to a little nudge from the FDA, the name was later changed to Cel-Ray soda. The palate can be best described as sweet with a hint of celery seed that doesn’t taste much different than ginger ale.
Soda salesman sold the product door to door and because it was Kosher, Cel-Ray’s popularity quickly grew within the Lower East Side and other Jewish populated neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Well over a century later, you are just as likely to see a can of celery soda on a city Jewish deli menu as you are to eyeball a bowl of Matza Ball Soup. Personally, I prefer my Cel-Ray paired with an everything bagel, smoked salmon and a schmear of scallion cream cheese from Russ & Daughters.
While the brand has remained popular within the five boroughs and a few other American Jewish neighborhoods, it remains little known to the rest of the country. Whether or not there really was a Dr. Brown, that is up for debate but there is no debating that drinking any of the six varieties of Dr Brown’s soda will immediately transport you back in time to turn-of-the-century New York City.
Other Dr Brown flavors include Cream Soda, Black Cherry, Orange, Ginger Ale and Root Beer and pay attention to the can, as each flavor has its own classic NYC landmark illustration.
For some adult fun, substitute a little Dr Brown’s Cel-Ray soda in your Favorite Gin Collins Cocktail:
Cel- Ray Collins Recipe
2 ounces London Dry Gin
½ Small Lime (cut in wedges)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Celery Stalk for Garnish
In a Cocktail shaker, add sugar, lemon and leaves from celery stalk. Muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add gin, ice and shake it like a Polaroid picture - Strain into a Collins Glass, finish with a gentle pour of Cel-Ray, a few dashes of bitters and the stalk to garnish.
Check out my contribution to fellow indigenous food blog eatyourworld.com